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

On the rise

Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ-N) and Chevron Corp. (CVX-N) jumped after major investments from Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK.B-N) were revealed.

According to regulatory filing detailing its U.S.-listed stock holdings as of Dec. 31., Berkshire has a US$8.6-billion stake in Verizon and a US$4.1-billion stake in Chevron Corp.

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Berkshire also disclosed a new US$499-million stake in the professional services company Marsh & McLennan Cos. (MMC-N)

To make room, Berkshire pared its investments in several companies including Apple Inc. (AAPL-Q), though at approximately US$121-billion the iPhone maker remains by far its largest common stock holding.

Bausch Health Companies Inc. (BHC-T) rose in the wake of an equity analyst at RBC Dominion Securities upgrading his rating for its stock before the bell.

“We believe Bausch will transform materially over the near to mid-term with coincident re-rating and critical deleveraging driving value creation,” said Douglas Miehm.

“We have been on the sidelines for more than five years but now see the path to the expected B+L spin and implications of possible divestitures providing near-term upside potential.”

Tribune Publishing Co. (TPCO-Q) rose after its largest shareholder, Alden Global Capital, said late Tuesday it will buy shares it does not already own in the company at US$17.25 each in cash and turn the owner of the Chicago Tribune into a privately held firm.

Alden’s offer represents a premium of 45 per cent to the closing price of Tribune common stock on Dec. 11, the publisher said in a statement.

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The hedge fund, known for its hostile takeover bids of publishing companies, had a 30-per-cent stake in Tribune prior to the transaction.

Tribune Publishing, which also owns the New York Daily News and the Baltimore Sun, has seen a decline in revenue this year as the COVID-19 pandemic hammers the publishing industry.

On the decline

Shopify Inc. (SHOP-T) fell despite continuing its blistering pace of growth in the fourth quarter of 2020, as the Canadian ecommerce retail software provider reported financial results that well exceeded expectations, including its first back-to-back net profit.

The company – which plans to continue working remotely after the pandemic and placelined its earnings press release from “The Internet” as opposed to its domicile in Ottawa – said it booked revenue of US$977.7 million in the quarter ended Dec. 31. That was up 94 per cent from the year-earlier period and well ahead of consensus analyst expectations of about $913-million. The company’s adjusted operating income increased to $200-million from $28.5-million a year earlier, and exceeded analyst expectations of US$142.7-million The company’s merchants transacted US$41.1-billion of sales through the Shopify platform, up 99 per cent year over year and surpassing analyst expectations of US$38.1-million

Shopify’s net income was US$123.9-million, or US99 cents per share, compared with a $0.8-million net income a year earlier. Shopify, which rarely earns a quarterly profit, also posted net income of US$191-million in the third quarter. It ended the year with US$6.39-billion in cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities, up by nearly $4-billion over the previous year following two share class offerings during 2020 as the company’s stock price soared.

- Sean Silcoff

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See also: CEO Tobi Lutke looks to change ‘everything’ about ecommerce platform

First Quantum Minerals Ltd. (FM-T) was lower after its fourth-quarter results, released after the bell on Tuesday, largely fell in line with expectations on the Street.

The Toronto-based miner reported adjusted EBITDA of US$725-million, exceeding the consensus estimate of US$711-million, while earnings per share of 8 US cents fell 4 US cents below the Street’s projection.

“We expect a neutral reaction from FM shares to Q4 results that were inline with our estimates and consensus,” said RBC Dominion Securities analyst Sam Crittenden in a research note.

“The company pre-released Q4 production and its three-year guidance in January. For 2021 we expect the focus to be on debt reduction and balancing returns to shareholders and investing in growth, as well as operating results at Cobre Panama.”

Salesforce.com Inc. (CRM-N) and Slack Technologies Inc. (WORK-N) were lower after regulatory filings showed on Tuesday they have received requests for additional information from the antitrust division of the U.S. Department of Justice related to their US$27.7-billion merger,

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The two companies were also asked to provide documentary material, the filings showed.

On Dec. 1, cloud computing company Salesforce.com agreed to buy the workplace messaging app as it bets on an extended run for remote working and sharpens its rivalry with Microsoft .

The deal is still expected to be completed during the fiscal quarter ending July 31.

Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. (HLT-N) slipped after posting a surprise quarterly loss as bookings took a hit from a resurgence in COVID-19 cases and renewed travel curbs.

Although occupancy rates have bounced back from April 2020 lows thanks to a relative easing of lockdowns, emerging variants of the virus have hindered a swift recovery for U.S. hotel operators.

“Rising COVID-19 cases and tightening travel restrictions disrupted the positive momentum we saw throughout the summer and fall,” Chief Executive Officer Christopher Nassetta said in a statement.

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Analysts expect a wider rollout of COVID-19 vaccines later this year to first aid a rebound in leisure travel, leaving hotel chains including Hilton and larger rival Marriott which rely more on business travel, struggling for longer.

Hilton, the first major hotel chain to report earnings, said fourth-quarter revenue per available room (RevPAR) - a key measure for a hotel’s top-line performance - fell about 59 per cent to US$40.68, and was below the company’s expectation of about US$45 per room.

Net loss attributable to Hilton stockholders was US$224-million, or 80 US cents per share, in the quarter ended Dec. 31, compared with net income of US$175-million, or 61 US cents per share, a year earlier.

On an adjusted basis, Hilton lost 10 US cents per share, missing analysts’ estimates for a profit of 3 US cents per share, according to Refinitiv data.

With files from staff and wires

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