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A roundup of some of the North American equities making moves in both directions

On the rise

Shares of Bombardier Inc. (BBD.B-T) rose on Thursday after announcing it had received a firm order worth US$534-million for 20 units of an upgraded variant of its Challenger 350 aircraft, marking its biggest business jet deal this year.

The refreshed jet, named Challenger 3500, was launched earlier this month as Bombardier vies to protect its dominant share of the market and capitalize on higher demand for private flying during the pandemic.

Bombardier, which has focused on paying down debt after facing a cash crunch in 2015, is under constant pressure to upgrade its expensive business jets in a market where wealthy buyers demand the latest features.

The Challenger 3500 seats up to 10 passengers and comes with voice-controlled cabin systems for a number of functions like lighting and multimedia. It is also equipped with a smaller version of the chaise lounge seats found on the flagship Global 7500.

The jet, expected to enter service in the second half of 2022, will list for US$26.7-million, the same price as the 350, the company has said.

The company did not disclose the name of the buyer.

Toronto-based Chemtrade Logistics Income Fund (CHE.UN-T) rose with the announcement of a definitive agreement to sell its Potassium Chloride and Vaccine Adjuvants businesses to Vertellus, an Indianapolis-based manufacturer of specialty products for various consumer goods, food and agriculture, healthcare and industrial markets, for approximately US$155-million.

The transaction is expected to close during the fourth quarter of 2021.

“We believe that Vertellus is the right strategic partner for the next phase of our business’ growth and expansion. We sought to partner with a team that respected our commitment to innovation and shared our customer-centric approach. With Vertellus as our partner, we are confident we will expand into new geographies and end markets, continue to invest in our technology, and enhance our manufacturing capacity so we can continue to deliver superior service for our global customers,” said Jeff Berresford, Chemtrade’s VP & General Manager of Specialty Chemicals.

Metro Inc. (MRU-T) was higher on the premarket announcement that it is amending its normal course issuer bid program, allowing it to repurchase in an additional 1.5 million common shares.

Under the program, the grocer can now buy back 8.5 million shares, or 3.4 per cent of its issued and outstanding shares on Nov. 11, 2020.

See also: Canada’s big three grocers see shifting shopping habits as COVID-19 restrictions ease

Merck & Co. (MRK-N) was up with the announcement it will buy drugmaker Acceleron Pharma Inc. (XLRN-Q) for about US$11.5-billion, as the U.S. pharmaceutical giant looks to beef up its portfolio with drugs for rare diseases.

Merck will pay US$180 per Acceleron share in cash, representing a premium of about 2.6 per cent to the stock’s closing price on Wednesday, according to Refinitiv data.

The deal gives Merck, which makes the blockbuster cancer drug Keytruda, access to a potentially lucrative rare disease drug candidate, sotatercept.

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Acceleron focuses on therapeutics that treat cardiovascular and other blood-related disorders. Its sotatercept drug, which is currently in a late-stage study, is aimed at treating a rare cardiovascular disease called pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a type of high blood pressure that affects the lungs.

The market for treatments targeting rare diseases has become lucrative, as drugmakers typically charge higher prices for drugs which serve small patient populations.

AstraZeneca Plc. (AZN-Q) gained ground after its COVID-19 vaccine demonstrated 74-per-cent efficacy at preventing symptomatic disease, a figure that increased to 83.5 per cent in people aged 65 and older, according to long-awaited results of the company’s U.S. clinical trial published on Wednesday.

Overall efficacy of 74 per cent was lower than the interim 79-per-cent figure reported by the British drugmaker in March, a result AstraZeneca revised days later to 76 per cent after a rare public rebuke from health officials that the figure was based on “outdated information.”

The data looked at more than 26,000 volunteers in the United States, Chile and Peru, who received two doses of the vaccine spaced about a month apart. The results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

There were no cases of severe or critical symptomatic COVID-19 among the more than 17,600 participants who got the vaccine, compared with 8 such cases among the 8,500 volunteers who got the placebo. There were also two deaths in the placebo group but none among those who received the vaccine.

“I was pleasantly surprised,” Dr. Anna Durbin, a vaccine researcher at Johns Hopkins University and one of the study’s investigators, said of the overall result. “It was also highly protective against severe disease and hospitalization,” she said.

Perrigo Co. (PRGO-N) jumped after the drugmaker agreed to settle with Irish tax authorities over a 2018 issue by paying US$1.90-billion in taxes.

Ireland said in 2018 that intellectual property sales by Perrigo were taxed as tradable income at 12.5 per cent, when it should have been treated as a chargeable gain at a rate of 33 per cent.

Perrigo said it agreed to pay 297-million euros as a full and final settlement of all liabilities arising from the sale of some Tysabri patents, and to be taxed in periods of fiscal 2013 to 2021 inclusive.

California-based Mirum Pharmaceuticals Inc. (MIRM-Q) increased after saying late Wednesday its drug became the first U.S. approved therapy for treating itching in patients with a rare liver disorder called Alagille syndrome (ALGS).

“(Itching) is really devastating for children and families dealing with this disease...and ultimately that itching is a driving factor for liver transplant decisions,” Chief Executive Officer Chris Peetz told Reuters.

Mirum priced the drug, to be made available for distribution immediately under brand name Livmarli, at US$1,550 per unit. It expects the per unit annual cost at about US$391,000 for a 17-kilogram child, the average weight of patients in its studies.

The dosing for the drug will be prescribed by physicians based on a patient’s weight.

SVB Leerink analyst Mani Faroohar told Reuters that Livmarli could easily reach peak sales of US$400-million in ALGS indication by 2030.

On the decline

A day after its stock dipped 11.7 per cent, to $126, wiping out more than $2-billion in market capitalization, Lightspeed Commerce Inc. (LSPD-T) slipped further.

It was the biggest loser on the TSX Wednesday after a short-seller expressed doubts about the company’s customer counts, revenue growth, and competitive position.

The Montreal-based company is a seller of point-of-sale systems for retailers and restaurants, but has been making a push into e-commerce with a series of expensive acquisitions. At its 52-week high last week, the company’s stock had quadrupled from its 52-week low.

It’s the latest Canadian target for New York-based Spruce Point Capital Management. Spruce Point stands to profit if investors accept its thesis that Lightspeed faces a potentially large share-price decline. Short-selling shares is a bet that shares will drop, with an investor borrowing shares, selling them, and repaying the loan by returning new shares, hopefully bought at a lower price.

- David Milstead

Rogers Communications Inc. (RCI.B-T) was down as it said late Wednesday that Chief Financial Officer Tony Staffieri has stepped down after more than a decade in the role.

The telecom company said it had appointed Paulina Molnar, its senior vice president at its Controller and Risk Management division, as interim CFO. She has been with the company for 16 years.

Rogers, however, did not cite the reason behind the move.

The company said its planned $20-billion purchase of Shaw Communications Inc was moving forward as expected.

The deal announced in March to create Canada’s second-largest cellular and cable operator has attracted regulatory scrutiny, with the Competition Bureau on Tuesday asking for information from the public to check for competition concerns.

See also: Rogers files to CRTC in response to rivals opposing its proposed takeover of Shaw Communications

With files from staff and wires

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