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FCA to end third shift at Windsor Plant, affecting 1,500 workers

Fiat Chrysler to cut 1,500

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is cutting the third shift at its Windsor Assembly Plant beginning June 29.

The automaker says it notified Unifor Thursday about the change that will affect about 1,500 employees.

The move extends the third shift for three months. Originally scheduled to shut down last September, the shift's closing was given a four-month reprieve in November to last until March 31.

FCA says it made the decision to match volumes with demand as production of the Dodge Grand Caravan is phased out at the end of May.

The company says it will try to place indefinitely laid off hourly employees in full-time positions as they become available based on seniority.

Eligible employees will also be offered retirement packages.



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Vancouver port CEO warns of coronavirus woes

Port warns of virus woes

The head of Canada’s largest port says the novel coronavirus is eating into trade following a year that saw cargo volumes dip.

Vancouver Fraser Port Authority CEO Robin Silvester says the number of cancelled sailings is on the rise as broad swathes of the Chinese economy remain effectively shut down due to the outbreak.

Silvester says if the virus continues to spread, slowdowns could severely dent trade with Korea and Japan, which together with China account for well over half of freight volume at Canada’s Pacific gateway.

The port saw trade with its largest partner fall in 2019 as China cut wheat and canola shipments from Canada amid diplomatic tensions.

Silvester says mild diplomatic “thawing” between the U.S. and China in recent months could work out well for Canadian cargo.

The CEO is also commending police for enforcing injunctions and responding “carefully” to rolling blockades barring access to the port over the past three weeks, part of demonstrations that have disrupted rail service across the country in support of Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs opposed to a natural gas pipeline slated to bisect their traditional territory in northern British Columbia.



North American stock markets plunge again, loonie falls

Markets plunge again

North American stock markets plunged for another day as cases of the novel coronavirus which began in China continued to spread around the world and raise worries about global economic growth.

The S&P/TSX composite index was down 401.91 points at 16,640.01.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 456.14 points at 26,501.45. The S&P 500 index was down 53.99 points at 3,062.40, while the Nasdaq composite was down 178.94 points at 8,801.83.

The Canadian dollar traded for 74.85 cents US compared with an average of 75.15 cents US on Wednesday.

The April crude contract was down US$1.92 at US$46.81 per barrel and the April natural gas contract was down 8.7 cents at US$1.75 per mmBTU.

The April gold contract was up US$10.70 at US$1,653.80 an ounce and the May copper contract was down 3.00 cents at US$2.54 a pound.





Maple Leaf Foods reports $17.5M Q4 profit, raises dividend

Maple Leaf: $17.5M profit

Maple Leaf Foods Inc. increased its dividend as it reported a fourth-quarter profit of $17.5 million.

The company says it will now pay a quarterly dividend of 16 cents per share, up from its previous rate of 14.5 cents per share.

Maple Leaf says its profit for the quarter ended Dec. 31 amounted to 14 cents per share compared with a profit of $11.9 million or 10 cents per share in the last three months of 2018.

Sales totalled $1 billion, up from $893.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2018.

On an adjusted basis, Maple Leaf says it earned 12 cents per share, down from an adjusted profit of 29 cents per share in the same quarter a year earlier.

Analysts on average had expected a profit of 17 cents per share and revenue of $986.5 million, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.



TD Bank raises dividend, but Q1 profit falls short of expectations

TD Bank raises dividend

TD Bank Group raised its dividend but fell short of expectations as it reported a first-quarter profit of $3 billion, up from $2.4 billion in the same quarter last year.

The bank says it will now pay a quarterly dividend of 79 cents per share, up from its previous payment of 74 cents per quarter.

The increased payment to shareholders came as TD says it earned $1.61 per diluted share for the quarter ended Jan. 31.

That compared with $1.27 per diluted share in the same quarter a year earlier.

On an adjusted basis, TD says it earned $1.66 per diluted share for the quarter, compared with an adjusted profit of $1.57 per diluted share in the first quarter of 2019.

Analysts on average had expected an adjusted profit of $1.69 per diluted share, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.



Calgary's New Horizon Mall finally 50 per cent leased

Big mall still half empty

The New Horizon Mall just north of Calgary says it will finally exceed 50 per cent retail tenant occupation nearly two years after opening thanks to the addition of a family entertainment centre called Sky Castle.

The mall says the new tenant will open in the fall with about 3,100 square metres (34,000 square feet) under a long-term lease with attractions including a climbing zone, little kids mini-town, rides and interactive games.

Unlike most shopping centres in Canada, about 70 per cent of New Horizon Mall's retail space has been sold to individual investors who have the option of leasing to others or operating their spaces themselves. It was built as an Asian-style bazaar by the same developers that built Toronto's Pacific Mall.

It began allowing tenants to set up their small shops in May 2018 but only nine of its 517 spaces were actually occupied four months later. Leasing has continued to be slow despite incentives by the mall and the individual store owners.

The mall says signing its third anchor tenant means about 86 per cent of the space it retained ownership of will be occupied.

With more than 100 stores open, it says about 53 per cent of New Horizon Mall's total 18,950 square metres (205,000 square feet) will be leased.

"There was a lot of interest in this space from many different organizations but we wanted a strong anchor tenant that will attract shoppers and families and we are ecstatic to have Sky Castle on board," said Ross Cannata of New Horizon Mall Inc.

The other anchor tenants are Prairie Horizon Fresh Market and The Best Shop department store.



Car-sharing firm leaves Canada in changing market

Car2Go leaves Canada

The car-sharing company formerly known as Car2Go is closing up shop in North America on Saturday, taking with it valuable data for automakers looking to the future, says one expert.

The data could show how frequently people choose car-sharing services over other forms of transit, how the use of their cars differs across neighbourhoods, and even how many trips a shared car typically completes before users complain it needs to be cleaned, said Marc-David Seidel, a professor at the University of British Columbia's Sauder school of business.

"I viewed the bulk of their entry into the car-sharing market as a large-scale experiment," he said in a recent interview.

Share Now is the product of a 2019 merger between Car2go, owned by Mercedes-Benz's parent company Daimler AG, and BMW Group's car-sharing service Drive Now.

The auto giants behind the car-sharing company are using their experience to figure out how they will sell cars in a market that's shifting away from car ownership, particularly in urban areas, said Seidel.

In an email, company spokeswoman Tiffany Young said Share Now aggregates anonymized data to evaluate supply and demand in order to optimize fleet distribution and to determine pricing. It also uses data to determine whether Share Now has the "right product mix" in its markets, she said.

Share Now will continue to operate in 17 cities, including several where its fleets are entirely electric.

Vancouver was Share Now's largest market in North America with more than 300,000 customers, said company spokeswoman Tiffany Young. Last year, customers in the city took more than two million trips and drove more than 19 million kilometres, she said.

But North American markets lack the infrastructure necessary to support a large fleet of shared electric vehicles and Share Now believes the future of car sharing is electric, the company said in a statement announcing its withdrawal. It also cited rising operating costs and "rapidly evolving" competition.

Seidel said transit is changing so car-sharing and ride-hailing services will also compete with options such as dynamic bus routing, where buses run based on demand along major routes and may take different streets depending on where people want to get on and off.

The automakers face strategic decisions, Seidel said, like whether to operate their own shared fleets or concentrate on selling their vehicles to different car-sharing organizations or individuals participating in collectively owned services that share cars.

In 2017, Daimler invested in a service called Turo in the United States, which allows people to share their car when they aren't using it, Seidel noted.

The advent of autonomous or self-driving vehicles will also shift the transportation landscape, he said, creating risks and opportunities for automakers and ride-hailing companies alike.



Husky Energy shares fall on cash flow miss

Husky Energy shares fall

Shares in Husky Energy Inc. fell by as much as 11.7 per cent on Thursday morning in Toronto after it reported fourth-quarter results that matched analyst expectations on production but missed by a wide margin on funds from operations.

The Calgary-based company blamed lower U.S. refinery margins, an extended shutdown at its refinery in Lima, Ohio, and $74 million related to employee severance for posting funds from operations of $469 million, compared to $583 million in the year-earlier period and analyst expectations of $712 million, according to the financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

The company posted a net loss of $2.34 billion in the last three months of 2019 as it took asset impairment and other charges related to its long-term price assumptions and reductions in its long-term capital spending plans.

The loss amounted to $2.34 per share for the quarter ended Dec. 31 compared with a profit of $216 million or 21 cents per share in the same quarter a year earlier.

Revenue, net of royalties, totalled $4.79 billion compared with $4.99 billion in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Husky says non-cash asset impairments and other charges totalled $2.3 billion after tax in its most recent quarter primarily related to its upstream assets in North America, including its Sunrise project.

Other charges also included exploration-related write downs and asset de-recognition at its Lima Refinery following the completion of a crude oil flexibility project.

The writedowns echo a $3.3-billion charge taken by oilsands rival Suncor Energy Inc. earlier this month, with $2.8 billion of that related to lower forecast prices for heavy oil from its Fort Hills oilsands mine in northern Alberta. Partner Teck Resources Ltd. took a charge of $910 million for the same reason for its 21.3 per cent stake in the Fort Hills mine.



Virus fears have some scrambling to rebook vacations

Scramble to rebook vacation

Hugh Ji had been looking forward to returning home to South Korea with his Canadian wife and two of their friends for a trip that included stops in Seoul and a visit to Jeju island. But when he saw the mounting number of novel coronavirus cases in his homeland, he didn't hesitate to postpone the two-and-a-half week vacation.

The 34-year-old Calgary resident said his decision was firm, even when he was initially told he'd have to pay hundreds of dollars to rebook.

"It's not about the money," he said. "It's health issues."

The rash of new coronavirus cases appearing in Italy, Iran, South Korea and Japan over the past week has prompted Canadians like Ji to rethink their travel plans, even as travel industry professionals call for calm.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne has said Canadians should think carefully about where they and their families are planning to travel for spring break in light of the virus's spread overseas.

He suggested Wednesday that people examine the online travel advisories posted by Global Affairs Canada before leaving for their vacations, though he noted the federal government can't predict whether the coronavirus will spread.

But Julia Kent, director of public and government affairs for CAA Atlantic, says aside from a few specific regions, there haven't been a lot of issues.

"Unless you have plans to go to China, you should probably proceed as planned," she said in a phone interview this week. The CAA describes itself as one of Canada's largest leisure travel agencies. "Generally speaking, when you compare coronavirus to the flu, it is far less widespread and less impactful."

Still, many people are expressing concerns.

In Edmonton, two Catholic schools cancelled spring break trips to Japan and two other schools cancelled the Italian portion of a European trip after cases spiked in the north of the country.

Lori Nagy, a spokeswoman for the school board, said the cancellations were prompted by worries that students could be exposed to the virus or be subjected to lengthy quarantines when they try to return.

"We do not feel it is appropriate to send our students and staff into an area that has already been affected by the coronavirus when the (World Health Organization) has indicated that the spread seems inevitable, and containment processes are potentially unable to ensure the safety of all our travellers," she wrote in an email.

Students at a high school in Gatineau, Que., who were expected to leave Wednesday for a trip to Japan also had their trip cancelled at the last minute, according to Christian Laforest, a spokesman for the Draveurs school board.

On its website, the tour company that was organizing the school's Japan trip, EF Educational Tours, said tours to China and now northern Italy have been switched to other destinations, and the company "will continue to implement measures that extend beyond those recommendations for the safety and support of our travellers."

For Ji, rebooking wasn't as easy as he'd hoped. He said he was first told he'd have to pay fees of $500 to cancel his trip, or $150 to rebook, plus the difference in ticket price.

But by end of Tuesday, Air Canada updated its policy to add airports in northern Italy and South Korea to the list of destinations where travellers can rebook without penalty. Ji has since changed his dates to June, free of charge.

Global Affairs Canada has advised against non-essential travel to China and issued a Level 2 health advisory for South Korea, Iran and northern Italy, which urges travellers to take precautions, such as avoiding large crowds, or avoiding travel if they have underlying health conditions. (The government already advises against non-essential travel to Iran for security reasons.)

Kent suggests looking to those warnings for guidance. She said most major travel providers and travel insurance companies would issue full refunds only in the case of a government advisory against non-essential travel, meaning those who wish to travel elsewhere may be stuck paying for some or all of their trips.

There has been a lot of attention on Yokohama, the Japanese port city where the cruise ship Diamond Princess was docked with 3,500 passengers under quarantine. More than 690 people were sickened on the ship, and three died.

Bari Golin-Blaugrund, senior director strategic communications for Cruise Lines International Association, said the industry has adopted enhanced protocols to address the virus.

"No person, no matter if they are passenger or crew, will be allowed to board any of our ships if they have travelled in or through the affected areas ... China, and that includes Macau and Hong Kong, within the previous 14 days prior to embarkation," she said.

Cruise Lines International Association added that member ships are required to have medical facilities on board, and that by the time passengers and crew reach the ship, they have in many cases "gone through one or more health screenings already — especially those travelling to meet their ships via plane."

While the association said it did not have any information about booking levels, it said that "history suggests that when there are world events like these, there is generally a level of discomfort about travel."



Delta reduces flights to Korea as virus outbreak spreads

Delta reduces Korea flights

Delta Air Lines is reducing flights to South Korea while Hawaiian Airlines will suspend them entirely, as airlines deal with growing concern about the spread of the new virus beyond China.

Delta said Wednesday that it will suspend flights between Seoul and Minneapolis after Saturday and running through April 30. Delta also said it will reduce flights from Seoul to Atlanta, Detroit and Seattle to five times a week. The airline said last fall that it was operating about 28 flights per week on those routes.

The Atlanta-based airline, the world’s largest by revenue, will also delay the start of new flights between Seoul’s Incheon Airport and Manila. Instead of beginning March 29, the launch has been pushed back to May 1.

Hawaiian Airlines said it will suspend flights between Honolulu and Seoul starting next Monday and running through April 30. The carrier currently flies the route five times a week.

Hawaiian CEO Peter Ingram called the suspension prudent because of the rise in COVID-19 cases in South Korea and the effect the outbreak is having on demand for leisure travel by Koreans.

Delta, United Airlines and American Airlines have already suspended all flights to and from mainland China and Hong Kong. United said this week that demand for service to China had disappeared, and that March bookings for flights elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region had plummeted 75% since the outbreak.

Fear about the virus is hitting cruise lines and other travel companies hard too. Booking Holdings Inc., the parent of travel search and booking sites including Kayak and Priceline, said the virus had “a significant and negative impact across our business" in the first quarter.

“It is not possible to predict where, and to what degree, outbreaks of the coronavirus will disrupt travel patterns,” the company said.

The number of new cases of the COVID-19 virus reported Tuesday was greater outside China than inside China for the first time, according to the World Health Organization. South Korea has reported more than 1,200 cases and 11 deaths.

Several airlines in Asia and the Middle East have suspended flights to other Asian countries besides China. The list includes Korean Air, Japan Airlines and Philippine Airlines. Singapore Airlines, hurt by weak demand, has suspended flights to several destinations in the U.S. and Europe.



Lowe's disappoints on 4Q sales, full-year outlook

Lowe's disappoints in sales,

Lowe's Cos. on Wednesday reported weaker-than-expected sales for its fiscal fourth quarter and offered an annual forecast that came below Wall Street expectations.

During a call with analysts, Lowe's CEO Marvin Ellison blamed the sales shortfall on the timing of its marketing campaign that didn't align with the compressed holiday season. It's e-commerce website is also under major renovation. But Lowe's said that it's relaunching its website this spring and said that it is working to update the stores with better signage and other merchandising changes.

Shares in the company based in Mooresville, North Carolina, closed down more than 4% on Wednesday.

The report comes a day after strong results from rival Home Depot, which reported better-than-expected quarterly profits and sales.

The contrasting quarterly performances highlights the increasing competition between Home Depot and Lowe’s, which is in the process of an overhaul under Ellison.

Ellison, a one-time Home Depot executive who took the top job at Lowe’s in mid 2018, is trying to reshape the culture at Lowe’s, which has been a distant second to Home Depot in the sector for a while. Ellison has been focusing on getting Lowe’s back to the fundamentals of retailing, like making sure the right items are in stock and improving customer service.

“Though we are only one year into a multiyear plan, we made significant progress transforming our company and believe we are well positioned to capitalize on solid demand in a healthy home improvement market,” Ellison said in a statement.

Ellison told analysts on the call that Lowe's is rolling out new signage in its stores, the first time it changed its signing in 15 years. It's also creating dedicated areas for seasonal merchandise like Halloween to make it easier for customers to shop.

As for the website overhaul, customers will be able to check out with one click. They will also be able to shop by collection. For example, in the past, shoppers buying patio furniture would have to shop on one screen for their table and another for the chairs, Ellison said.

Lowe's reported fiscal fourth-quarter net income of $509 million, after reporting a loss in the same period a year earlier.

The company said it had profit of 66 cents per share. Earnings, adjusted for non-recurring costs, came to 94 cents per share.

The results beat the average Wall Street estimate of 91 cents per share, based on an analyst survey by Zacks Investment Research.

The home improvement retailer posted revenue of $16.03 billion in the period, missing Street forecasts. Ten analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $16.15 billion.

Overall, sales at stores opened at least a year rose 2.5% for the quarter. The figure for the U.S. home improvement business increased 2.6%. Analysts were expecting 3.2% for the quarter, according to FactSet.

Lowe's that online sales was up 3% in the quarter but Lowe's expects high single-digit percentage growth during the second half of the fiscal year.

In comparison, sales at Home Depot stores open at least a year rose 5.2%, which was also better than analysts had expected. Those sales climbed 5.3% in the U.S.

Lowe's expects full-year earnings in the range of $6.45 to $6.65 per share. That's below the Street $6.67 per share estimate, according to FactSet.

Shares of Lowe's fell $5.22 to close at $113.30 Wednesday.



North American markets reverse some losses over virus fears

Markets reverse some losses

North American stock markets moved higher in late-morning trading, regaining some of the ground lost in recent days as investors sold off stocks amid concerns about the impact of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The S&P/TSX composite index was up 84.39 points at 17,261.76.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 360.29 points at 27,441.65. The S&P 500 index was up 41.06 points at 3,169.27, while the Nasdaq composite was up 142.01 points at 9,107.62.

The Canadian dollar traded for 75.13 cents US compared with an average of 75.30 cents US on Tuesday.

The April crude contract was up 14 cents at US$50.04 per barrel and the April natural gas contract was up 2.4 cents at US$1.88 per mmBTU.

The April gold contract was down US$9.90 at US$1,640.10 an ounce and the May copper contract was down 0.85 of a cent at US$2.57 a pound.



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