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

On the rise

Empire Co. Ltd. (EMP.A-T) gained 5 per cent after the parent company of Sobeys, Safeway and other grocery stores reported on Thursday that same-store sales grew 18 per cent in its fourth quarter, driven largely by changing shopping habits.

Same-store sales, an important retail metric, measures sales growth not accounted for by store openings; Empire’s figure did not include sales at its gas stations, which declined by roughly 40 per cent in the thirteen weeks ended May 2.

Empire raised its quarterly dividend by a penny to 13 cents per share.

The increased payment to shareholders came as Empire said its profit amounted to 66 cents per diluted share for the quarter ended May 2, up from 45 cents per diluted share a year earlier.

On an adjusted basis, Empire says it earned $181.2 million or 67 cents per diluted share for the quarter, up from an adjusted profit of $126.5 million or 46 cents per diluted share a year ago.

Analysts on average had expected an adjusted profit of 62 cents per share, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

- With files from Susan Krashinsky Robertson

See also: Urback: Clawing back pandemic pay for grocery workers is a grotesque, predictable outcome

Enbridge Inc. (ENB-T) increased 1.2 per cent after it said late Wednesday about 800 employees have opted for voluntary buyouts, as the company tries to reduce costs to tackle the COVID-19 crisis and the global oil price shock.

In an email response to Reuters, Calgary-based Enbridge said it was offering employees the option to voluntarily select early retirement, severance, leaves of absence or part-time work.

“As a result of these actions, we won’t need to pursue company-wide layoffs at this time,” a company spokesperson said.

Enbridge is reducing base pay across its non-union workforce, with the board of directors and CEO Al Monaco taking a 15-per-cent cut and the company’s executive vice presidents taking a 10-per-cent cut.

Spotify Technology SA (SPOT-N) jumped 12.7 per cent after announcing it will stream podcasts featuring Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman through a deal with AT&T Inc’s Warner Bros and DC Entertainment.

Warner and DC will produce and distribute an original slate of narrative scripted podcasts exclusively for the streaming service, Spotify said.

It also announced it has reached a deal with reality TV star Kim Kardashian West to host a podcast related to criminal justice reform, a representative for West said on Wednesday.

The show, to be available exclusively on Spotify, will be connected to Ms. West’s work with The Innocence Project, a nonprofit that fights wrongful convictions, the representative said.

Spotify, which has over 700,000 podcasts on its platform and reaches nearly 300 million monthly users, has been investing in big names to draw audiences to non-musical content. In May, it signed a deal for exclusive rights to a popular podcast by comedian Joe Rogan.

Mountain Province Diamonds Inc. (MPVD-T) was 12.9 per cent higher after releasing revised 2020 guidance before the bell.

The Toronto-based miner now projects 37–39 million total tons mined (ore and waste), down from its previous guidance of 42–43 million tons. It maintained its mined and treated estimates of 3.3-3.4 million each.

“The revised production guidance reflects the challenges of COVID-19 pandemic and the impact on operations and logistics at the Gahcho Kué Mine, and the necessity to implement changes to operating policies and procedures to minimize the risk of infection,” the company said. “These changes included protecting the workforce by isolating vulnerable employees, implementing travel restrictions to and from the mine, revising health and safety protocols, including on site self isolation, social distancing, and ongoing testing of all employees. The new operating parameters have impacted the ability to utilize the mining fleet at full capacity, which has had a direct impact on the 2020 mine plan.”

Ford Motor Co. (F-N) was flat per cent after it said on Thursday that it will offer hands-free driving on its new Mustang Mach-E in fall 2021, six years after Tesla Inc. (TSLA-Q) and four years after General Motors Co introduced similar systems.

The system, called Active Drive Assist, will be offered on several Ford models, most notably the Mustang Mach-E, an all-electric crossover vehicle that goes on sale later this year and is targeted at the Tesla Model Y market.

Ford said U.S. buyers can order the Mustang Mach-E this fall with the Active Driver Assist hardware package, which includes extra radar sensors and a driver-facing camera, but the software won’t be ready until fall 2021.

Tesla introduced its first semi-automated hands-free driver assist package, called Autopilot, in 2015. GM followed two years later with a similar semi-automated feature called Super Cruise on the Cadillac CT6.

Shares of Tesla were up 1.2 per cent after an analyst established a new Street-high for its stock.

On the decline

Bombardier Inc. (BBD.B-T) was down almost 4 per cent after it chief executive told shareholders at its annual general meeting on Thursday that a deal to sell its rail division to France’s Alstom SA remains “pretty much on track to our original timeline.”

Eric Martel said Bombardier “is making good progress” with asset sales, including the rail deal worth up to 6.2 billion euros (US$6.96-billion).

The rail deal, which is subject to regulatory clearance, is expected to close in the first half of 2021.

See also: Major pension plans vote against Bombardier’s pay practices

Tidewater Midstream and Infrastructure Ltd. (TWM-T) sat down 4 per cent after announcing it has entered into an definitive agreement, with its partner TransAlta Corp. (TA-T), with respect to the previously announced sale of the Pioneer Pipeline to NOVA Gas Transmission Ltd., a wholly-owned subsidiary of TC Energy Corp. (TRP-T), for total cash consideration of $255-million.

Upon closing of the deal, TransAlta will pay Tidewater $10.5-million for certain ancillary assets not included in the Pioneer transaction, and for completion of some budgeted restoration work along the Pioneer Pipeline route that was delayed until 2020 due to weather.

Carnival Corp. (CCL-N) slid 1.4 per cent after it reported a record US$4.4-billion in quarterly losses on Thursday, as the COVID-19 pandemic crippled the world’s biggest cruise operator and forced it to take major write-downs on the disposal of now redundant ships.

The Florida-based company said it had US$7.6-billion available at the end of May, but was burning US$650-million a month as it awaits regulatory approvals for the resumption of some lines in the hope that customers will come back later this year.

The cruise business globally has collapsed after several liners, including some owned by Carnival’s Princess Cruises, became coronavirus hotspots, killing some on board and forcing port quarantines for hundreds more crew and staff.

The company said it hoped to resume operations in a phased manner but was resigned to cutting back on overall capacity and had already agreed to sell six of its ships.

The company’s shares fell as it revealed a roughly US$2-billion loss due to the difference in the sale price of the ships and their previously booked value.

Peers Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCL-N) and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (NCLH-N) rose 2.3 per cent and 0.6 per cent, respectively.

U.S. grocer Kroger Co. (KR-N) dipped 3.1 per cent after it said it expects to exceed its 2020 outlook for same-store sales and profit, beating Wall Street expectations for quarterly results on Thursday as the chain benefited from consumers stocking up on essentials during the coronavirus lockdowns.

Demand for groceries, including produce, meat and soups, has seen an unprecedented surge in recent months, as concerns about the length of stay-at-home orders had forced shoppers to stock up, with most restaurants also shutting dine-in areas or offering a limited menu.

Kroger even put purchase limits on select products, including cold, flu and sanitary products, ground beef, and fresh pork, at some of its stores at the height of virus-led stockpiling.

The company, however, did not reaffirm or provide new 2020 forecast. It had previously projected same-store sales to increase more than 2.25 per cent, while it expected to earn between US$2.30 to US$2.40 per share.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the outlook for food retail in 2020 ... There are still many unknown factors related to the long-term impact of COVID-19,” Chief Financial Officer Gary Millerchip said.

With files from staff and wires

Follow David Leeder on Twitter: @daveleederOpens in a new window

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