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Streetwise

News and analysis on Bay Street and the world of finance
available exclusively to subscribers of Globe Unlimited

Entry archive:

Algonquin Power appeals to U.S. gas company shareholders

ANNA NICOLAOU

Gas Natural Inc. shares have spiked 25 per cent over the past week, to a record high of $12.85 (U.S.) Wednesday, as Ontario-based Algonquin Power and Utilities Corp. continues to push to acquire the company.

Algonquin Power has made three bids to buy Gas Natural, in January, March, and May. The company slowly pushed its offer price up from $10 to $13, all of which were at a premium to Gas Natural’s share price. But the acquisition target has swiftly rejected the “unsolicited and inadequate” offers, adding that it’s not for sale.

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Investment industry group recruits new chair

JACQUELINE NELSON

The Investment Industry Association of Canada (IIAC) is reorganizing its boardroom and adding new professionals to the mix.

In a recent vote held in Toronto, the association elected Sylvain Perreault, chief compliance offer at Desjardins Group, to be its chair. He will be especially focused on changing regulations affecting 160 member firms.

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Talisman isn’t scared of bidders, won’t rule out any assets

TIM KILADZE

The news that Repsol SA approached Talisman Energy Inc. about a deal shouldn’t surprise anyone. Hal Kvisle practically begged for deep-pocketed bidders.

Since implementing his strategic shakeup in 2013, Mr. Kvisle, Talisman’s chief executive, has told anyone within earshot that he would sell assets because he needs to right-size the company. Even though he favours some assets, he’s gone so far as to say that anything could be sold at the right price.

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FreshBooks receives $30-million in funding

ANNA NICOLAOU

FreshBooks CEO Mike McDerment has previously raised cash through friends and family, but has always shrugged off institutional venture capital money. Now he’s had a change of heart.

The 10-year-old Toronto startup that’s amassed more than ten million users is accepting funding for the first time. FreshBooks has raised $30-million (U.S.) in Series A funding led by Oak Investment Partners, with participation from Atlas Venture and Georgian Partners.

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CIBC’s ambitious plan to win in wealth management

TIM KILADZE

This much we know: Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce is desperately trying to double down on wealth management, with executives going so far as to say they want 15 per cent of the bank’s bottom line to stem from this business.

What we haven’t heard are precise details on their plans to do so. Management has outlined broad strategies – focusing on the U.S., for instance – but there hasn’t been complete clarity.

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Kern Partners’ new fund backs LNG project

JEFFREY JONES

Kern Partners, the Calgary-based private equity firm, has started up a new, $750-million energy fund that is partly focused on moving a British Columbia liquefied natural gas project forward as a way to help open up Asian markets for Canadian gas producers.

The new Kern fund, its fourth and largest to date, is aimed primarily at investing in diversified energy exploration and development, employing the same investment philosophy as the previous ones. That involves five-to-nine year investments with companies led by established management groups. But energy infrastructure and technology are also part of the mix, executives said.

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Scrambling to get in, funders trip over each other’s turf

ANNA NICOLAOU

Venture capital and private equity, two historically distinct beasts, are overlapping more and more as the Canadian tech scene seems to be getting a makeover, according to BDC Capital industry veteran Dominique Bélanger. Private equity shops are getting into companies earlier and earlier, he says, while venture capital funds are making bigger investments in later-stage companies. Meanwhile crowdfunding and boutique VC firms have emerged as a viable financing option, democratizing the market.

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RBC’s global research team bulks up in U.S.

JACQUELINE NELSON

RBC Dominion Securities has been busy hiring this summer, particularly as it builds out its investment banking and research capabilities in the New York office.

The bank said Monday that it would hire two new managing directors to its global research group, which now has about 350 employees.

Danny Tenengauzer will be head of emerging markets and global foreign exchange strategy. He formerly worked at Standard Chartered Bank.

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Why Europe’s banks aren’t so scary

TIM KILADZE

The Canadian fund manager betting big on a European banking recovery isn’t cutting and running after the Portuguese tremors. He’s even more convinced that this is the time to buy.

In January Streetwise wrote about a new fund created by Hamilton Capital, designed to ride the recovery of Europe’s financial system. At its core, the investment thesis was rooted in fundamentals: economic growth was coming back and loan losses were falling.

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BMO hires co-head of U.S. industrials

ANNA NICOLAOU

Bank of Montreal is shuffling leadership of its U.S. investment banking teams, hiring a banker from Jefferies & Co. to co-head the industrials group.

BMO added Sean Sullivan as co-head of U.S. industrials, based out of New York and Chicago. Mr. Sullivan will eventually take over as sole head of the industrials team, replacing Scott Humphrey, who is switching to a U.S. investment and corporate banking role.

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EnerCare says takeover bid undervalues business

JACQUELINE NELSON

A possible $790-million dollar buyout for Canadian water heater giant EnerCare Inc. by its largest shareholder isn’t good enough, the company says.

Augustus Advisors LLC, the investment manager controlling a nearly 12-per-cent stake of the company, is leading an effort to acquire EnerCare’s business – a portfolio made up of 1.1 million water heaters and other devices installed in Ontario homes and rented to owners. Subsidiary EnerCare Connections Inc. also has metering contracts that measure electricity and water used in condos and apartments in Ontario, Alberta and other provinces.

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Court ruling on director’s compensation a warning for boards

JEFF GRAY

Amid a climate of continuing concern over executive pay, boards of directors looking to hand themselves big bonus packages or stock options will think twice after a recent ruling from the Ontario Court of Appeal, corporate governance experts say.

The ruling involves a company called Unique Broadband Systems Inc. (UBS), which went into bankruptcy protection in July, 2011, and owned a controlling interest in an upstart cable and Internet company called Look Communications Inc.

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Germany’s Triple Crown of cartels

Every day ROB Insight delivers exclusive analysis on breaking business news and market-moving events. Streetwise offers news and analysis on Bay Street and the world of finance. Inside the Market delivers up-to-the-minute insights on market news as it develops.

Here are our editors’ picks of some of the best reads available to Globe Unlimited subscribers this week.

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Dundee sells stakes in REIT family

TIM KILADZE

David Goodman isn’t wasting time getting down to business.

Just three days after being named Dundee Corp.’s new chief executive officer, taking the reins from his father Ned Goodman, there was speculation that David had sold substantial stakes in two real estate investment trusts that originally carried the Dundee name, freeing up cash to deploy toward his own initiatives.

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Vision Critical attracts new investors

ANNA NICOLAOU

Toronto-based venture capital fund Georgian Partners is leading a $16-million investment in Vision Critical Communications Inc., the fast-growing market research firm that serves clients including Yahoo Inc. and Molson Coors Brewing Co.

Northleaf Venture Catalyst Fund and Kensington Global Private Equity Fund also participated in the investment round, the proceeds of which will go to selling shareholders who have backed the company for years. Vision Critical would not disclose figures for its total funding since inception, but noted it has received “a lot” of interest and will continue to evaluate new investors.

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Look for more changes at Difference next week

BOYD ERMAN

Difference Capital founder Michael Wekerle says to expect more changes at the company next week.

The firm, a publicly traded merchant bank, is undergoing serious change. Three board members resigned this week, and personnel changes are to come.

“Next week,” Mr. Wekerle said when asked about the timing. “Assume we are reducing.”

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Brokerage industry mulls ending monopoly on training

JANET McFARLAND

Canada’s brokerage industry regulator is pondering an overhaul of the course and exam requirements for people working in the financial sector, launching a review that could lead to a break up of the educational monopoly of the Canadian Securities Institute.

The Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC), which regulates brokerage and investment firms, has asked for public comments on whether it should consider changing how it conducts education and exams to license workers in the industry.

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RBC lures health care banker from Jefferies

BOYD ERMAN

The capital markets arm of Royal Bank of Canada is bulking up its health care investment banking group in the U.S., adding a banker from Jefferies & Co. Inc. as the sector keeps getting hotter for mergers activity.

RBC said Robert Steininger joined as a co-head of the health care group. He will work with Kevin Davies, who has been running the group since 2006.

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Difference Capital shakes up directors

BOYD ERMAN

As technology stocks have boomed, shares of technology investor Difference Capital Financial have gone the wrong way. Thursday, the company founded by high-profile trader Michael Wekerle unveiled a restructuring aimed at turning things around.

Amid talk of pressures building inside the firm, Difference said that three directors would leave. The company also said it would sell a large block of stock in another company, raising $22-million that should answer any questions about liquidity. There are also likely to be further personnel changes at the company that manages the publicly traded side of Difference.

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Bond investors rankled by RBC’s $1-billion debt offering

TIM KILADZE

The group that represents Canada’s biggest bond investors is frustrated with the way Royal Bank of Canada sold its latest debt offering – a deal worth $1-billion – and has requested that regulators do something to address the issues.

In early July, RBC became the first Canadian bank to sell bonds that that can be treated as non-viability contingent capital (NVCC). This form of debt was required by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision coming out of the Great Recession, and its terms allow the bonds to be converted into equity in the event of a financial crisis. In short: bond investors, who usually rank higher in the capital structure, can quickly become measly shareholders.

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Are energy ‘divcos’ the new income trusts?

TIM KILADZE And JEFFREY JONES

The energy sector is breeding a new batch of companies that pay hefty dividends, conjuring memories of the high-flying income trust era – and raising questions about the sustainability of cash distributions.

Before the financial crisis, energy trusts that paid monthly distributions garnered major investor attention because they had tax advantages that helped them offer juicy yields. Some trusts, however, could not afford their payments and had to borrow money to make ends meet. When oil prices plummeted, those who overreached were quickly exposed.

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Target faces calls to withdraw from Canada

MARINA STRAUSS

Another analyst has joined a growing chorus of observers who suggest U.S. discounter Target Corp. consider cutting its losses by closing or scaling back its struggling stores in Canada.

Michael Exstein, retail analyst at Credit Suisse in New York, said on Wednesday it may be more prudent for Target to shut its Canadian division after launching 124 stores just last year and a few more in 2014. By closing them, the discounter could focus all its resources on improving its challenged U.S. operations, Mr. Exstein said. Target’s U.S. business makes up more than 97 per cent of the company’s current sales.

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When fairness opinions aren’t fair

ADRIAN MYERS

Good business law is predictable business law. Boards of directors should be able to plan their actions around it. Unfortunately, recent decisions on the use of fairness opinions in plans of arrangement have made the law less predictable, and more arbitrary.

A plan of arrangement is a common type of merger made available to companies under the Canadian Business Corporations Act. To complete a plan of arrangement, two-thirds of each class of voting securities must approve of the transaction and a court must then review the plan according to several criteria: for statutory compliance; to evaluate whether the arrangement was put forth in good faith; and to see if the arrangement is fair and reasonable. While court approval is generally a low risk process, it’s only a low risk process because solicitors and directors know how to satisfy the court’s requirements.

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Long-time tech analyst moves to VC firm

BOYD ERMAN

Long-time technology analyst Peter Misek is an analyst no more, leaving Jefferies LLC to join a venture capital firm.

Mr. Misek is joining London-based DN Capital, a firm he has worked with over the years and which has invested in companies such as Shazam and Apsmart.

Mr. Misek will be a venture partner with DN, the latest stop in a career mostly on the research side. He worked at NM Rothschild, where he started the internet and technology practice. After that, he moved to Hambrecht and Quist to cover internet stocks, then to Scotia Capital and Canaccord. He also had a stop at Orion Securities, which ended in a wrongful dismissal lawsuit that was eventually settled.

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Junior oil producer New Star puts itself up for sale

BOYD ERMAN

New Star Energy Ltd., a Calgary-based junior oil company, has put itself up for sale and may be an attractive take-out candidate for a dividend-paying energy producer looking for some growth.

The privately-held company hired Macquarie Tristone to run the sale process, with bids due in September, according to an announcement on the Macquarie Tristone web site.

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How David Goodman aims to get back to wealth management

TIM KILADZE

The man who sold his big mutual fund company to Bank of Nova Scotia wants to get back into the wealth management game.

David Goodman, son of Ned Goodman and former chief executive of DundeeWealth Inc., is setting out to build a brand new asset manager, marking his first major foray since selling his former company to Scotiabank for $2.3-billion in 2011.

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With new lease on life, Keek builds executive team

ANNA NICOLAOU

Toronto-based Keek Inc., a Canadian social media startup, seems to be rising out of the ashes after a financing disaster and a cash crisis spooked investors last year. The mobile video social network, that rivals Vine and Instagram, has recently made a number of high-level hires and is expanding rapidly into the U.S. and Europe.

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Corsa, PBS buyer, expects more acquisitions in coal

BOYD ERMAN

The team behind Corsa Coal Corp., which just agreed to buy PBS Coals for $60-million (U.S.), expects to buy more coal mines from struggling rivals in a countercyclical play on fuel for steel mills.

Corsa is made up of many of the former managers of PBS Coals, and it is backed financially by some of the original investors in PBS. Those include Canada’s Sprott Resource Corp. and the Swedish-Canadian Lundin family, which both put up money to help finance the PBS sale.

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Fourth wireless carrier will bruise incumbents: analyst

CHRISTINE DOBBY

Canadian telecom shares dipped Tuesday morning after an analyst report laid out a path to a fourth national wireless carrier and argued the federal government is willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen.

In a research note dramatically titled, “Government Ready to Deliver the Final Blow,” Scotia Capital Inc.’s Jeff Fan cut his target prices on Rogers Communications Inc., BCE Inc., and Telus Corp. Mr. Fan said he believes the Big Three carriers’ dividends are safe but warned growth expectations should be tempered if that fourth competitor emerges.

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RBC adds to U.S. investment banking team

JACQUELINE NELSON

RBC Dominion Securities is adding two new managing directors to its U.S. investment banking group.

Chauncey Dewey joins the firm as sector head of specialty finance. He will work from New York and be a part of RBC’s U.S. financial institutions group.

The other new hire is Ben Lyons, who will focus on investment banking in the chemicals industry as part of the U.S. industrials group. He will also work out of the New York office.

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Boyd Erman

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