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

On the rise

High Liner Foods Inc. (HLF-T) jumped on Wednesday after it raised its dividend and reported third-quarter results ahead of expectations.

The company said sales came in at US$214.3-million compared to US$194.6-million a year ago. Analysts were expecting revenue of US$206.5-million.

Net income was US$9.2-million or 26 cents US per share compared to net income of US$3.8-million or 11 cents US a year ago. Adjusted net income was US$11.3-million or 32 cents US per share versus $5.9-million or 18 cents US a share a year earlier. Analysts were expected adjusted earnings of 22 cents per share.

“Our financial performance this quarter reflects the strong underlying fundamentals of our business and the proactive action we have taken on pricing, purchasing and portfolio mix,” said CEO Rod Hepponstall.

Lowe’s Cos Inc. (LOW-N) was up with its raising its full-year sales forecast on Wednesday, as home improvement chains get a boost from resurgent demand for tools and building materials in a strengthening in the U.S. housing market.

High-spending professional contractors have been splurging on tools and building materials at Lowe’s and larger rival Home Depot Inc. (HD-N) over the last few months on the back of a rush to complete a backlog of home repair and upgrade jobs that were put off during the pandemic.

Rising home prices in the United States has also given people confidence to invest in upgrade jobs for their homes.

Lowe’s said it now expects fiscal year 2021 total sales of about US$95-billion, compared to a previous forecast of about US$92-billion.

Same-store sales rose 2.2 per cent in the third quarter ended Oct. 29, compared to analysts’ estimates of a 2.9-per-cent drop, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. Lowe’s said its sales momentum was continuing into November, signaling a strong start to the holiday shopping season.

Home Depot, which has a much larger base of so-called “pro customers,” reported a 6.1-per-cent rise in same-store sales on Tuesday.

Lowe’s net earnings rose to about US$1.9-billion, or US$2.73 per share, in the quarter, from US$692-million, or 91 US cents per share, a year earlier. Analysts had expected a profit of US$2.36 per share.

Tesla Inc. (TSLA-Q) gained in the wake of Chief Executive Elon Musk selling another US$973-million in stock to pay taxes after exercising options on Tuesday.

Mr. Musk acquired 2.1 million shares worth US$2.2-billion at the Tuesday closing price and sold 934,091 for $973 million to pay taxes, the SEC filings showed.

Over the past week, Mr. Musk has sold about 8.2 million Tesla shares for around US$8.8-billion. Those sales fulfill almost half of his pledge on Twitter to sell 10 per cent of his stake in Tesla.

With electric-car makers increasingly in demand on Wall Street, Tesla’s stock has surged more than 150 per cent in the past 12 months.

U.S. retailer TJX Cos Inc. (TJX-N) said it was well-positioned for the holiday season, easing concerns of product availability due to supply-chain bottlenecks, after the discount store operator reported quarterly sales that beat estimates on Wednesday.

Shares rose as the T.J. Maxx owner raised its share buyback plan.

Sales at discount store operators, which sell products at roughly half the suggested price, have picked up this year after coronavirus restrictions were eased, as people returning to work and colleges splurge on refreshing their wardrobes.

“We are in an excellent inventory position, with most of the product needed for the holiday season either on hand or scheduled to arrive at our stores and online in time for the holidays,” Chief Executive Officer Ernie Herrman said.

Industry-wide supply-chain bottlenecks had raised worries that shelves of off-price outlets might be left without major holiday goods. However, analysts have said TJX is in a better position to deal with the supply crunch than its rivals Ross Stores and Burlington Stores.

Total inventories as of Oct. 30 were US$6.6-billion, compared with US$6.3-billion at the end of the third quarter two years ago.

TJX said overall open-only comparable store sales growth for the start of the fourth quarter were up in the mid-teens percentage range over the fourth quarter two years ago.

Net sales rose 24 per cent to US$12.53-billion in the third quarter ended Oct. 30, beating estimates of US$12.27-billion, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

Net income gained 18 per cent at US$1.02-billion, or 84 US cents per share. Analysts had expected 81 US cents.

The company now expects to repurchase shares worth between US$1.75-billion and US$2-billion in fiscal 2022, from prior forecast of US$1.25-billion to US$1.50-billion.

Sportradar Group AG (SRAD-Q) soared after announcing the National Basketball Association (NBA) will take a stake in it in exchange for exclusive rights to NBA data, the sports betting data company said on Wednesday.

Sportradar’s shares were on course for their best session since the Switzerland-based company went public in September.

Michael Jordan-backed Sportradar provides software, data and content through subscription and revenue share arrangements to betting operators, sports leagues and media firms. Its customers include DraftKings, Twitter and ESPN.

The partnership with NBA, Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and NBA G League begins with the 2023-24 NBA season, making Sportradar the exclusive provider of NBA data globally, including distribution rights for player tracking data.

So far this year, Sportradar has signed data rights deals with Union of European Football Associations, International Cricket Council and the National Hockey League.

Sportradar also reported a third-quarter revenue of 136.8 million euros (US$154.65-million) on Wednesday, above analysts’ average estimate of 133.5 million euros, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

On the decline

Loblaw Cos Ltd. (L-T) was lower as it raised its annual earnings outlook after posting third-quarter revenue and profit that beat estimates on Wednesday, helped by robust demand for groceries and other essential items during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Krashinsky Robertson: Food inflation keeps Loblaw grocery sales flat even as at-home dining slows

Retail sales in Canada rebounded in August thanks to the easing of restrictions in several parts of the country, which included in-store capacity limits and a temporary ban on the sale of discretionary goods.

Loblaw said that demand for back-to-school and Thanksgiving seasons was also strong, signaling a return to pre-pandemic routines.

The company also said its online sales remained above pre-pandemic levels and are on track to exceed $3-billion in 2021, which would be higher than the $2.8-billion recorded a year earlier.

As a result, Loblaw said it now expects adjusted profit per share to rise by the low-to-mid thirty percent range, compared with a prior forecast of low-to-mid twenties percentage growth.

Revenue rose to $16.05-billion in the third quarter from $15.67-billion from a year earlier, surpassing analyst estimates of $15.89-billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Net earnings available to common shareholders rose to $431-million, or $1.27 per share, in the three months ended Oct. 9, from $342-million, or 96 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, Loblaw earned $1.59 per share, beating the average analyst estimate of $1.48 per share.

ATB Capital Markets analyst Kenric Tyghe said: “The strong results speak to Loblaw’s dominant discount channel positioning in food retail, leadership position in beauty, and increasingly effective leveraging of the deepest (and in our opinion best) loyalty insights in Canadian retail. In addition, a dominant share of online grocery, while dilutive to margins, is battle that Loblaw continues to win.”

Rogers Communications Inc. (RCI-B-T) fell after Joe Natale was removed as chief executive by the company’s board led by chair Edward Rogers, whose desire to replace the CEO led to an unprecedented power struggle that split one of Canada’s wealthiest families and left the telecom industry veteran caught in the middle.

The company’s former chief financial officer, Tony Staffieri, will be interim CEO, the company said late on Tuesday.

The high-stakes family feud erupted in the midst of the company’s $26-billion takeover of Shaw Communications Inc. The boardroom showdown pitted chair Edward Rogers against his mother, Loretta Rogers, and sisters Martha Rogers and Melinda Rogers-Hixon.

The battle broke out after Mr. Rogers attempted to replace Mr. Natale with Mr. Staffieri in late September. The move met resistance from the majority of the company’s board and resulted in Mr. Staffieri’s exit instead.

After the board voted to remove Mr. Rogers as chair, he struck back by replacing the five independent directors who had opposed him through a written resolution, without holding a shareholder meeting. The company challenged the legality of reconstituting the board in this manner. For about two weeks, Rogers Communications essentially had two boards, each claiming to be the legitimate one, until a B.C. judge ruled that Mr. Rogers’s move to replace the directors through a shareholder resolution is valid.

The future of the telecom and media giant’s senior leadership team remains unclear. One executive publicly suggested he would leave Rogers if Mr. Natale were no longer CEO, and The Globe previously reported that Mr. Rogers’s earlier plan involved nine senior executives following Mr. Natale out the door.

- Alexandra Posadzki, Jason Kirby and Andrew Willis

Metro Inc. (MRU-T) lost ground after it reported an uptick in profit in its latest quarter even as grocery sales edged lower as public health measures were eased and consumers returned to restaurants.

The Montreal-based grocery and drugstore retailer said Wednesday while sales dipped slightly during the 12-week period ended Sept. 25, they remained elevated compared to pre-pandemic figures.

Metro CEO Eric La Fleche said the company recorded net earnings growth in the fourth quarter “despite lower sales as we cycled exceptional sales last year.”

“As government restrictions eased over the summer, a portion of food consumption transferred back to restaurants,” he said in a report to shareholders. “However our food sales continue to compare favourably to pre-pandemic levels.”

The company also highlighted the rising cost of food in its most recent quarter.

Metro said food basket inflation was about two per cent — double the one per cent recorded in the previous quarter.

“Our industry is experiencing cost inflation pressures, mostly with respect to cost of goods sold,” the company said in a management discussion and analysis.

“While it is difficult to predict how our customers’ habits, the labour market and food basket inflation will evolve over the short term, the fundamentals of our business remain strong, and our sales continue to compare favourably to pre-pandemic levels.”

Metro reported Wednesday a fourth-quarter profit of $194-million or 79 cents per diluted share, up from a profit of $186.5-million or 74 cents per share in the same quarter a year earlier.

Sales in the quarter totalled $4.09-billion, down from $4.14-billion in the same quarter last year when the company said it saw exceptionally strong sales due to the pandemic.

The company, which operates under several banners including grocers Metro, Metro Plus, Super C and Food Basics, as well as drugstores under the Jean Coutu, Brunet, Metro Pharmacy and Drug Basics banners, said food same-store sales were down 2.9 per cent compared with a year ago, while pharmacy same-store sales were up 4.1 per cent.

On an adjusted basis, Metro said it earned 81 cents per diluted share, up from an adjusted profit of 77 cents per diluted share a year ago.

Analysts on average had expected an adjusted profit of 80 cents per share and $4.14-billion in sales, according to estimates compiled by financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

Goodfood Market Corp. (FOOD-T) dropped as it reported sales of $79.4-million for its fourth quarter ended Aug. 31, which was below expectations of $91.4-million and down from $83.7-million a year ago

The company said the sales drop was due to “the impact of re-opening and the return of seasonality stemming from the removal of COVID-19 restrictions and the increased vaccination rate impacted this quarter’s top line.”

The company added that it “expect[s] these headwinds to stabilize as the year progresses and the return to normalcy continues, with our newly launched one-hour on-demand delivery providing the key platform for growth.”

The online grocery company stated its net loss was $22.1-million or 30 cents per share versus net income of $1.2-million or 2 cents a year ago. Analysts were expecting a loss of 6 cents for the most recent quarter.

It said selling, general and administrative expenses increased to 47.2 per cent of net sales compared 27.5 per cent last year, primarily due to higher wages and salaries to support investments and higher marketing spending compared to the same period in 2020.

Real Matters Inc. (REAL-T), which provides network management services for the mortgage lending and insurance industries, dropped after it reported revenue of US$125.6-million for its fourth quarter ended Sept. 30 compared to US$124.4-million a year earlier.

Net income was US$9.1-million or 11 US cents per share versus net income of US$12.7-illion or 14 US cents per share a year ago. Adjusted net income was US$7.5-mllion or 9 US cents per share versus US$15.6-million or 18 US cents per share a year ago.

Analysts were expecting revenue of US$117.6-million and adjusted earnings of 8 US cents per share, according to S&P Capital IQ.

“Despite soft top line results driven by a slowing U.S. Title segment (which is based on refinance activity), Real Matters remains confident in achieving its 2025 market share goals,” said ATB Capital Markets analyst Martin Toner. “The Company launched eight new lenders in U.S. appraisal, including one new channel with one of its Tier 1 clients, and achieved double-digit market share in its first channel with a Tier 1 client and a new Tier 2 client in U.S. Title, which we believe bodes well for further share gains and new customer wins.”

Shares of Target Corp. (TGT-N), which have risen about 50 per cent this year, declined as it raised its forecast for annual same-store sales after beating quarterly expectations as Americans prepare early for the holiday season and shop for everything from toys to electronics.

Major retailers, including Amazon, Walmart and Target, have launched sooner-than-usual promotional deals as demand for seasonal items soars and companies look to limit the damage from shipping logjams and other supply problems.

Target said its inventory levels were up more than US$2-billion, or a near 20-per-cent jump from a year earlier, as it tries to cushion the impact of supply-chain disruptions, which have led to empty shelves and delayed shipments at many retailers.

Comparable sales rose 12.7 per cent in the third quarter ended Oct. 30, beating expectations of 8.4 per cent, according to IBES data from Refinitiv, with almost all of that growth coming from stores.

Store traffic jumped nearly 13 per cent as Target attracted more shoppers by keeping prices low at a time when inflation has been soaring and providing quick same-day delivery services such as Shipt and Drive-Up.

“We’ve seen strength throughout the year and we’ve seen it punctuated during key seasonal moments ... That’s going to continue as we move into the holidays,” CEO Brian Cornell said.

The company now expects annual same-store sales to rise in the high single- to low double-digit range, up from its prior forecast of a high single-digit increase. It, however, did not raise its operating-margin expectations.

The company said its gross margin fell to 28 per cent in the latest quarter from 30.6 per cent a year earlier on higher labor and freight costs.

Target’s total revenue rose by a better-than-expected 13.3 per cent to US$25.65-billion. Excluding items, it earned US$3.03 per share beating estimates.

See also: After rally in U.S. retailers, investors eye upcoming reports

Visa Inc. (V-N) slid after Amazon says it will stop accepting its credit cards issued in the United Kingdom because of a dispute over fees.

The e-commerce giant said in a message Wednesday to customers that they won’t be able to use the payment company’s U.K. credit cards starting Jan. 19, blaming “the high fees Visa charges for processing credit card transactions.”

Shoppers will still be able to use Visa debit cards and other credit cards including Mastercard and American Express, Amazon said. The notice suggests Visa credit cards issued in other countries will still be accepted.

Visa said it was “very disappointed that Amazon is threatening to restrict consumer choice in the future.”

The payment company said in a statement that it has “a long-standing relationship with Amazon and we continue to work toward a resolution.”

Amazon said in a press statement that “the cost of accepting card payments continues to be an obstacle.”

“These costs should be going down over time with technological advancements, but instead they continue to stay high or even rise,” it said, without providing figures.

A day after its shares fell more than 6 per cent, Activision Blizzard Inc. (ATVI-Q) continued to drop in the wake of a Wall Street Journal report that the company’s chief executive knew about allegations of sexual harassment and assault earlier than previously known.

Activision Blizzard’s board responded to the report with a statement saying directors had confidence in CEO Bobby Kotick. A spokesperson for the Santa Monica, California-based company said the article was inaccurate and misleading.

On Tuesday, the Journal said Mr. Kotick was aware of allegations that an employee had been raped by her supervisor and that he failed to inform the board.

Following publication of the article, a group describing themselves as representing Activision Blizzard employees demanded new leadership.

“We will not be silenced until Bobby Kotick has been replaced as CEO,” the ABK Workers Alliance wrote on Twitter. “We are staging a Walkout today.”

One employee told Reuters about 100 workers had gathered at a demonstration outside Blizzard’s offices.

With files from Brenda Bouw, staff and wires

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