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Warren Buffett to buy Alleghany for US$11.6B in return to dealmaking – BNN

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Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is buying Alleghany Corp. for US$11.6 billion in cash as Warren Buffett returns to the dealmaking he has shied away from in recent years.

Buffett’s company will acquire all outstanding Alleghany shares for US$848.02 each in cash. The transaction represents a 29 per cent premium to the New York-based insurer’s average stock price over the last 30 days, and a 16 per cent premium to its 52-week high closing price, the firms said in a statement Monday.

With the Alleghany deal, Buffett is diving deeper into the world of insurance, an industry that has been key to the growth of Berkshire into a conglomerate with a market value of more than US$750 billion. Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire will gain a large property-casualty insurer that also has reinsurance operations through its Transatlantic Holdings Inc. unit. Alleghany is run by Joseph Brandon, previously chief executive officer of a Berkshire insurer, General Re.

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“Berkshire will be the perfect permanent home for Alleghany, a company that I have closely observed for 60 years,” Buffett, Berkshire’s CEO, said in the statement. “I am particularly delighted that I will once again work together with my longtime friend, Joe Brandon.”

The transaction is Berkshire’s largest since its 2016 acquisition of Precision Castparts Corp., according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That deal was valued at US$37.2 billion, including debt. Still, the Alleghany purchase price represents just 7.9 per cent of Berkshire’s stockpile of cash, leaving the billionaire investor with a big war chest for additional deals.

Buffett has been seeking ways to deploy some of his conglomerate’s cash — almost US$150 billion in total — into higher-returning assets, but has struggled to find attractive options given high valuations. He’s increasingly turned to stock buybacks, a capital-deployment move he largely shunned for decades, and earlier this month he built up Berkshire’s stake in Occidental Petroleum Corp.

The Alleghany deal terms include a “go-shop” period, during which the insurer can solicit and consider other acquisition proposals for 25 days, the companies said in the statement. The transaction, which was unanimously approved by both companies’ boards and has the support Alleghany Chair Jefferson Kirby, who holds 2.5 per cent of the insurer’s shares, is expected to close in the fourth quarter, subject to customary closing conditions.

Alleghany shares surged 26 per cent at 9:35 a.m. in New York, while Berkshire’s Class A shares gained 1 per cent.

What Bloomberg Intelligence says:

“Berkshire Hathaway’s agreement to acquire Alleghany for US$11.6 billion is right in CEO Warren Buffett’s comfort zone with complementary insurance and reinsurance operations, yet only consumes about 8 per cent of its cash on hand to leave ample capital flexibility.”

— Matthew Palazola, BI senior industry analyst, and Kylie Towbin, BI associate analyst

Alleghany will continue to operate as an independent unit when it joins Berkshire. The two companies share a history of railroads and insurance. Alleghany was formed as a holding company for some railroad holdings in 1929, eventually diversifying into insurance, according to its website. Berkshire, which counts insurers from Geico to Gen Re among its businesses, also owns railroad BNSF.

Brandon previously ran Berkshire’s Gen Re unit before resigning in 2008. Gen Re was under scrutiny at the time, with four former executives convicted of helping American International Group Inc. deceive investors through a sham transaction, though those convictions were later overturned. Brandon, who wasn’t charged by the Justice Department or Securities and Exchange Commission, had no knowledge of fraudulent elements of the transaction, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified.

Buffett, in his 2008 letter to shareholders, thanked Brandon for “righting the ship” at Gen Re, which had been suffering from a loss of disciplined underwriting and expense management when he took over the reinsurer.

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FTX founder Bankman-Fried objects to tighter bail, says prosecutors 'sandbagged' him – Reuters

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NEW YORK, Jan 28 (Reuters) – Lawyers for Sam Bankman-Fried on Saturday urged a U.S. judge not to ban the indicted FTX cryptocurrency executive from communicating with former colleagues as part of his bail, saying prosecutors “sandbagged” the process to put their client in the “worst possible light.”

The lawyers were responding to a Friday night request by federal prosecutors that Bankman-Fried not be allowed to talk with most employees of FTX or his Alameda Research hedge fund without lawyers present, or use the encrypted messaging apps Signal or Slack and potentially delete messages automatically.

Bankman-Fried, 30, has been free on $250 million bond since pleading not guilty to charges of fraud in the looting of billions of dollars from the now-bankrupt FTX.

Prosecutors said their request was in response to Bankman-Fried’s recent effort to contact a potential witness against him, the general counsel of an FTX affiliate, and was needed to prevent witness tampering and other obstruction of justice.

But in a letter to U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan, Bankman-Fried’s lawyers said prosecutors sprung the “overbroad” bail conditions without revealing that both sides had been discussing bail over the last week.

“Rather than wait for any response from the defense, the government sandbagged the process, filing this letter at 6:00 p.m. on Friday evening,” Bankman-Fried’s lawyers wrote. “The government apparently believes that a one-sided presentation – spun to put our client in the worst possible light – is the best way to get the outcome it seeks.”

Bankman-Fried’s lawyers also said their client’s efforts to contact the general counsel and John Ray, installed as FTX’s chief executive during the bankruptcy, were attempts to offer “assistance” and not to interfere.

A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Damian Williams in Manhattan declined to comment.

Bankman-Fried’s lawyers proposed that their client have access to some colleagues, including his therapist, but not be allowed to talk with Caroline Ellison and Zixiao “Gary” Wang, who have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with prosecutors.

They said a Signal ban isn’t necessary because Bankman-Fried is not using the auto-delete feature, and concern he might is “unfounded.”

The lawyers also asked to remove a bail condition preventing Bankman-Fried from accessing FTX, Alameda or cryptocurrency assets, saying there was “no evidence” he was responsible for earlier alleged unauthorized transactions.

In an order on Saturday, Kaplan gave prosecutors until Monday to address Bankman-Fried’s concerns.

“The court expects all counsel to abstain from pejorative characterizations of the actions and motives of their adversaries,” the judge added.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Andrea Ricci

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Gold declines in light of the report that revealed inflation continues to decline – Kitco NEWS

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As of 6:00 PM EST, the February contract of gold futures has fallen for the second time in the last seven trading days. Currently, gold futures are fixed at $1927.60, a decline of $2.40 or 0.12%. Gold traded to a high of $1935.40, and a low of $1916.50.

The key takeaway from today’s PCE inflation index report was that the core PCA index declined in December by 0.3%. The preferred inflation index used by the Federal Reserve was at 4.7% year-over-year in November and declined to 4.4% year-over-year last month.

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Both reports will influence decisions made by the Fed at next week’s FOMC meeting.

They will be critical components used by the Federal Reserve next week and will most likely strengthen the conviction of hawkish Fed officials to maintain their extremely aggressive monetary policy. Currently, the Federal Reserve’s forward guidance is composed of additional rate hikes and maintaining elevated rates for a longer time.

The most likely outcome is that the Fed will raise the rate by ¼% at the next two meetings. The Federal Reserve has stated they continue to work to reach its inflation target of 2%. A vast majority of market participants continue to believe that the Fed will backpedal on its commitment to keep rates elevated through 2023.

I will be speaking at the VRIC 2023 (Sunday, January 29-30) at the Vancouver Convention Center. Both Kitco News and I wish to welcome you if you’re available.

For those who would like more information simply use this link.

Wishing you as always good trading,

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Afraid to check a bag? Canada's missing baggage woes explained – CBC News

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Deborah Cleary was exasperated.

When she landed in Montreal on Dec. 19, following a trip to Italy, she discovered her suitcase was missing. More than a month later, Air Canada still hadn’t found her bag. 

“I’ve spent so much time thinking about it, worrying about it, checking online, calling Air Canada,” said Cleary from her home in Plattsburg, N.Y., on Tuesday. “I’m just sort of desperate to get my bag back.”

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The post-pandemic return to travel has been turbulent, plagued by mass flight disruptions and missing baggage piling up at airports. That has led to calls for airlines to improve their baggage delivery systems.

“It’s broken, so I think they need to fix that,” said Cleary, who visited the Montreal airport two weeks ago to search for her bag amidst a sea of unclaimed luggage. She didn’t find it.

However, following a CBC News inquiry to Air Canada, Cleary learned on Friday that her suitcase is being shipped to her home. 

“I’m very, very happy,” she said. “I had almost resigned myself, I was never going to see it again.”

Deborah Cleary and Dan Albert of Plattsburgh, NY pose for photo during their vacation to Italy.
Deborah Cleary and Dan Albert of Plattsburgh, N.Y., are still waiting to be reunited with their missing baggage that disappeared on their return flight from Milan to Montreal. (submitted by Deborah Cleary)

Canada’s first round of missing baggage chaos erupted in the summer, largely sparked by staffing shortages as airports and airlines scrambled to ramp up operations. 

There were high hopes the holiday travel season would go more smoothly — until severe winter storms hit much of Canada, causing hundreds of delayed and cancelled flights, plus a backlog of lost luggage.

“In the airline industry, a delay of greater than 15 minutes generally results in missed connections,” said former Air Canada executive Duncan Dee. “Delays equal missing bags.”

Former Air Canada executive, Duncan Dee.
Former Air Canada executive Duncan Dee says airports need more infastrucutre funding to keep operations running smoothly during bad weather. (CBC)

Dee said airlines need to do a better job keeping track of luggage, and the federal government also needs to invest more in airports.

In late December, cold weather caused a baggage belt to freeze at Toronto’s international airport; a fierce snow storm caused widespread flight delays and cancellations at Vancouver’s international airport.

“There’s obviously a need for better infrastructure, better resources for airports … to make them more resilient to these weather events,” said Dee.

What about the airlines?

When asked this week about recent travel chaos, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said airports will get the tools they need, but did not elaborate. 

On the baggage issue, he pointed the finger at airlines. 

“I find it extremely frustrating when I hear stories of people not having their luggage for days on end,” he said during an event in Hamilton. “Airlines should be doing more.”

His comments follow several recent media reports about air passengers’ struggles to find their missing luggage

They include the saga of Nakita Rees and Tom Wilson of Cambridge, Ont., who battled with Air Canada for more than four months to retrieve Wilson’s missing suitcase. 

WATCH |Ontario couple told their luggage was lost — but it wasn’t: 

Air Canada said this couple’s luggage was lost. AirTags showed otherwise

5 days ago

Duration 2:18

A couple says Air Canada donated their luggage to charity just a month after it got lost en route to Toronto’s Pearson Airport. They tracked it to a storage locker.

The bag vanished during their flight home from Greece in September. Because the couple had put an air tag tracker inside the suitcase, they were able to track its journey to a storage facility in nearby Etobicoke, Ont. 

Even though Rees shared with Air Canada the whereabouts of the bag, the airline deemed it lost. 

“The most frustrating thing about it was we had no way of getting it, even though we knew the location and we told the airline so many times,” said Rees. “Because the air tags are newer, I just don’t think airlines know how to even use that information.”

The couple finally got the suitcase back this week — after their story was picked up by the media.

Airlines respond

Other passengers have also complained about similar experiences when tracking their lost luggage with air tags. 

Former Air Canada executive Dee said airlines typically track luggage by scanning their baggage tags and that their systems currently can’t accommodate air tracking technology.

“That’s something where airline processes have not caught up to the technology that’s available,” he said. “No airline in the world has the ability right now to accept information from travellers.”

Alghabra suggested airlines need to change with the times. 

“We hear about how Amazon is able to identify where their items [are at] every moment,” he said. “It’s frustrating that airlines still have not modernized their luggage handling system.”

Air Canada told CBC News it’s constantly exploring new technologies. The airline added that its baggage delivery rate has returned to normal, following the stormy holiday weather. 

Air Canada said that in Rees’ case, the baggage tag had fallen off the suitcase. The airline didn’t say how it eventually located the couple’s bag, but did indicate that they get to keep the $2,300 in compensation they received for lost luggage. 

WestJet said it has launched a strategic review to fine-tune its baggage systems. “[We] are committed to working together with our third-party service partners … to ensure we improve in this area,” said spokesperson Madison Kruger in an email. 

Baggage compensation

Travellers can claim up to approximately $2,350 for luggage that is lost or delayed on an international flight. For delayed baggage on domestic flights, the airlines design their own rules. 

Alghabra’s office told CBC News this week the government is exploring ways to strengthen rights for air passengers, including for delayed and lost baggage.

As for passenger Cleary, she had applied for compensation for a lost bag, but said getting it back is a better outcome. 

“I would much prefer to have my bag back than any money from Air Canada.”

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