Indian refiners imported in June 2021 the lowest volume of crude oil in nine months, as purchases slowed down in April and May when India imposed regional mobility restrictions to curb a resurgence in COVID cases, Reuters reported on Friday, quoting tanker data from trade sources.
India is estimated to have imported around 3.9 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil in June, which was down by 7 percent compared to the imports in May.
The June 2021 imports were still higher than in the same month of 2020, when India—and most of the world—was on nationwide lockdown.
The June 2021 slump in crude oil imports at the world’s third-largest oil importer was not surprising, considering that April and May—the months in which refiners likely nominated oil cargoes for June—saw the peak of India’s COVID crisis, with grim records in daily new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. The federal government decided against a nationwide lockdown, fearing economic collapse. But the most populous cities and regions were placed under regional lockdowns and various forms of curfew, which dragged down demand for the road transportation fuels gasoline and diesel.
Indian fuel demand plunged by 9.4 percent in April compared to March due to the COVID crisis. Fuel demand in India continued to slump in May, with gasoline sales down to a one-year low and diesel consumption dropping to the lowest in seven months in the first two weeks of May.
As a result, refiners reduced run rates and nominated less crude for arrival in June as inventories grew. For example, India’s top refiner, Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), had reduced its capacity utilization to 84 percent in the middle of May, compared to 100 percent last November when demand was rebounding.
In June 2021, Iraq remained India’s top oil supplier, with Saudi Arabia second and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) up four places to take the third spot of India’s largest crude suppliers, the data obtained by Reuters showed.
An auction for highly coveted 5G airwaves has netted a record-breaking $8.91-billion for the federal government, with Canada’s Big Three telecoms shelling out a combined $7.35-billion while Quebecor Inc.’s Videotron Ltd. picked up licences outside of its home province of Quebec as it sets its sights on national expansion.
Rogers Communications Inc., which is awaiting regulatory approval of its deal to acquire Shaw Communications Inc. for $26-billion, including debt, spent the most of the large telecoms, shelling out nearly $3.33-billion to acquire 325 spectrum licences. (Spectrum refers to the airwaves used to transmit wireless signals).
BCE Inc.’s Bell Mobility picked up 271 licences for $2.07-billion, while Telus Corp. is paying roughly $1.95-billion for 142 licences. (Bell and Telus share wireless networks, with each one responsible for roughly half the country.)
Videotron, meanwhile, spent nearly $830-million to acquire 294 blocks of spectrum, with more than half of that investment in four Canadian provinces outside of its home market: Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia. Quebecor said in a news release the investment positions it “to realize its ambition of boosting healthy competition in telecom beyond the borders of Quebec.”
“Our success in Quebec has served Quebeckers well. Today, we are taking another step towards bringing leading-edge technology and healthy competition to more Canadian consumers,” Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau said in a statement.
The mid-band airwaves, which are in the 3,500-megahertz range, are considered beachfront property for 5G wireless services because they are able to carry large volumes of data over long distances. The fifth generation of wireless technology promises much faster upload and download speeds, reduced lag time and a vast increase in the number of devices that can be connected, allowing it to power everything from smart cities to driverless cars.
South of the border, an auction for similar airwaves netted US$80.9-billion.
Johanne Lemay, co-president of telecom consultancy Lemay-Yates Associates Inc., called the spectrum “very expensive,” saying Canadian prices are twice as high as U.S. prices, on average. (A key measurement of spectrum prices is per “megahertz-pop” (MHz/POP), which refers to the price paid relative to a megahertz of bandwidth for each person in the area a licence covers.)
“Telus was not as aggressive as you maybe would have expected them to be. Bell and Rogers were willing to pay more than they were,” Ms. Lemay said in an interview.
Darren Entwistle, president and CEO of Telus, said that international carriers pay “much less” for the resource than Canadian ones do. For instance, in the U.S., carriers paid on average $1.19 per MHz/POPin the most recent 5G spectrum auction, while Canadian carriers paid $3.28 per MHz/POP, Mr. Entwistle said in a statement.
“As a result, the impact of 5G on the Canadian economy will not transpire at the same level as other OECD countries, given our regulatory conditions and spectrum policies,” Mr. Entwistle added.
Cogeco Communications Inc., which has expressed interest in offering wireless services to its existing internet and television customers under the right regulatory conditions, spent $295-million to acquire 38 licences. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission recently issued a ruling to force the Big Three national wireless carriers and SaskTel to open up their networks to eligible regional players, opting for a model similar to one Cogeco proposed.
“These spectrum investments, together with the recent CRTC regulatory decision on wireless services and our robust and growing regional broadband network, position Cogeco to further develop plans to enter the mobile wireless services market in a financially disciplined way in all of our core markets in Canada,” Philippe Jetté, Cogeco’s president and CEO, said in a statement.
Rural internet provider Xplornet Communications Inc., which owns Manitoba wireless carrier Xplore Mobile Inc., picked up 263 licences for $244-million. “That’s a lot more than Xplornet has ever spent on an auction in Canada,” Ms. Lemay said. “Their new owner showed that they’re willing to spend some serious money,” she added, referring to New York-based infrastructure investment firm Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners, which acquired Xplornet in 2020.
The auction, which was delayed by six months owing to the pandemic, kicked off on June 15 and lasted 103 rounds, wrapping up on July 23. Out of the 23 approved bidders, just 15 of them walked away with spectrum. In total, 1,495 out of the 1,504 available licences were awarded. Up to 50 MHz of spectrum was set aside for smaller players in areas where enough spectrum was available.
Some analysts raised concerns about debt levels at Canada’s Big Three telecoms after The Globe first reported the auction had netted record-breaking revenues for Ottawa. Analysts had originally anticipated the auction would bring in between $3-billion and $4-billion, although spectrum auction results are difficult to predict and the estimates included only the publicly traded companies: Bell, Telus, Rogers, Quebecor and Cogeco.
Bank of Montreal analyst Tim Casey wrote in a recent note that the lack of much-needed mid-band spectrum and the precedent set by U.S. telecom peers may have contributed to the higher-than-expected spending.
Rogers said it is spending the equivalent of $3.38 per MHz/POP for the airwaves and the purchase will be paid for through its existing cash balances and bank credit facilities. “We went into this auction with a clear plan and acquired the spectrum we need to continue driving the largest and most reliable 5G network in Canada and to deliver long-term value for our customers, shareholders and Canada,” Joe Natale, president and CEO of Rogers, said in a statement.
Bell chief technology officer Stephen Howe said his company now has the spectrum holdings it needs to leverage the “full capabilities of [5G] technology to help bridge the digital divide with enhanced broadband access for more rural and remote communities.”
Two more 5G spectrum auctions are on the horizon – more mid-band radio waves are expected to be auctioned in early 2023, while a sale of the much higher-frequency millimetre band is slated for 2024.
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New Brunswick is reporting seven new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, as the number of active cases in the province rises to 19.
Five new cases were identified in the Moncton region (Zone 1), involving an individual under 19, three people in their 20s, and an individual in their 30s. Three cases are under investigation, one is travel related and the other case is a contact of a previously confirmed case.
Two new cases were identified in the Fredericton region (Zone 3), involving an individual under 19 and an individual in their 30s. One case is travel related and another is under investigation.
N.B. TO MOVE TO GREEN PHASE OF REOPENING AT MIDNIGHT
New Brunswick will move into the Green phase of its recovery plan at midnight, lifting all public health restrictions and opening the province to travel.
As of 11:59 p.m. on July 30, the following restrictions will be removed in the province.
Lift all mandatory travel and public health restrictions that have been in place over the course of the pandemic.
Lift all provincial border restrictions; provincial border checks will cease, and registration will no longer be required to enter New Brunswick from anywhere in Canada.
Lift all limits on gatherings and the number of people within facilities. Capacity limits in theatres, restaurants and stores will no longer be required.
End the requirement to wear face masks in public.
“We came to this decision because we have reached our goal of 75 per cent of our eligible population having received their first vaccine, and are now at 81 per cent,” said N.B. Premier Blaine Higgs during a news update. “We know that there will be new cases, but thanks to the amount of people that are already vaccinated, we do not think that our health care system will be threatened.”
As of midnight Friday, all provincial border restrictions will be lifted, provincial border checks will cease, and registration will no longer be required to visit New Brunswick from anywhere in Canada.
However, travellers will still be subject to Canada’s federal restrictions on International travel.
“At this time, patients, staff and visitors to all hospitals and health-care facilities, including COVID-19 assessment centres and vaccination clinics, must continue to wear masks to reduce the risk of transmission within the health-care system,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health. “Any patient with a valid medical exemption to wearing a mask, is asked to call in advance to the department or service to ensure arrangements can be made to accommodate them.”
N.B. CASE DATA
New Brunswick has had 2,365 cumulative cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
In total, 2,299 people have recovered, and 46 people have died in the province from COVID-19.
There is currently no one hospitalized in New Brunswick due to COVID-19.
On Thursday, 748 tests were conducted in the province. A total of 380,447 tests have been conducted since the beginning of the pandemic.
The number of cases is broken down by New Brunswick’s seven health zones:
Zone 1 – Moncton region: 497 confirmed cases (seven active cases)
Zone 2 – Saint John region: 302 confirmed cases (four active cases)
Zone 3 – Fredericton region: 452 confirmed cases (five active cases)
Zone 4 – Edmundston region: 754 confirmed cases (no active cases)
Zone 5 – Campbellton region: 185 confirmed cases (no active cases)
Zone 6 – Bathurst region: 136 confirmed cases (three active cases)
Zone 7 – Miramichi region: 39 confirmed cases (no active cases)
New Brunswick’s COVID-19 online dashboard provides an update on the amount of vaccines that have been administered to date.
As of Friday, 1,031,439 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in New Brunswick. The province says 82 per cent of the eligible population has received at least one dose, with 66.7 per cent now fully vaccinated.
All eligible New Brunswickers can book their second dose appointments if at least 28 days have passed since their first dose.
To receive their second dose, New Brunswickers are asked to bring a signed consent form, their Medicare card and a copy of the record of immunization provided after receiving their first dose.
Appointments for people who have not yet received their first dose continue to be available to all New Brunswickers aged 12 and older at regional health authority clinics and through participating pharmacies.
Public Health is also reminding New Brunswickers to keep a copy of their Record of Immunization form as their official proof of vaccination.
The provincial government has organized a series of mobile walk-in clinics for those who have not yet received their first or second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Clinics are taking place this week at the following locations:
Knights of Columbus Hall (22 Hallett Rd., Beechwood) Friday, July 30, between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
A mobile walk-in vaccination clinic will be held Monday at the Crowne Plaza at 659 Queen St. in Fredericton from noon to 5 p.m. The clinic will be for those who have not yet received their first or second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Pfizer will be available at this clinic.
YELLOW LEVEL REMINDER
All of New Brunswick remains under the Yellow level of recovery under the province’s order, which will be lifted effective 11:59 p.m. July 30.
Canada’s gross domestic product shrank by 0.3 per cent in May, the second consecutive monthly contraction as most industries slowed down.
Statistics Canada reported Friday that most industries shrank, especially construction, manufacturing and retail.
Even Canada’s red hot real estate sector shrank for the second month in a row. The real estate and rental and leasing sector was down 0.4 per cent in May after falling by 0.8 per cent in April. That’s the first two-month streak of declines since March and April of 2020.
“As housing sales and construction levels gradually return to more sustainable levels, this area of the economy could be a drag on growth in coming months,” TD Bank economist Sri Thanabalasingam said.
Agriculture and forestry, mining and oil and gas extraction, utilities and the public sector all expanded slightly.
All in all, the total value of all the goods and services produced by Canada’s economy was just shy of $1.98 trillion during the month. That’s still two per cent below the slightly more than $2 trillion that the economy was worth in February 2020.
The numbers for May come at the time when Canada’s economy was on the downslope of the third wave of COVID-19, and much of society was on some sort of lockdown or reduced capacity. But there are signs that a rebound has happened since.
Preliminary data for June suggests the economy grew by 0.7 per cent during the month. And July may have been even better — credit and debit card data suggests that consumers returned to spending on high-contact services including in-person dining, recreation activities and travel that had long been restricted to them, Thanabalasingam said.
June’s uptick means the economy will expand by about 0.6 per cent in the second quarter overall. That’s about a 2.5 per cent annual pace — much slower than the 6.5 per cent pace the U.S. economy clocked in the same period, but much better than the 8.3 per cent contraction seen in countries that use the euro.
Thanabalasingam said the data for May and June show just how up and down the economy may go from here on out.
“It may not be smooth sailing for the rest of the recovery,” he said.
“The delta variant is wreaking havoc around the world, leading to a retightening of restrictions in some countries. Canada has so far avoided the worst of this virus, but cases are rising in some provinces. A fourth wave could lead to another stalling in the recovery, though with relatively high rates of vaccination a full reversal appears less likely.”
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