Empire sells 68 Safeway properties to Crombie REIT in 990M deal

STELLARTON, N.S. — Empire Company Ltd. announced a plan Wednesday to sell 68 Safeway properties in a sale-leaseback deal with Crombie REIT for $990 million in cash.The company, which owns the country’s second-largest grocer Sobeys Inc., said the properties involved in the sale are located in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.In early June, Empire signed an agreement to buy more than 200 grocery stores from Canada Safeway Ltd. in a $5.8-billion deal. At the time, it said that it intended to finance the acquisition with a $1 billion sale-leaseback that it would first offer to Crombie REIT.“We are pleased to announce this sale leaseback transaction between Sobeys and Crombie REIT,” Empire president and chief executive Paul Sobey said in a statement.“The sale proceeds will be used by Sobeys to assist in the funding of the Canada Safeway acquisition which provides Sobeys with a much stronger presence in Western Canada and allows them to benefit from increased economies of scale.”Empire created Crombie REIT when it spun off a number of properties in 2006.The properties in the deal Wednesday total three million square feet of gross leasable area and include 49 freestanding stores and 19 retail plazas, each anchored by a Canada Safeway grocery store.“The geographic location of these assets is highly complementary to our existing core portfolio, providing greater exposure to Western Canadian markets and solidifying Crombie’s position as a truly national retail landlord,” Crombie president and chief executive Donald Clow said in a statement.“Furthermore, this portfolio contains a significant number of assets that are located in key, highly sought-after urban locations that are difficult to acquire.”Clow noted the deal is expected to immediately add to the trust’s adjusted funds from operations per unit.Crombie REIT has said to partially finance the transaction, it will sell $225 million in subscription receipts to a syndicate of underwriters, which will be convertible into Crombie REIT units, as well as $75 million in extendible convertible debentures which will be exchangeable into Crombie REIT units.Empire has also agreed to buy $150 million of Crombie class B limited partnership units at the same price per unit as the Crombie REIT subscription receipts.Sobeys owns or franchises more than 1,300 stores across Canada under several banners that include Sobeys, IGA, Foodland, FreshCo, and Thrifty Foods.The Canadian Press read more

TSX advances on higher oil gold prices Dow Jones posts tripledigit increase

TORONTO — The Toronto stock market posted a solid advance Monday as sharply higher commodity prices boosted mining and energy stocks.The S&P/TSX composite index closed 74.03 points higher at 15,100.65 after being up more than 100 points most of the afternoon before giving back some of its gains late in the day.The loonie closed up 0.55 of a U.S. cent at 80.14 cents. The American dollar has weakened since the U.S. Labour Department reported last week that only 126,000 jobs were created in March, the first time in a year that fewer than 200,000 American jobs were added in a month.New York markets soared as traders reasoned that Friday’s dismal U.S. jobs report means that the Federal Reserve will be in no hurry to raise interest rates. Low rates are generally seen as a boon to markets.Traders were also encouraged by the U.S. Institute for Supply Management’s services index, even though it slipped to 56.5 in March from 56.9 in February. Any reading over 50 indicates expansion.The overall index was dragged down by a measure of sales, which fell last month. However, gauges of hiring and orders were both up, a sign that U.S. services firms may be expecting solid growth in the coming months and that recent signs of a weakening in the American economy may prove temporary.The Dow Jones industrial average rose 117.61 points to 17,880.85, the Nasdaq climbed 30.38 points to 4,917.32 and the S&P 500 was up 13.66 points at 2,080.62.John Stephenson, president and CEO of Stephenson & Co. Capital Management, said the anticipated findings of the ISM survey, Friday’s U.S. non-farm payrolls report and the likelihood that it will be months before the nuclear deal with Iran will see more oil coming onto the market were all “positive indicators that the market took very favourably.”Stephenson also noted that Saudi Arabia raised its benchmark price on oil shipments to Asia, its biggest market, on the weekend.“One of the issues that has hurt the crude complex is the fact that Saudi Arabia seemed to be willing to, at all costs, gain market share and obviously this (price increase) is a bit of an inflection in that thinking,” he said.On the commodity markets, the May crude contract closed up $3 at US$52.14 a barrel, while June gold bullion rose $17.70 to US$1,218.60 an ounce.The heavily weighted gold and energy sectors were the two leading gainers on the TSX.In economic news, the Bank of Canada’s quarterly sampling of business confidence said the sharp drop in oil prices in recent months — down more than 50 per cent from last summer — have dampened the confidence of companies when it comes to future sales growth, investment and hiring.But when it comes to the Toronto stock market, Stephenson said it pays to keep in mind the heavy weighting of oil and other commodities, the prices of which tend to move inversely with the value of the U.S. dollar.“So, the U.S. dollar is weakening against a basket of currencies so that’s one issue. And the other issue is just the fact that there is more uncertainty out there and gold has typically been a safe-haven investment that people flock to in times when they are uncertain.”The Canadian Press read more

Air Canada beats expectations with record high revenue for the year

MONTREAL — Air Canada’s fourth-quarter revenue and adjusted earnings came in ahead of analyst estimates, as the Montreal-based airline posted record-high annual revenue for 2017.Its adjusted net income was $61 million, or 22 cents per share for the quarter — ahead of analyst estimates of 14 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters data.The airline’s operating revenue was $3.82 billion in the fourth quarter, up from $3.43 billion a year earlier and above the estimate of $3.745 billion.Net income was $8 million or two cents per share for the three months ended Dec. 31, which was an improvement over a 2016 fourth-quarter loss of $179 million but lower than expected.Analysts had estimated 15 cents per share of net income.“Overall, we liked what we saw in the Q4 results,” wrote analyst Walter Spracklin of RBC Dominion Securities in a note to clients.He added that Air Canada’s new guidance shows its costs will be higher in the first quarter and full year than the RBC estimate, and includes a number of one-time costs.Spracklin said analysts would be looking for more information about management’s margin expectations for 2018, which weren’t mentioned in the press release.Companies in this story: (TSX:AC) read more

Petro boost Alberta to invest 1B in eight years on bitumen upgrading

EDMONTON — Alberta is investing $1 billion in oilsands bitumen upgrading to get a bigger bang for the buck on its oil.Premier Rachel Notley says the money will be used for loan guarantees and grants to attract anywhere from two to five partial oil upgrading facilities — resulting in $5 billion of private investment.The project will begin in 2019 and last for eight years.The goal is to have Alberta’s thick bitumen upgraded in the province so that more of it can flow through pipelines, leading to an increase in volume and sales.It’s expected to free up 30 per cent of pipeline capacity at a time when bottlenecks are causing Alberta crude to sell at a steep discount on the North American market.The decision follows a recommendation from the government’s energy diversification advisory committee. read more

Health Ministry issues dengue alert

Health authorities today issued a dengue alert as heavy rain lashed the country and more rain was predicted next month.Health Ministry spokesman W.M.D Wanninayaka said that over 10,000 people have been affected by dengue so far this year. Wanninayaka said that health authorities expect a steep rise in the number of people affected by dengue over the next two months.Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena met officials in Colombo on Friday to discuss concerns over the spread of dengue and the measures to be taken to eradicate dengue mosquito breeding grounds around the country. Over the first three months of 2011 Sri Lanka 3088 people were affected by dengue but that figure has risen to 9412 during the first three months of this year, the Health Ministry said.Wanninayaka said that as of last week the figure for this year stood at 10048 with 46 deaths.The Health Ministry also found that students in Colombo faced the risk of contracting dengue as the April school vacation drew to a close. As a result the Health Ministry today declared 25 administrative divisions in the country including the capital Colombo as high risk areas for contracting dengue. The authorities had also found that over 100 bare lands in the capital had also become mosquito breeding grounds and so legal action is to be filed against the land owners. Areas around some city Schools which remained closed for the vacation were not cleaned and the authorities said they had found several dengue mosquito breeding grounds. He said that the number of people affected by dengue during the first three months of this year alone was higher than the figure seen during the same period last year. read more

Island wide train strike suspended

Fernando said that the next step with regards to the strike will be taken based on the outcome of the discussions. Over 3,000 railway workers including drivers, foremen, station masters, railway guards and signal controllers were to take part in the strike. (Colombo Gazette) The island wide train strike which was to be launched at midnight tonight has been suspended, railway trade unions said.Convener of the Joint Trade Union Alliance (JTUA) of Sri Lanka Railways Employees, Janaka Fernando told the Colombo Gazette that the strike was suspended after the Secretary to the President Lalith Weerathunga decided to meet the trade unions tomorrow to discuss their concerns. Railway employees were to launch the strike over salary anomalies. Fernando had said that that the salaries of the railway employees had not been increased in many years. read more

Posters in Jaffna to be removed

The Jaffna media reported that posters and cut-outs can be seen in several areas targeting the provincial council elections. (Colombo Gazette) The Department of Elections has ordered the removal of posters and billboards in Jaffna put up in support of candidates contesting the September elections.All police stations in the Jaffna district have been given instructions in this regard, the Jaffna media quoted elections officials in the area as saying.

Gazette issued bringing RTI into force from Feb 3

A gazette notice has been issued bringing the Right To information (RTI) Act into force from February 3rd.President Maithripala Sirisena appointed a five-member Right to Information (RTI) Commission last September. The Commission headed by former Secretary to the Ministry of Labour Mahinda Gammanpila includes attorney-at-law Kishali Pinto Jayawardena, former judge Salim Marsoof, S.G.Punchihewa and T .Selvakumaran.In December the President included the Chairman of the Appeal Court, Judge A. W. A. Salam and Dr. Selvi Thiruchandran to the Commission. (Colombo Gazette) read more

Foreign expert accused of doing a hatchet job for Sri Lanka

A foreign expert appointed by the former Government has been accused of doing a hatchet job for Sri Lanka.Rodney Dixon, who is now part of a commission appointed by Zimbabwe, has been accused by a researcher of being paid by Sri Lanka to clear the allegations against the Government. “It is not your CV that worries me, but things that you have done. Like I told you, I am a researcher and I know that you participated in a commission similar to this one in Sri Lanka,” he said.“There was an outcry when you and other members of your team were paid $400 million and with your coming here, taxes have been raised. Tell me how much you are being paid because you are not here for free? I am concerned that you might just be here to cleanse the atrocities of August 1.” Researcher Makomborero Haruzivishe attacked the credibility of the commission, particularly Rodney Dixon, whom he accused of doing a hatchet job for the government of Sri Lanka during a similar commission, Zim eye reported. Dixon had attempted to assure Haruzivishe that his CV, which states that he speaks on behalf of army commanders, governments and politicians, would not affect his work as a commissioner. (Colombo Gazette) Dixon is part of a Commission of Inquiry appointed to investigate violence which broke out in Zimbabwe in August. read more

Sri Lanka has agreed to foreign judges says Sumanthiran

Sumanthiran said that the statement was made despite Sri Lanka signing three Resolutions which note that Sri Lanka will agree to have foreign judges in the judicial process related to human rights. Sri Lanka has agreed to foreign judges by cosponsoring the last three Resolutions on Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran said today.He told Parliament it was disappointing to note a statement made by Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana that Sri Lanka will not allow foreign judges to be part of the judicial process in Sri Lanka. The TNA MP asserted that the Constitution of Sri Lanka does not prevent foreign judges from being part of the local judicial mechanism. The MP warned that if Sri Lanka fails to include foreign judges then the Tamils will push to refer Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court. (Colombo Gazette) read more