Life looks to stay fairly quiet in Canada’s cottage country this Victoria Day long weekend.
The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed the traditional influx of urbanites in many resort towns for the first big cottage weekend of the year, with some provinces barring pilgrimages to the lake altogether.
Local officials say seasonal visitors have for the most part respected precautions to keep year-round residents safe, but recognize the restrictions on May Two-Four festivities could forbore a tough summer for businesses that depend on tourism to keep their doors open.
In the District of Sechelt, about 50 kilometres northwest of Vancouver, beaches would typically be bustling with revellers ready to light up the skies with fireworks to ring in the start of cottage season, says Mayor Darnelda Siegers.
But come Monday, Siegers expects both the sands and skies to be clear, perhaps with the exception of rain.
“There won’t be any fireworks on the Sunshine Coast,” Siegers said, referring to the coastal region on British Columbia’s southern mainland.
Siegers said the district has enlisted “community ambassadors” to patrol popular spots over the weekend to ensure people are following physical distancing policies.
She’s echoed the urgings of B.C. authorities to avoid non-essential travel. “Now is not the time to travel for tourism or recreation,” the province’s website reads.
While ferries are operating at 50-per-cent passenger capacity, Siegers said that hasn’t stopped a slow trickle of visitors from coming to Sechelt since Easter weekend.
The people have for the most part been responsible about sticking to their properties and minimizing contact with locals, Siegers said.
Roughly half of Sechelt’s full-time residents are seniors, she said, putting them at higher risk of COVID-19 complications if city dwellers bring the novel coronavirus with them to the cottage.
Still, she recognizes the frustrations of cottage owners who have been denied access to their properties, for which they pay taxes.
Business owners are also having a rough go, said Siegers.
“It’s a tough place to be in for everybody,” she said. “None of us know what this is going to look like going forward.”
Similar concerns have turned cottage country into tricky territory for some lawmakers as the COVID-19 outbreak has pitted the rights of property holders against concerns about overwhelming rural health-care systems.
For example, New Brunswick reopened campgrounds and other recreational businesses earlier this week, drawing ire from out-of-province cottagers who remain barred from crossing the border.
Alberta is also allowing “responsible travel” to campgrounds, summer homes, cabins and cottages within the province, prompting local officials in two popular Rocky Mountain destinations to take action to keep people safe.
Banff Mayor Karen Sorensen tweeted a video last Monday urging visitors to hold off until June to give the town time to implement proper public health protocols.
“Our message will soon change from ‘stay home and stay safe’ to ‘help keep Banff safe,”’ Sorensen said.
In Canmore, about 100 kilometres west of Calgary, Mayor John Borrowman warned that the “allure of a long weekend” could draw in visitors, and the town must prepare accordingly.
Borrowman said Thursday that officials are considering making the town’s main drag pedestrian-only so people can stroll through downtown while maintaining a two-metre distance from others. He said the temporary measure would coincide with the reopening of campgrounds on June 1.
“We are in this together,” Borrowman said in a statement on the town’s website. “Reopening is a positive step to recovery, but we all need to continue to do our part to stop the spread.”
Meanwhile, about 230 kilometres north of Toronto, Muskoka Lakes Mayor Phil Harding said traffic on the roads and on the water has picked up, but there’s nowhere near the “beehive of activity” the town typically sees this time of year.
Seasonal residents comprise roughly 80 per cent of the town’s population, said Harding. While some have come to check in on their boats and homes, Harding said most part-timers haven’t strayed from their properties, and have brought their own groceries to prevent strain on local resources.
Harding said he hasn’t seen many tourists, noting that they’d be hard pressed to keep themselves busy with so many businesses shut down.
While communal gatherings remain prohibited, Harding said residents are welcome to ring in Victoria Day by sparking up fireworks on their own property since Ontario lifted its regional fire ban Friday.
The COVID-19 restrictions may make for more muted celebrations to mark the unofficial start to the summer, said Harding, but cottage country isn’t a retreat from the risks of the novel coronavirus.
“We need to really treat this as businesses unusual,” Harding said. “We all need to isolate wherever we are.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 16, 2020.
Tourmaline to expand in Montney with C$1.1 billion deal for Black Swan
Canada‘s Tourmaline Oil Corp said on Friday it would buy privately owned Black Swan Energy Ltd in a C$1.1 billion ($908.79 million) deal, as the oil and gas producer looks to expand in the Montney region, one of North America’s top shale plays.
Tourmaline said the deal represents a key part of its ongoing North Montney consolidation strategy and the company sees the area as a key sub-basin for supplying Canadian liquefied natural gas.
The company in April acquired 50% of Saguaro Resources Ltd’s assets in the Laprise-Conroy North Montney play for $205 million and entered into a joint-venture agreement to develop these assets.
Analysts at brokerage ATB Capital Markets called the Black Swan assets a “hand in glove” fit with its recent acquisitions.
Tourmaline stock rose 4.5% to C$32.1.
The deal value consists of 26 million Tourmaline shares and a net debt of up to $350 million, including deal costs.
Tourmaline will acquire an expected average production capacity of over 50,000 boepd when the deal closes, likely in the second half of July.
The company, which also raised its dividend by 1 Canadian cent per share, expects the Black Swan assets to generate free cash flow of $150 million to $200 million in 2022 and beyond.
The Canadian energy sector has seen a flurry of deals with companies expecting to benefit from the rebound in oil prices as global fuel demand picks up.
ARC Resources Ltd in April bought Seven Generations Energy Ltd for C$2.7 billion to create Montney’s largest oil and gas producer.
($1 = 1.2104 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Rithika Krishna in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi)
Exxon losing veteran oil traders recruited to beef up profit
Exxon last year reversed course on a major expansion of its oil and petroleum products trading as fuel demand tumbled during the pandemic. It suffered a $22.4 billion loss in 2020 from its oil production and refining businesses, leading to deep cost cuts across the business.
Veteran oil traders Michael Paradise and Adam Buller, both of whom joined the company in 2019 after lengthy careers elsewhere, resigned last week, the people said. Paul Butcher, an Exxon trader in Britain, plans to leave in September, another person familiar with the operation said.
Butcher was recruited by Exxon in 2018 to advise it on North Sea oil markets and on accounting for trading transactions. He earlier worked for BP Plc, Glencore Plc and Vitol SA.
Exxon declined to comment on the departures, citing personnel matters.
“We’re pleased with our progress over the past couple of years to grow our team and capabilities,” said spokesman Casey Norton. Exxon’s scale and reach “give our trading teams a broad footprint and unique knowledge and insights” that can generate value for shareholders.
Paradise was a highly regarded crude oil trader who joined Exxon from Noble Group and earlier was director of crude oil trading at Citigroup Inc and BNP Paribas. Buller joined Exxon in late 2019 after trading oil for Petrolama Energy Canada and Spain’s Repsol SA. He earlier was director of international oil trading at BG Group.
Exxon recruited a cadre of experienced traders hoping to replicate rivals BP and Royal Dutch Shell in trading. Both generated enormous trading profits last year by buying oil during the downturn. They sold it at higher prices for future delivery, posting multibillion-dollar profits for the year.
In contrast, Exxon began restricting the group’s access to capital as the pandemic accelerated, laid off some staff and offered early retirement packages to others, Reuters reported. Exxon does not separately report the performance of its trading unit.
(Reporting by Gary McWilliams in Houston, Devika Krishna Kumar in New York and Julia Payne in LondonEditing by David Evans and Matthew Lewis)
G7 global tax plan may hit corporate titans unevenly
An agreement by wealthy nations aimed at squeezing more tax out of large multinational companies could hit some firms hard while leaving others – including some of the most frequent targets of lawmakers’ ire – relatively unscathed, according to a Reuters analysis.
Finance ministers from the Group of Seven leading nations on Saturday agreed on proposals aimed at ensuring that companies pay tax in each country in which they operate rather than shifting profits to low-tax havens elsewhere.
One proposed measure would allow countries where customers are based to tax a greater share of a multinational company’s profits above a certain threshold. The ministers also agreed to a second proposal, which would levy a minimum tax rate of 15% of profits in each overseas country where companies operate, regardless of profit margin.
The Reuters review of corporate filings by Google-owner Alphabet Inc suggests the company could see its taxes increase by less than $600 million, or about 7% more than its $7.8 billion global tax bill in 2020, if both proposed measures were applied. Google is among the companies that some lawmakers have criticized as paying too little tax.
Meanwhile, medical group Johnson & Johnson, which is also U.S.-based, could see its tax bill jump by $1 billion, a more than 50% rise over its $1.78 billion global tax expense last year, according to Reuters’ calculations.
Both Google and J&J declined to comment on the calculations.
In a statement Saturday following the G7’s agreement, Google spokesman José Castañeda said: “We strongly support the work being done to update international tax rules. We hope countries continue to work together to ensure a balanced and durable agreement will be finalized soon.”
Determining the exact impact the new rules will have on companies is difficult, in part because companies don’t typically disclose their revenues and tax payments by country. And key details about how the rules would be implemented are still pending, tax specialists say, including to which countries profits would be reallocated and to what degree taxes generated by the new measures would offset taxes owed under the current system.
The proposed rules themselves also face hurdles. In the United States, several top Republican politicians have voiced opposition to the deal. Details of the agreement are also due to be discussed by the wider Group of 20 countries next month.
Four tax specialists concurred with Reuters’ methodology but noted that there is still uncertainty about how the measures would be applied, including which tax breaks are included in the 15% minimum overseas tax.
The G7 comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.
“The deal makes sure that the system is fair, so that the right companies pay the right tax in the right places,” said a spokesperson for the UK Treasury, which hosted the G7 meeting. “The final design details and parameters of the rules still need to be worked through.”
The first proposed measure focuses on large global firms that report at least a 10% profit margin globally. Countries in which the companies operate would have the right to tax 20% of global profits above that threshold in an effort to stop companies reporting profits in tax havens where they do little business.
Applying that formula to Google could result in as much as $540 million in additional taxes, according to the Reuters analysis.
Based on Google’s 2020 global profits of $48 billion, Reuters calculated what portion of that income could be reallocated based on the G7’s proposed formula. Reuters then calculated how much more the company would pay if tax was levied on that portion of income at the rate of 23% – which is the average tax rate for developed nations as identified by Paris-based research body the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development – rather than the average overseas tax rate of 14% that Google said it paid last year.
Applying the same methodology to J&J, and its 2020 global profits of $16.5 billion, the healthcare company would see its global tax bill rise by about $270 million as a result of the first measure.
The exact impact on each company’s tax bill would depend on how much income is actually reallocated. Also at issue is which country the profit is moved from and to – and therefore what the increase in tax rate is. If all the reallocated profit comes out of zero-tax jurisdictions, the impact could be greater.
MINIMUM TAX OVERSEAS
U.S. and UK officials say the other measure, involving a 15% global minimum tax, will have a bigger total impact on how much in taxes governments collect. But its effect on companies will vary widely. In recent years, Google-parent Alphabet, like some other targets of tax campaigners, has reorganized its international tax structures and last year reported over three-quarters of its global income in the United States compared to less than half in each of the previous three years, according to its corporate filings.
Google reported $10.5 billion of dollars of earnings from outside the United States last year and an average overseas tax rate of 14%, which is one percentage point below the G7’s proposed minimum tax.
If Google’s overseas earnings were all taxed at 15%, the additional tax due would be $100 million. The impact could be higher if a large proportion of the money is earned in zero-tax jurisdictions like Bermuda, where Google used to report over $10 billion a year in income. Conversely, the impact of the minimum tax would be reduced if the first measure prompted Google to reallocate some of its non-U.S. earnings out of tax havens.
Excluding the impact of the first proposed measure, increasing the tax rate on overseas income to 15% would mean $45 million of additional tax.
The situation for J&J would be very different. It earned 76% of its 2020 income outside of the United States and paid 7% tax on average on that overseas profit. Applying a 15% tax rate to that overseas income figure would result in $990 million in additional taxes, according to Reuters’ calculations.
While the reallocation of profit under the first measure would reduce this impact, the combined result of the two measures would be more than $1 billion.
Academics say businesses are adept at mitigating the impact of measures that are designed to reduce tax avoidance and therefore could re-organize in order to limit the impact of the proposed measures. And, in reality, tax incentives offered by governments mean companies may end up paying less in practice.
(Reporting by Tom Bergin; Editing by Cassell Bryan-Low)
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