TORONTO - Unifor says Ford Motor Co. has decided to build its new engine in Mexico after it was unable to reach a deal with the federal and Ontario governments.
Unifor national president Jerry Dias says the union is disappointed the company and the two levels of government could not reach an agreement after months of talks.
The union says if Ford had decided to build the engine at its plant in Windsor, Ont., it would have secured more than 1,000 jobs and the long-term stability of the factory.
Unifor Local 200, which represents Ford workers in Windsor, is expected to hold a meeting Sunday to explain the decision to its members.
Earlier this month, Ford said it would add 1,000 jobs at its plant in Oakville, Ont. by the end of this year to build the 2015 Ford Edge crossover SUV.
CALGARY - San Francisco-based fund ValueAct Capital has discloses to U.S. regulators that it has acquired a 5.7 per cent stake in Calgary fertilizer producer Agrium Inc. (TSX:AGU).
In its 13D document, required whenever an investor buys more than five per cent of a company's shares, ValueAct does not specify whether it wants to see any changes at Agrium, saying only that the purchases were made in its "ordinary course of business" and for "investment purposes."
On its website, ValueAct said its strategy is to buy large positions in firms that it believes are undervalued and work constructively with a company's management team and board of directors to boost returns.
Last year, Agrium defeated a boardroom challenge from New York hedge fund Jana Partners following a protracted and often acrimonious proxy fight.
Jana pushed for several changes at Agrium. The proposal that garnered the most attention was to look at splitting up Agrium's retail and wholesale businesses. Jana also wanted Agrium to improve capital allocation, costs, disclosure in its retail business and corporate governance.
Agrium vice president Richard Downey says the company met a couple of times with ValueAct since the summer and there's nothing to suggest another battle is brewing.
"Meetings have been good. They've been constructive and cordial and they describe themselves as a long-term shareholder. They think Agrium's good value and I would say they are looking for a return on their investment very similar to other investors," he said.
"All investors have views and want to know more about the business. This is not really any different than any other investor meetings."
Agrium shares were up more than eight per cent at $104.86 in mid-day trading Friday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
TORONTO - Postmedia Network Canada Corp. (TSX:PNC.B) (TSX:PNC.A) says its losses deepened in the fourth quarter as revenues dropped 13 per cent, weighed down by weaker print and digital advertising sales.
The Toronto-based media company, owner of several newspapers and websites including the National Post, says it had a $49.8 million net loss, or $1.24 per share in the most recent quarter ended Aug. 31.
That compared to a revised net loss of $47.9 million or $1.19 in the same period a year ago.
Overall revenue slipped to $146.8 million from $169.3 million, mainly on weaker print advertising sales that fell 21 per cent to $74.2 million. Digital revenue dropped five per cent to $20.2 million while print circulation revenue slipped to $48 million from $49.4 million.
"While we continue to see the impacts of a very challenging revenue environment, particularly with respect to declines in print advertising, we are focused on potential growth areas," Postmedia president and CEO Paul Godfrey said in the earnings announcement ahead of an afternoon conference call with analysts.
Postmedia has been reworking its operations under a three-year turnaround plan.
Earlier this month it announced a deal to buy the assets of Sun Media for $316 million from Quebecor (TSX:QBR.B).
Postmedia plans to finance the acquisition through a combination of debt and equity financings. They include the issuance of an additional $140 million in senior secured notes and a rights offering of subscription receipts for shares in the company.
The company also plans to make up to $50 million for the transaction, which still requires regulatory approval, through the sale of real estate in Montreal and Calgary.
"We believe the proposed acquisition of the Sun Media assets will strengthen (Postmedia) and the future of the news media business in Canada putting us in a better position to compete against non-traditional competitors including foreign-based digital giants," Godfrey said.
For the year, Postmedia reported a loss of $107.5 million, less than the previous year when it booked a $160.2-million loss.
However, the tighter losses were due to a $100 million non-cash impairment charge booked in fiscal 2013, related to a production facility that was up for sale and other costs tied to goodwill and intangible assets.
Revenue dropped 10.3 per cent to $674.3 million, pulled lower by a 15.7 per cent decline in print advertising revenue and a 3.9 per cent drop in digital revenue.
Subscribers to its digital platform helped partially offset the overall revenue declines, the company said.
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WASHINGTON - U.S. sales of new homes were nearly flat in September, after the government sharply revised downward what was initially an August surge in buying.
New-home sales edged up 0.2 per cent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 467,000, the Commerce Department reported Friday. The report also revised down the August sales rate to 466,000 from 504,000.
The pace of sales for newly built homes has improved a mere 1.7 per cent so far this year compared to 2013. Only the South has experienced gains in buying year-to-date, while purchases have fallen in the Northeast, Midwest and West.
Housing has struggled to fully rebound since the recession ended more than five years ago. Many potential buyers lack the savings and strong credit history needed to afford a home, causing them to rent or remain in their existing houses instead of upgrading.
Construction and buyers of new homes have trickled back from the worst of the bust, but new-home sales remain drastically below the annual rate of 700,000 during the 1990s.
Sales in the most expensive Western states declined in September, reversing some of the gains made in August. Because homes are pricier in the West, that pushed down the median price for a new home to $259,000 from $286,800 in the prior month.
Analysts noted that the new-home sales report from the government is notoriously volatile from month to month, yet sales have basically been stuck in place for the past few years.
"There is little evidence that the new single-family housing market is decisively breaking out of its medium-term flat pattern," said Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist at the forecasting firm MFR.
Some of the financial pressures on homebuyers are starting to ease, yet it's unlikely that will do much to suddenly boost sales of new homes in the final months of this year.
Over the past two weeks, federal regulators have unveiled plans to loosen down payment requirements, and mortgage rates have tumbled below 4 per cent. Along with a slowdown in price growth, these factors could eventually help usher more buyers into the real estate market.
Average rates for a 30-year mortgage fell to 3.92 per cent from 3.97 per cent last week, the mortgage company Freddie Mac reported. That is the lowest level since June 2013 and marks a solid decline from average rates that began the year at 4.53 per cent. When rates fall, it becomes cheaper for people to borrow and makes homes more affordable.
But many potential buyers are unable to upgrade to a new home by selling their current home, as prices still have yet to exceed mortgage debt for much of the country.
More than 8 million homes are "seriously underwater," representing 15 per cent of all properties with a mortgage and roughly $1.4 trillion worth of negative equity, according to the housing data company RealtyTrac. The lasting damage from the housing bust continues to weigh on the market, preventing some homeowners from upgrading to larger houses and limiting the options of buyers.
Builders have yet to meaningfully ramp up construction of single-family houses.
Almost all of the 6.3 per cent growth in housing starts last month came from apartments and multi-family construction, the Commerce Department reported. Starts for single-family houses rose just 1.1 per cent in September compared to the prior month.
Increased apartment construction reflects a broader shift toward renting. Many would-be buyers endured the loss of their financial savings and potentially their jobs during the recession. As wages have barely surpassed inflation during the recovery, a broad swath of Americans lack the income needed to buy a house.
The troublesome housing landscape has created a paradox: It's ostensibly cheaper to own for the time-being but more people are stuck renting, according to an analysis from the real estate data firm Trulia. A recent report by the firm found that current mortgage rates have made it 38 per cent cheaper to buy a home rather than renting, based on a seven-year timeframe.
"Consumers tell us that the main obstacle to homeownership is the down payment," said Jed Kolko, chief economist at Trulia in the report. "For those would-be homeowners â€”especially first-timers without savings or equity from another home â€” a low-down-payment mortgage might be the only option."
Federal regulators have announced plans this month to lower the down payment requirements for some Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac programs to 3 per cent from 5 per cent.
NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. - It's time to "put Central Canada back at the centre of the map," Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said Friday as he vowed to work with Ontario to restore the influence of the country's two most populous provinces.
"This is what my message is all about," Couillard told the Ontario Economic Summit in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
"Quebec is back at the table, not on the sidelines but sitting at the table, which means sometimes that it will voice strongly its opinion, but as a partner in the country trying to contribute."
Speaking entirely in English, Couillard noted former Ontario premier David Peterson was in the audience, and said it reminded him of the glory days of Ontario-Quebec relations in the 1980s.
"I do remember the time when premiers Peterson and Robert Bourassa had such a close bond and acted as a block of influence in our great country, and this is exactly what (Ontario premier) Kathleen (Wynne) and myself wish to achieve," he said.
Wynne said she was very pleased to hear Quebec talking about restoring the historic partnership with Ontario.
"Being more than 50 per cent of the GDP of this country and more than 60 per cent of federal revenues, it's hard to argue that Ontario and Quebec are not critical to the health of the country," she said. "And so there is no percentage for anyone within Ontario and Quebec to write us off."
The two provinces have many challenges in common, added Couillard, pointing to a slower-than-expected recovery, declining manufacturing and forestry sectors and desires to further develop their far north regions.
There will be "significant action" taken at a joint meeting of the Ontario and Quebec cabinets Nov. 21 in Toronto, promised Couillard, who led the Liberals to a majority victory in the Quebec election in April.
"Not only a photo-op, but actually real work being done between our ministers and our teams in order to make the economy grow faster and in a more sustainable way," he said.
Wynne, who led her Liberal party to a majority in June, said that having Ontario and Quebec rebuild their close connection will be vital to the economic prosperity of both provinces and of the entire country.
"For this period in our history, I think this is a critical moment," she said.
"At that cabinet meeting, my hope is we'll be able to demonstrate to both our provinces and to the country that we can move ahead, that we can strengthen the relationship."
Both premiers were scheduled to leave on a trade mission to China following their joint question-and-answer session at the Ontario Economic Summit.
"It's very important for central Canada that we expand our export markets, and that is what the trip to China is about," said Wynne.
(By Keith Leslie in Toronto)
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TORONTO - The Canadian dollar was higher Friday with markets cautious ahead of key economic happenings next week.
The loonie gained 0.12 of a cent to 89.14 cents US.
The interest rate meeting of the Federal Reserve is the major event as markets will be curious to see if the Fed may decide to postpone the end of a key stimulus program, its massive purchases of bonds. The Fed has been winding down the program, which has kept long term rates low and fuelled a strong rally on stock markets.
There has also been a high degree of speculation about when the Fed might raise interest rates once the quantitative easing ends. Markets generally have expected a Fed interest rate hike sometime in 2015, with sentiment pointing to mid-year if the bond buying program ends this month.
"However as global growth fears took hold the expectations shifted and were pushed out until late 2015 â€” now these are being pulled back in, sitting at October 2015 for the first (rate) hike," said Camilla Sutton, chief FX Strategist, managing director Scotiabank Global Banking and Markets.
Traders also looked ahead to the first reading of third quarter gross domestic product in the U.S. and August GDP data for Canada.
On the commodity markets, December crude dropped $1.06 to US$81.03 while December copper was unchanged at US$3.04 a pound while December gold rose $1.70 to US$1,230.80 an ounce.
TORONTO - The Toronto stock market registered a small gain Friday at the end of what is shaping up to be a positive week as share prices continue to recover from a sharp selloff this month.
The S&P/TSX composite index gained 9.48 points to 14,496.31 and the Canadian dollar was up 0.06 of a cent to 89.08 cents US.
New York markets were also modestly higher with the Dow Jones industrials up 39.15 points to 16,717.05, the Nasdaq climbed 11.59 points to 4,464.38 and the S&P 500 index gained 4.29 points to 1,955.11.
Markets have continued to claw back losses from a sharp selloff. Indexes in Toronto and New York racked up strong triple-digit gains Thursday as worries about the global economy lessened. Solid manufacturing data from China and the eurozone along and a strong earnings report from heavy equipment maker Caterpillar were key factors.
"Weâ€™re closer to the end of this than the beginning," said Bob Gorman, chief portfolio strategist at TD Waterhouse.
"People ask if its the start of a bear market â€” I say, no, this is simply a long overdue correction in a bull market and I think that, at the end of the day, earnings growth will be decent but not great and this will prevail and I think weâ€™re going higher.
Investors headed for the exits late last month on worries that indexes had run up too high amid worries about the health of the global economy. Buying sentiment was also hurt by the impending end of the Federal Reserve's key stimulus program, the massive purchase of bonds.
The Fed's interest rate meeting is the major economic event for next week as markets will be curious to see if the Fed may decide to postpone the end of the quantitative easing program, which kept long-term rates low and underpinned a strong rally on stock markets.
A big loser in New York was Amazon. Its stock, already close to 52-week lows, fell almost eight per cent as it posted a quarterly net loss of US$437 million, or 95 cents per share, far steeper than the loss of 76 cents per share analysts were expecting. Revenue jumped 20 per cent to $20.6 billion, but that fell short of expectations as well.
The TSX found support from gains in consumer steples and tech stocks.
The gold sector fell 1.15 per cent as gold prices came off session highs with December bullion up 90 cents to US$1,230 an ounce.
The energy component led TSX decliners, down 1.45 per cent while December crude dropped $1.36 to US$80.73 a barrel.
December copper was unchanged at US$3.04 a pound and the base metals group lost 11.3 per cent.
Traders also considered the implications of the first case of Ebola appearing in New York City.
An emergency room doctor who returned to New York after treating Ebola patients in West Africa tested positive for the virus. It's the first case in the city and the fourth in the U.S.
In other corporate developments, Enbridge Inc. (TSX:ENB) insists in a regulatory filing that its design for the Line 9 pipeline from Sarnia, Ont., to Montreal has the right shut-off valve configuration to minimize the risk to waterways and reservoirs in the event of a rupture. The Calgary-based company was responding to the National Energy Board's decision to delay a restart of the pipeline because it's "not persuaded" that Enbridge has met one of the the conditions attached to the NEB's approval of the project. Enbridge shares were two cents higher to C$52.93.
NEW YORK, N.Y. - Procter & Gamble plans to remove its batteries and make Duracell a stand-alone company.
The world's largest consumer products maker, which acquired Duracell in 2005, has been trimming its product lineup to focus on its top performers. After it finishes jettisoning more than half its brands around the globe over the next year or two, P&G said it will be left with about 70 to 80 brands.
If a split-off of Duracell occurs, P&G said its shareholders would have the option of exchanging some, none or all of their P&G shares for shares of the new Duracell company.
Jon Moeller, the company's chief financial officer, said during a call with reporters that Duracell is an "attractive" business that generates about $2 billion a year in sales. But he said P&G wants to focus on products that are "even more attractive."
P&G also makes Tide detergent, Pampers diapers and Olay skin care.
The Procter & Gamble Co., based in Cincinnati, said Friday it prefers a spinoff of Duracell, but that it's considering a sale or other options for Duracell.
The decision to sell or discontinue 90 to 100 brands â€” many of them smaller, regional products â€” comes as Procter & Gamble fights to boost sluggish sales. In the latest quarter, for instance, the company said sales volume declined in its beauty, hair and personal care unit. Volume also fell in its grooming unit, with blades and razors declining in developed markets.
Under pressure to boost its performance, the company brought back A.G. Lafley as its CEO last year.
Lafley has said the company's expansive portfolio is the result of a natural evolution of multinational companies, which have a tendency to create or acquire brands over time. But P&G had already been trying to slim down in recent years, including the sale of food brands including Jif peanut butter, Folgers coffee and Pringles chips.
Looking ahead, P&G said it now expects sales in 2015 to be flat to up to low-single digits. It previously forecast growth in the low single digits.
It stood by its guidance for core earnings per share to grow in the mid-single-digit range.
For the quarter ended Sept. 30, it earned $1.99 billion, or 69 cents per share. Not including one-time items, it earned $1.07 per share. That matched the consensus of analysts surveyed by FactSet.
Revenue slipped to $20.79 billion. Analysts polled by FactSet expected $20.76 billion.
Shares of P&G climbed $1.52, or 1.8 per cent, to $84.75 in premarket trading about 90 minutes ahead of the market open.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Chiquita shareholders have rejected plans to merge with Irish fruit importer Fyffes that would have made the world's largest banana supplier.
Chiquita Brands International Inc. said Friday that the shareholders didn't approve a revised transaction agreement between the two companies during a special shareholders meeting. Chiquita and Fyffes PLC have given notice to terminate their agreement.
The proposed agreement with Fyffes was an all-stock deal, with the companies planning to incorporate in Dublin to take advantage of lower tax rates. Chiquita is now based in Charlotte, North Carolina.
On Monday proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services recommended that Chiquita investors support the Fyffes deal because it is the best option for shareholders. ISS had previously said shareholders should vote against the deal because Chiquita might get a better offer elsewhere.
Chiquita President and CEO Edward Lonergan said in a statement that while the company was convinced Fyffes would have been a strong merger partner, the companies "will now go forward as competitors."
Chiquita said it now expects to enter talks with investment firm Safra Group and juice company Cutrale Group on their competing offer of $14.50 per share in cash, or $681 million. Chiquita received the latest bid from the pair on Wednesday after previously rejecting buyout offers from the two Brazilian companies. The prior offer from Safra and Cutrale was $14 per share. They had bid $13 per share in August.
Shares of Chiquita added 49 cents, or 3.6 per cent, to $14.25 in morning trading.
OTTAWA - The Conservative government has introduced another mammoth omnibus budget bill that includes a grab-bag of measures, ranging from tax breaks for beekeepers to provisions banning cable companies from charging for paper bills.
Much of the 458-page bill involves the complicated implementation of tax changes and other budget measures, including revisions to the Investment Canada Act.
There are some tax breaks for families and students.
However, one section broadens the scope of the national DNA bank. Another tightens the rules around the temporary foreign workers system. Still another establishes a long-promised Arctic research station.
Conspicuous by its absence, however, is a controversial proposal to amend the Copyright Act to give a politician or party the power to use video, audio and photographs from news outlets.
A cabinet document presented by Heritage Minister Shelly Glover and obtained earlier this month by CTV News and The Canadian Press indicated the proposed copyright changes would be included an upcoming budget bill.
One measure increases the maximum amount that may be claimed under the child fitness tax credit and makes that credit refundable starting in 2015.
Another extends the existing tax credit for interest paid on student loans to interest paid on a Canada Apprentice Loan.
The bill extends a tax deferral for breeding animals to bees and to all types of horses over 12 months of age, that are kept for breeding.
The bill makes a handful of changes to the Investment Canada Act, which governs foreign takeovers of Canadian companies.
The amendments will allow Ottawa to disclose more information about its decision when it denies a takeover due to national security concerns as it did when it rejected a deal Manitoba Telecom Services had signed to sell Allstream to Egyptian investment group Accelero Capital for $520 million.
Ottawa has been criticized for the lack of disclosure about the review process under the act.
The changes also will require foreign companies to disclose to Ottawa when they acquire a stake in a Canadian business through the conversion of a loan or other financial assistance.
The bill also includes measures with little connection to the budget.
One bans broadcasters and cable and satellite providers from charging customers for paper bills, a measure the Conservatives have promised and touted as a consumer-protection measure.
Another part of the bill establishes the Canadian High Arctic Research Station, a federal research organization that is to be responsible for advancing knowledge of the Arctic.
There is a section expanding the DNA data bank. It will now include DNA profiles from missing persons, their relatives and from human remains. The idea is to help police, coroners and medical examiners to find missing persons and identify human remains.
The legislation specifies the purposes for which the commissioner of the RCMP may communicate the results of comparisons of DNA profiles and details what DNA comparisons can be used for.
The omnibus bill also enacts the government's promised EI tax break for small businesses.
LONDON - Queen Elizabeth II has sent her first tweet â€” and she's signed it "Elizabeth R."
The 88-year-old monarch tried her hand at Twitter as she opened a new gallery in central London's Science Museum Friday.
The queen removed a glove to type on a touchscreen tablet, writing "I hope people will enjoy visiting" the exhibition. She sent it through the official British monarchy account on the social media website, as some 600 guests looked on.
"Elizabeth R" is how the queen signs official documents. The "R'' stands for "regina", the Latin for queen.
Most members of the royal family do not tweet personally â€” they are represented by official accounts managed by spokespeople.
The gallery, called "Information Age," explores the technological breakthroughs that have changed communication.
The queen was the first monarch to send an email, in 1976 when the technology was in its infancy.
TORONTO - Google's Gmail has been given a new mobile-friendly look, and if users really like it, it could permanently replace the familiar, old-fashioned interface.
Ten years after the birth of Gmail, Google is looking to reinvent the popular email service with an alternate experience called Inbox.
Gmail users aren't being forced into using the new design and instead can opt-in for the new interface.
It's available in Apple's App Store and the Google Play marketplace and on the web at http://www.google.com/inbox, although it only works with Google's Chrome browser. Inbox is currently operating in invite-only mode but early adopters can request access to it by sending a message to [email protected]
Google's office in Kitchener, Ont., is a hub of Gmail development and product manager Matthew Izatt says all the work for the Apple iOS Inbox app was done in Canada.
The first iPhone was still three years away when Gmail was launched in 2004. The current redesign â€” which took years to complete â€” was largely focused on how to improve the mobile experience, says Izatt.
"It's the first thing most people check in the morning, they pick up their mobile device and see what's there. So it was an extremely important priority for us to make sure that the best experience you could have would be on a mobile device," he says.
"And to make sure that anything you might possibly want to do with your Inbox is something you could do from a phone."
The Inbox apps and website are designed to help users better triage their emails, with some automated help from Google's engineering team.
Last summer, Gmail started organizing emails into separate subject tabs within users' inboxes (such as Primary, Social and Promotions) and more work has been done to better group similar messages together. Users can quickly dispense with a group of emails that don't need reading with a checkmark icon, which moves those messages to a Done folder.
If users don't have time to respond to an important message, they can hit a Snooze icon to set up a reminder to reply to it later. Users can also create a location-based reminder, so they'll get an alert when their device senses they're in a particular place, like a grocery store, for example.
When users are scanning through email previews they'll also see the most important part of the messages highlighted, rather than just seeing the typical sender, subject line and the first few words of emails. Inbox highlights photos, attachments and links to important content buried within the messages.
The introduction of Inbox doesn't necessarily mean Gmail will be phased out, Izatt says. But it could be if Gmail users decide they prefer Inbox.
"I think we want our users to really give us the answer to that. Inbox is designed to be a complete rethink of how email works. We still love Gmail, we have hundreds of millions of users and we're going to continue to innovate on it and it will certainly continue to go forward," he says.
"I think we'll really find out from our users as to what the right path is going forward."
On the web: http://www.google.com/inbox
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CALGARY - Enbridge Inc. (TSX:ENB) insists in a regulatory filing that its design for the Line 9 pipeline through southern Ontario has the right shut-off valve configuration to minimize the risk to waterways and reservoirs in the event of a rupture.
The Calgary-based company was responding to the National Energy Board's decision to delay a restart of the pipeline because it's "not persuaded" that Enbridge has met one of the the conditions attached to the NEB's approval of the project.
Line 9 had been targeted to begin shipping western crude eastward through southern Ontario to Montreal in early November but the NEB said in a Oct. 6 letter that approval would be withheld until its concerns over shut-off valves were addressed.
In an Oct. 23 response, Enbridge told the NEB that the company has met or exceeded the safety standards but may have failed to explain its highly technical approach adequately to the regulator.
Most of the eight-page letter is devoted to explaining how Enbridge took the best approach by considering a combination of factors such as the elevation of the pipeline's route when deciding where to place shut-off valves.
â€œIt has become evident to us that key aspects of our valve placement methodology were not clearly conveyed,â€ said the letter from Guy Jarvis, Enbridge's president for liquids pipelin, to the Calgary-based National Energy Board.
"Enbridge's conservative approach to risk management and valve placement is designed to ensure we not only meet, but exceed, regulatory standards. Our IVP (Intelligent Valve Placement) methodology applies competent engineering judgment and sound engineering practices to reduce potential release volumes to the lowest level reasonably practical along the entire pipeline. In doing so, it helps protect the public and the environment in the unlikely event of a pipeline release."
Line 9 is a 40-year-old pipeline that's part of a larger Enbridge plan to transport more crude from Western Canada to refineries in Eastern Canada and potentially to export markets. The Line originally flowed in a west-to-east direction in the 1970s, but that was reversed in the late 1990s in response to changing market conditions and is being reversed again.
Although the company insists Line 9 has operated safely throughout its history, there's been local opposition to Enbridge's plans to ship more oil eastward due to concern about the risk of a major spill into water supplies.
In its Oct. 6 letter, the NEB said it appeared that Enbridge hadn't complied with some of the conditions imposed by the regulator and said the company had to address the board's concerns before applying for final permission.
NEW YORK, N.Y. - Shakira is partnering with Fisher-Price to launch a line of baby toys as well as a Web series for moms.
The Mattel, Inc.-owned company announced Friday that the First Steps collection of toys and baby gear would be available in November. Shakira co-developed six products, including a bouncer that plays music, alphabet blocks and a musical soccer ball, an ode to her soccer-playing boyfriend Gerard Pique, who plays for FC Barcelona.
All of the proceeds will benefit her Barefoot Foundation, which provides education and nutrition to children in impoverished areas of her native Colombia. Pre-order on Amazon for the products begins Monday.
Geoff Walker, executive vice-president of the Fisher-Price Global Brands Team, said in an interview Thursday that Shakira contacted the company about collaborating. The Grammy-winning singer, who is pregnant and is the mother of 21-month-old Milan, is the first celebrity Fisher-Price has partnered with.
"She brings in both authenticity and emotion, and I think that's why this is such an exciting moment," Walker said.
With her foundation, one of Shakira's main initiatives has been early childhood development, which attracted Fisher-Price to the global star, Walker said.
"I saw how important developmental milestones are and how toys can help babies reach them â€” including with my own son," Shakira said in a statement. "I wanted to design a line of toys that stimulated development in the crucial early stages of life, the stages in which learning can be achieved through supervised play, fostering the development of psychological, social and motor skills."
The 12-part Web series debuts Monday and targets millennials. Some of the episodes, three to five minutes long, will feature her son.
Shakira is one of the most popular celebrities on social media. She is the first person to reach 100 million likes on Facebook.
Walker said as a result of the collaboration, Fisher-Price would be open to more celebrity partnerships.
"It's about finding an authentic mom that is relevant to the millennial crowd," he said.
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