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Here are the top reads on deals and financial services over the last week. Have a great weekend!

Shell weighs sale of Ontario refinery as sector sees more assets go on the block: Royal Dutch Shell PLC is looking to sell its refinery in Southern Ontario, adding to a growing slate of oil-refining and marketing assets on the auction block in Canada. Shell’s Corunna refinery, near Sarnia, produces a wide range of fuel and has a capacity of 75,000 barrels a day. The company said it is also gauging market interest in its sour natural gas operations in Alberta. Story (Jeffrey Jones, for subscribers)

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Let the grocery chains fix Canada’s cannabis-supply mess: Canada’s groundbreaking cannabis experiment is going off the rails. I know exactly who can fix the problem – a 90-year-old Vancouver billionaire. Despite the long run-up to legalization of recreational marijuana last October, demand for legal cannabis is outstripping supply and the retail system is a mess. Opinion (Andrew Willis, for subscribers)

Air Canada boosts Aeroplan purchase price – but remains the buyout’s big winner: Air Canada will pay 10 per cent more than planned to buy the Aeroplan loyalty rewards program and bring it back in-house, boosting the final purchase price to half-a-billion dollars. Under the transaction’s final terms, announced on Thursday, the airline has bumped its final price to $497-million. Story (Tim Kiladze, for subscribers)

Haywood defends Aphria deal: Investment bank Haywood Securities Inc. is defending its work on a recent Aphria Inc. deal after two short-sellers took aim at the cannabis grower last month, sparking a dramatic selloff in the company’s shares. Story (Christina Pellegrini, for subscribers)

Equitable Bank calls for increase to limit on covered bonds: Equitable Bank is calling on regulators to boost the current limit on covered bonds, arguing that it would level the playing field for smaller banks and make the Canadian mortgage industry more competitive. Story (Alexandra Posadzki, for subscribers)

SemGroup, KKR form joint venture in Alberta oil patch: SemGroup Corp. and private-equity giant Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. LP are bucking a gloomy investment climate in Canada’s energy sector by forming an infrastructure joint venture and spending $600-million to snap up rival natural gas processor Meritage Midstream. Story (Jeffrey Jones, for subscribers)

Why do video games use stronger security than some Canadian banks? I spent one of my holiday afternoons this year at a bank, with two tellers and a manager, having my debit card reissued and access to my accounts restored. All of this because my top Canadian bank lacked tools that are commonplace today in video games. It was a late morning in December when I made a simple mistake, adding my bank details to a budgeting app. In today’s cloud-centric world, logging in from somewhere or something new shouldn’t be an issue – but in this case it was. An automated process froze my account. When I called to have it unfrozen, I was told to visit town, find a branch office and confirm my identity in person. Oh, and to do this during holiday hours. Opinion (Ian Paterson)

Toronto’s Vena secures $115-million in financing from U.S. private-equity firms: With interest in its sector heating up, Toronto financial planning-and-analysis subscription-software firm Vena Solutions Inc. has drawn $115-million in new investment from two American private-equity firms. It’s at least the seventh $100-million-plus investment in a Canadian scaleup tech company in the past 12 months as the country’s booming tech sector continues to draw attention from global investors. Story (Sean Silcoff, for subscribers)

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Wekerle’s Difference Capital gets windfall from Vena financing: There was a rare bit of good news Wednesday for Michael Wekerle’s Difference Capital Financial Inc. The reason for the good turn of fortune is Toronto’s Vena Solutions Inc. The enterprise software firm said Wednesday that it had closed a $115-million financing led by American growth capital firm JMI Equity. Story (Sean Silcoff, for subscribers)

How a big deal in the ETF industry could mean better returns and lower fees for investors: Anything that puts more exchange-traded funds in the hands of investors instead of junk mutual funds and sketchy or poorly chosen stocks is a win. That’s what the partnership announced earlier this week between ETF leader BlackRock Inc. and ETF laggard Royal Bank of Canada will do. ETFs have surged in popularity in recent years, but they’re still just a sliver of what the mutual fund industry has amassed. Getting the investment industry to use ETFs at the expense of other products is the best path forward for future growth. Story (Rob Carrick, for subscribers)

Husky’s gas-station chain expected to attract strong buyer interest: Husky Energy Inc. is likely to find there’s strong buyer interest in its Canadian gas-station network from an industry whose ownership has shifted radically in recent years. The assets that Husky is considering selling, including about 500 retail, card-lock and bulk-fuel outlets and a small refinery in Prince George, B.C., could fetch around $1-billion in proceeds, although analysts' estimates vary widely based on educated guesses on multiples of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. Story (Jeffrey Jones, for subscribers)

Bank CEOs not predicting a major downturn just yet: One called it a “paradox,” another a “disconnect": Even as Canada’s bank CEOs grapple with the fallout from a bout of major volatility in financial markets, they are stressing that the economic fundamentals driving most of their business remain solid. Story (James Bradshaw, for subscribers)

Bank CEOs brush off new capital buffer rules: The chief executives of Canada’s largest banks are shrugging off tougher capital requirements introduced by Canada’s banking regulator, saying the change will have no impact on plans for acquisitions, dividend hikes or share buybacks. Story (James Bradshaw, for subscribers)

RBC, BlackRock team up to create Canada’s largest ETF brand: Royal Bank of Canada and BlackRock Inc. are joining forces to sell exchange-traded funds, forming a rare partnership between Canada’s largest asset manager and the country’s biggest ETF provider. Under the brand RBC iShares, the firms will create and market ETFs, which are best-known as passive investments that track major indexes at lower fees than most mutual funds. The new brand will be the biggest in Canada, based on assets under management. Story (Tim Kiladze and Clare O’Hara, for subscribers)

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Sandpiper Group looks to shake up five more Canadian real estate entities this year: Sandpiper Group, the private-equity firm that overhauled the boards of two real estate investment trusts, is getting ready to shake up other Canadian property companies. The Vancouver-based Sandpiper has identified five publicly traded real estate entities that it wants to revamp and has started amassing stakes in some of them. Story (Rachelle Younglai, for subscribers)

Canadian named as Norton Rose Fulbright’s new global chair: Walied Soliman, a Toronto-based lawyer who specializes in advising companies on hostile takeovers, proxy battles and complex restructuring plans, has been appointed the global chair of Norton Rose Fulbright. Story (Alexandra Posadzki, for subscribers)

Montreal’s TrackTik raises $45-million from Georgian Partners, Caisse: One of Canada’s fastest-growing technology startups, Montreal-based TrackTik Software Inc., has attracted $45-million in fresh financing from two of the country’s largest venture-capital investors, Georgian Partners and the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec. Story (Sean Silcoff, for subscribers)

Drop in fixed-term mortgage rates is imminent, experts say: Falling bond yields should push fixed-rate mortgage costs lower in the near-term, possibly as early as this week, mortgage industry experts predict. Yields on five-year Government of Canada bonds – which help determine the price of fixed-rate mortgages – have fallen sharply since November, dropping from a recent high of 2.46 per cent on Nov. 8 to 1.86 per cent as of Monday, a decline of more than half a percentage point. Prices particularly started to dip in late December, hitting a recent low of 1.752 per cent by Jan. 3. Story (Janet McFarland, for subscribers)

RBC devoted to slow-but-steady approach to becoming international powerhouse in investment banking: Doug McGregor contends that he knows exactly what it would take to quickly vault Royal Bank of Canada’s capital markets business into the very top ranks of global investment dealers. Story (Andrew Willis, for subscribers)

Barrick Gold eyeing Canada for acquisition opportunities: Barrick Gold Corp.’s new chief executive says the company is sizing up a number of acquisition opportunities in Canada as it looks to boost investment in its home country. Story (Niall McGee, for subscribers)

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BMO launching new financial-crimes unit to combat fraud and cyberthreats: Bank of Montreal is creating a new financial-crimes unit to combat fraud and cyberthreats and has hired a former U.S. security official to be its leader. The new unit is launching at a time when banks face rising threats from cybercriminals and fraudsters. Story (James Bradshaw, for subscribers)

Bank ‘slugfest’ leaves Canadian tech sector piled high with cheap debt offers: Banks spent 2018 fighting to give Canada’s fast-growing tech sector something it hasn’t had much taste for in years: debt. Canadian scale-ups and venture-capital-firm partners spent much of the past year watching offers for debt financing pile higher than they can ever remember. In interviews with The Globe and Mail, founders, partners and lenders used phrases like “slugfest” and “arms race” to describe the phenomenon. Story (Josh O’Kane, for subscribers)

Smaller Canadian banks may soon be able to tap rapidly growing covered bonds market: Raising the limit for covered bonds could spur smaller Canadian banks to establish such programs as the uninsured-mortgage market grows. Covered bonds, which are a popular source of funding for uninsured residential mortgages in Canada, have grown dramatically since their inception in 2013, according to a report published by ratings agency DBRS Ltd. on Monday. Story (Alexandra Posadzki, for subscribers)

Power Corp. creates new team hoping to raise nine-figure fund for health investments: Power Corp. of Canada’s alternative-investment arm is expanding its scope with a new team that hopes to raise a nine-figure fund focused on generating returns from pharmaceutical innovations. The billionaire Montreal Desmarais family’s Sagard Holdings announced the new investing wing on Monday. Sagard Healthcare Royalty Partners will invest in intellectual property (IP) in the pharmaceutical industry. Story (Josh O’Kane, for subscribers)

MORE FINANCIAL SERVICES AND DEALS NEWS FROM FRIDAY

Bank stocks: After a miserable 2018, big U.S. bank stocks could be in for a lift if upcoming earnings releases show strong fourth-quarter loan growth helps to offset weak trading revenue. Story

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IPOs: Slack Technologies Inc. is “seriously” considering making its stock-exchange debut through a direct listing, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Friday. Story (for subscribers)

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