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Will rate hikes dampen Canada's already lacklustre business investment? – Financial Post

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Slow and clear transition to higher interest rates could avoid a negative shock

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With interest rates set to rise, perhaps as soon as March, it’s fair to ask what that could mean for Canada’s lacklustre commitment to business investment, now that loans are about to become more expensive.

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The Bank of Canada held the overnight interest rate at the lower bound of a quarter per cent in its decision on Wednesday, but telegraphed an end to its commitment to low policy rates until the middle quarters of 2022.

Company spending on machinery, software and non-residential property, like factories, was less than 10 per cent of Canada’s $2-trillion gross domestic product (GDP) in the third quarter, down from 13 per cent in 2014, when oil prices collapsed, a shock from which the oilpatch still hasn’t recovered.

The pandemic hasn’t helped, as business investment has continued to shrink amid all the uncertainty created by the global recession that followed COVID lockdowns in 2020, and the worryingly fast inflation that has come with the recovery.

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So as central banks in Canada, the United States, and elsewhere move to tame price pressures by raising borrowing costs, there’s a risk that higher interest rates could dampen investment intentions. But economists said that Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem probably can avoid a negative shock to business sentiment by communicating clearly and ratcheting up borrowing costs slowly.

“Business investment is going to recover somewhat and that’s not really a brave call,” Pedro Antunes, chief economist at the Conference Board of Canada, said in an interview. “It’s just that we’re at such low levels, it’s bound to recover.”

Business investment is going to recover somewhat and that’s not really a brave call

Pedro Antunes

Until the first quarter of 2014, business investment in the U.S. and Canada was roughly the same in terms of its share of GDP. Since then, the story has been dramatically different. The capital expenditure of U.S. companies was nearly 15 per cent of economic output in the third quarter last year, suggesting the U.S. economy has become more competitive during the pandemic.

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A lack of investment, historically, has translated into slower labour productivity growth, with Canada posting annual gains of one per cent on average from 2000 to 2019, whereas the U.S. saw growth of 1.7 per cent.

Even if Macklem opts to tap the brakes, a series of interest-rate increases probably wouldn’t discourage businesses, given they are sitting on mountains of cash, said Benjamin Tal, deputy chief economist at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

Firms have accumulated more than $130 billion in excess cash since the start of the pandemic, and are likely holding off spending it until executives have a clearer vision of the road ahead. A straightforward message from the central bank about how it intends to confront inflation could boost confidence over the near term, Tal said.

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“It’s really the message from the Bank of Canada that they are not behind the curve (which) can help businesses down the road by improving confidence,” he said. “If you are a CEO, you’re taking a very conservative approach towards spending money in this environment because you don’t know where we will be six months from now.”

The central bank is confident firms will spend on operational upgrades once pandemic-related weaknesses subside, it indicated in its Monetary Policy report published on Jan. 26.

Tiff Macklem, governor of the Bank of Canada.
Tiff Macklem, governor of the Bank of Canada. Photo by David Kawai/Bloomberg

“Outside the oil and gas sector, firms are expected to increase their investment in the face of growing domestic and foreign demand, improved business confidence, limited production capacity and the gradual easing of supply constraints,” policy-makers said in the report.

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The past year has been more chaotic than clear for executives. Companies have had to grapple with a deadly virus, soaring inflation, and supply-chain bottlenecks. Macklem and other central bankers initially said the burst of inflation that came with the recovery would be temporary, and then relented as price pressures continued to build. Canada’s consumer price index surged 4.8 per cent in December from a year earlier, the biggest increase in more than 30 years.

On top of that, immigration stalled because of travel restrictions, exacerbating a labour shortage that produced nearly 900,000 vacancies in 2021 even as overall employment returned to pre-pandemic levels in the fall. There’s hope on the horizon with the Omicron wave seeming to have peaked in some parts of the country, but anxiety still abounds among employers, said Antunes.

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Broad-based investment intentions signalled in the latest Business Outlook Survey suggest the tides could change coming out of the pandemic, especially as firms look to rebuild inventories eaten up by hot demand and supply-chain clogs.

  1. Canada added 886,000 positions in 2021, a record and a faster return to normal than in the United States.

    Canada’s U.S.-beating jobs recovery might not be as great as it looks

  2. 'Without immigration, we would be going backwards,' says CIBC World Markets' Benjamin Tal.

    Immigration surge could slow Bank of Canada rate hikes

  3. Tiff Macklem, governor of the Bank of Canada, during a news conference in Ottawa on Dec. 15, 2021.

    Debt-strapped Canadians brace for risky rate-hike cycle

  4. Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem.

    Bank of Canada holds interest rate at 0.25%

It’s also possible that investment isn’t as sluggish as headline numbers suggest.

COVID-19 has quickened the pace of technology adoption, especially among professional service industries, which tend to deploy less capital per worker. Some of those positives might not be fully captured in data, especially among technology companies, which focus their business investment on people and research and development, said Martin Toner, director of institutional research at ATB Capital Markets Inc.

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“That’s where the vast majority of capital being raised by startups goes. It mostly goes into people and research because this is all intellectual property,” Toner said.

The state of the labour market could be giving businesses another reason to invest. All those unfilled positions could put upward pressure on wages, lowering the trade-off between buying productivity-enhancing equipment and hiring more workers.

“Corporations will not sit and do nothing,” said Tal. “Now labour is expensive, unavailable. People will switch to investing in capital.”

• Email: bbharti@postmedia.com | Twitter:

Listen to Down to Business for in-depth discussions and insights into the latest in Canadian business, available wherever you get your podcasts . Check out the latest episode below:

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Claridge Food Group announces $40 million strategic investment in WeCook Meals – Canada NewsWire

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“This major investment marks a new step in WeCook Meals‘ development plan. We have experienced strong growth over the past few years, and this capital injection combined with Claridge Food Group’s industrial expertise will allow us to strengthen our position as the leading ready-to-eat delivery company in Quebec and Ontario and accelerate our growth across Canada. We want to be clearly recognized as the benchmark ready-to-eat meal brand for all Canadians,” says Étienne Plourde, founder and CEO of WeCook Meals.

The Canadian food delivery market combined with online commerce is growing at an accelerated pace and was estimated to be worth over $5 billion in 2021. WeCook Meals stands out for its unique offering of fresh, ready-to-eat meals that meet the needs of the growing number of people who want to eat well but don’t have time to cook. The company aims to accelerate its annual sales growth (exceeding four million meals in 2021), relying primarily on its extensive food processing expertise, quality meals, menu customization and digital marketing excellence.

“We want to raise awareness of our unique offering to increase our customer base and gross revenue. Our nimble business model allows us to manage the impact of inflation on food prices, as well as adapt the choice of ingredients offered in our weekly menu. This investment will allow us to accelerate the prepared and ready-to-eat meal revolution by offering consumers a wider selection of healthy, tasty, and convenient meals at affordable prices,” added Plourde.

“In just a few years, WeCook Meals has become the leading ready-to-eat company in Canada, thanks to the support of financial partners such as Desjardins Capital and Investissement Québec. The new investment we are announcing demonstrates the deep confidence of all our partners in WeCook Meals’ vision and business plan. We will work with WeCook Meals’ management to provide them with the financial capabilities and management expertise of growing food processing companies, adding value at every stage of their development,” said Pierre Boivin, President and CEO of Claridge.

“The agri-food industry is a flagship sector of our economy and one of Investissement Québec’s priority industries to ensure sustainable economic development throughout Quebec. We’re proud to participate in this round of financing to help a young company like WeCook Meals realize its growth plans and to continue the unifying role we are committed to playing in the financial ecosystem, particularly in facilitating access to development capital,” says Guy LeBlanc, President and CEO of Investissement Québec.

“Our $10 million investment in the new financial vehicle of Claridge Food Group allows us to combine Desjardins Capital’s credibility, experience and agility with the leading-edge expertise in the food processing sector that this partner offers,” says Marie-Hélène Nolet, Chief Operating Officer of Desjardins Capital. “As demonstrated by this joint investment in WeCook Meals, our partnership will help agri-food companies undertake their growth projects and overcome the challenges of inflation and supply, while remaining relevant to changing consumer habits. We’re all the more proud to offer additional leverage to this company that we’ve been supporting since 2019, always in keeping with the founders’ vision.”

Advisors

Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton and Desjardins Capital Markets acted as financial advisors to WeCook Meals.

About
Claridge Food
Group 

Claridge Food Group is an investment vehicle created by Claridge Inc. with the participation of Investissement Québec, the Fonds de solidarité FTQ, and Desjardins Capital. Its mission is to support Quebec food processing companies with significant growth potential by providing them with financial resources, managerial and operational support, knowledge of global trends, and a large network of partners to support and accelerate their growth in Quebec, Canada and North America. 

About WeCook Meals

WeCook Meals was founded in 2013 by two young entrepreneurs who wanted to spend less time in the kitchen, without compromising on a high-quality, nutritious diet. Meals are curated by an in-house chef, using only freshest ingredients sourced from local suppliers in a zero-waste facility. Demand for WeCook Meals’ read-made meals have increased 300% and the Montreal-based company has successfully created 600 new jobs. The Montreal-based company currently has two production facilities delivering more than 4 million meals a year throughout Ontario and Quebec. For HD images.

About Investissement Québec

Investissement Québec’s mission is to play an active role in Quebec’s economic development by spurring business innovation, entrepreneurship and business acquisitions, as well as growth in investment and exports. Operating in all the province’s administrative regions, the corporation supports the creation and growth of businesses of all sizes with investments and customized financial solutions. It also assists businesses by providing consulting services and other support measures, including technological assistance available from Investissement Québec – CRIQ. In addition, through Investissement Québec International, it also prospects for talent and foreign investment and assists Quebec businesses with export activities.

About Desjardins Capital

Over 45 years strong, Desjardins Capital has a mission to value, support and nurture the best of Quebec entrepreneurship. With assets under management of C$3.0 billion as of December 31, 2021, Desjardins Capital helps contribute to the longevity of more than 670 companies, cooperatives and funds in various sectors from across Quebec. In addition to helping to maintain and create many thousands of jobs, this subsidiary of Desjardins Group offers business owners access to a large business network and supports their business growth. For more information, visit our website.

About Claridge

Claridge is a Montreal-based family office that represents the interests of the Stephen Bronfman family, with a focus on maximizing long-term capital appreciation. Claridge is actively engaged in managing a diversified portfolio of investments in private companies as well as interests in third-party managed funds in a variety of industries across the globe. As a strategic financial investor, our direct equity participations span a range of industry sectors, including holdings in food, technology, entertainment, renewable energy, and real estate. Claridge focuses its investments in small and medium-sized businesses and contributes its expertise in partnership with management to accelerate growth.

SOURCE Claridge Food Group

For further information: WeCook Meals, Christina Krcevinac, Senior Marketing Manager, Tel: 1 514 562-4904, [email protected]; Claridge, Manager of Claridge Food Group, Daniel Granger, Tel: 1 514 232 1556, [email protected]; Investissement Québec, Catherine Salvail, Advisor, Medias and Governmental Affairs, Tel: 1 514 876-9600, [email protected]; Desjardins Capital, Marc-Antoine Lavoie, Senior Advisor, Public Relations, Tel: 1 418 563-8853, [email protected]

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Early Tesla investor DBL Partners leads $70 million investment in logistics firm Airspace – CNBC

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Matt Mawson | Corbis Documentary | Getty Images

Time-critical logistics start-up Airspace, which originally broke into the market handling shipments for emergency situations including organ transplants and life-saving medications, has nearly doubled its funding in a new round of venture capital led by DBL Partners, an impact investing firm that was an early investor in Tesla. The $70 million funding round — which also included new investors Telstra Ventures and HarbourVest, as well as existing investors Scale Ventures, Defy Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures and Prologis Ventures — brings Airspace’s total funding to $138 million.

The investment is an indication of the rapid growth of logistics start-ups in the pandemic years as global supply chain issues lead to new opportunities for disruptive business models. With DBL Partners, which focuses on “double bottom line” investing, coming on board, it also raises the profile of sustainability within the business model of logistics companies and throughout the global supply chain.

Airspace noted in a release that many of its largest customers are increasingly focused on carbon-neutrality.   

“Airspace is unique in its ability to provide complete transparency into the carbon footprint of time-critical deliveries, enabling customers to optimize routes with the least possible environmental impact,” Ira Ehrenpreis, founder and managing partner at DBL Partners, said in a press release.

Ehrenpreis is on the Tesla board of directors, and DBL has invested in several solar energy companies (including SolarCity, now part of Tesla), as well as Elon Musk’s SpaceX, and previous CNBC Disruptor 50 companies, such as Apeel Sciences, which is focused on food system waste.

Joel Hwang, principal of HarbourVest, also received a seat on Airspace’s board.

Airspace uses AI and machine learning to optimize delivery opportunities around the world, and it provides real-time data — as many as 16,000 “touch points” — on shipments.

The company, which was founded in 2016 and has offices in Carlsbad, California, Dallas, Stockholm and Amsterdam, reported growth of 110% last year and said it is on pace to match that growth this year.

“With supply chain disruptions continuing to impact countries worldwide, no time in history has time-critical shipping & logistics been so essential to ensuring these complex and sensitive shipments reach their destinations on-time,” Nick Bulcao, co-founder and CEO at Airspace, stated in the release.

Airspace, which ranked No. 39 on the CNBC Disruptor 50, is one of ten companies from the logistics sector to make the annual list, the most of any sector in 2022 as the global supply chain crisis raised the profile of disruptive start-ups taking technology-enabled approaches to the global shipping problems, and growth led to increased attention from investors.

Several of the top logistics start-ups featured on the CNBC Disruptor 50 have made sustainability issues a key business focus within what is an often inefficient and carbon-intensive transport sector.

Between 15% to 40% of carbon emissions from truckloads can be eliminated through more efficient shipments, according to Flock Freight, which was the first freight company to be awarded B Corp. status, which requires companies to run business models designed to balance purpose and profits. Flock Freight has focused on removing “empty space” in trucking, with many truckloads only 60% to 70% full when they hit the roads, which is both inefficient as a logistics approach and needless as far as climate impact.

Airspace has noted that many commercial planes take off with low capacity utilization in cargo holds, one of the data points it can track and take advantage of in sourcing alternative transport options for customers.

Flexport, the No. 1 Disruptor this year, recently received a $900 million round of venture capital and has seen its annual revenue grow by billions during the supply chain crisis — it is on pace for over $5 billion in revenue this year.

“Historically, if you just needed shipments on a regular cadence it was good enough to move over ocean or road or rail, but with all of these disruptions, folks that used to move over ocean have shifted a lot to air freight,” said Airspace chief operating officer Ben Kozy in a recent interview.

Suppliers and shippers have shifted their mentality about relying on a single mode of transport.

“The global supply chain that has just taken a beating from the pandemic and labor shortages and growth in consumer demand for products,” Kozy said. “All of this has removed the relative certainty of logistics, taken it away and suppliers are scrambling for new mediums for transport,” he added.

The funding will be used to increase Airspace’s focus on Europe and Asia, as well as focus on clients in new sectors where time-sensitive deliveries are critical including semiconductors, autos and clean tech. Europe accounts for more than 10% of revenue, up from 1.5% in 2020, according to Airspace, and the company now operates in 134 countries.

“Our goal is to be able to ship the most packages to any destination, regardless of size,” Bulcao said in the release.

To date, Airspace has completed over one million shipments.

The global auto industry has been hit by multiple chip shortages in the past two years requiring waves of temporary plant shutdowns at major automakers. Earlier this month, Ford said the chip shortages plaguing the industry are persisting and the automaker being forced to prioritize ship supplies for the most in-demand models.

While its roots are in the medical market, Kozy told CNBC that as Airspace grows it is allowing more customers to define what is “critical” to their business. The inherent need to move organs for transplant fast is a business model that can now be applied to an automaker’s plant being down due to parts that have not arrived. “Critical is the time limit it needs to be delivered,” Kozy said.

Recently, Airspace has also found a market in items as diverse as high-end caskets, high-end aprons and hot tubs.

“Our model enables us to move quickly, in under 24 hours, once the customer has made the decision,” Kozy said.

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China to further expand infrastructure investment – SaltWire NS

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SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China issued guidelines on Wednesday to expand infrastructure investment by channelling more private capital into existing projects.

China will further promote the development of real estate investment trusts (REITs) to free up capital locked in existing projects, and will also promote Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) to introduce more private funding, the State Council, or China’s cabinet, said in a statement on its website.

(Reporting by Shanghai newsroom; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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