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Disney ups bid for Fox

The mouse is chasing the fox.

Disney is upping the ante for Fox, making a $70.3 billion counterbid for Fox's entertainment businesses following Comcast's $65 billion offer for the company.

The battle for Twenty-First Century Fox reflects a new imperative among entertainment and telecommunications firms. They are amassing ever more programming to better compete with technology companies such as Amazon and Netflix for viewers' attention — and dollars. The bidding war comes after AT&T bought Time Warner for $81 billion, after a federal judge rejected the government's antitrust concerns.

Disney's move had been expected ever since Comcast's bid, which was higher than Disney's original offer in December of $52.5 billion in stock. Comcast's offer was all cash. Disney's new offer of $38 per share is half cash and half stock.

In a statement Wednesday Disney said it is raising its offer because Fox's value increased due to "tax reform and operating improvements." In a call with analysts.

"After six months of integration planning we're even more enthusiastic and confident in the strategic fit of the assets and the talent at Fox," said CEO Bob Iger in a statement.

In a call with analysts, Iger said he believes Disney's bid is superior to Comcast's from a regulatory perspective, and said that six months of dealing with regulators both in the U.S. and internationally has given Disney a "meaningful head start."

Comcast, based in Philadelphia, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

So just how high can the bidding war go? GBH Insights analyst Dan Ives said he thinks the "line in the sand" is $75 billion to $80 billion.

"Above $80 billion would be a tough pill to swallow for Disney shareholders given the steep price," he said. "That said, this poker game appears to be just getting started and now it's Comcast and (Comcast CEO Brian) Roberts move to show their next hand."

The deal would include Fox film and TV studios, some cable networks and international assets, but not Fox News Channel or the Fox television network.

Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch said the company "firmly believes" that the combination with Disney is a good fit.

"We remain convinced that the combination of 21CF's iconic assets, brands and franchises with Disney's will create one of the greatest, most innovative companies in the world," he said in a statement.

But the New York company also said it is still weighing both offers, and noted that Disney's new bid doesn't have any provisions in it that prevents Fox from considering other offers.



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Big order for Bombardier

Bombardier Inc. says Delta Air Lines Inc. will buy 20 CRJ900 regional jets with a list price totalling about US$961 million.

The actual price paid by Delta for the 70-seat planes hasn't been announced.

They will fly under the Delta Connection brand.

Bombardier Commercial Aircraft says the Atlanta-based airline will take delivery of the planes in late 2018.



Alexa, pay my bills?

Hey Alexa, what's my bank account balance?

Big banks and financial companies have started to offer banking through virtual assistants — Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri, and Google's Assistant — in a way that will allow customers to check their balances, pay bills and, in the near future, send money just with their voice. And with the rapid adoption of Zelle, a bank-to-bank transfer system, it soon could be possible to send money to friends or family instantly with voice commands.

But the potential to do such sensitive tasks through a smart speaker raises security concerns. Virtual assistants and smart speakers are still relatively new technologies, and potentially susceptible to being exploited by cyber criminals.

Regional banking giant U.S. Bank is the first bank to be on all three services — Alexa, Siri and Assistant. The company did a soft launch of its Siri and Assistant services in early March and this month started marketing the option to customers.

Other financial companies have set up virtual assistant features. Credit card companies Capital One and American Express both have Alexa skills that allow customers to check their balances and pay bills. There are other smaller banks and credit unions that have set up Google Assistant or Alexa as well.

"We want to be there for our customers in any possible way that we can," said Gareth Gaston, executive vice-president for omnichannel banking at U.S. Bank.

For now, U.S. Bank is keeping the features available through bank-by-voice fairly restrictive. Customers will be able to check bank balances, pay U.S. Bank credit cards and mortgages, ask Alexa or Google the due dates on bills, and other basic functions. Money cannot be transferred from a U.S. Bank account using voice yet, Gaston said, but the bank is considering the option.

Asking Google, Alexa or Siri for the weather or to tell a joke is one thing, but it's a whole other issue when these assistants access and share sensitive personal information. These apps will typically announce a person's available balance over the speaker, which has the potential to create awkward situations at parties.

In the case of Google and Alexa, users must create a secure connection between their bank and the assistant through Alexa's Skills or Google's Actions. All banks require the use of a four-digit PIN before they will provide balance and bank account info over these speakers, and suggest making those PINs different from the one on a customer's ATM card.

Apple's Siri is the most restrictive of the three virtual assistants, only showing a user a bank account balance on a screen, and not allowing other features like paying bills. Banks can integrate Siri into their iPhone and iPad apps, but Apple's HomePod smart speaker that launched earlier this year does not currently accept banking commands. A company spokeswoman declined to say whether that feature was coming.

Google Assistant has the capability to do individual voice recognition, providing one additional level of security on that platform, but that is not implemented on U.S. Bank's Action yet. Security experts say that additional level of security could be foiled, however.

"Users' voices can be recorded, manipulated, and replayed to the assistants," said Kurt Baumgartner, a security researcher with Kaspersky Lab. "Also, with access to banking accounts and abilities to transfer and pay out money, remote financial fraud may be within the reach of cybercriminal groups soon."

____

Ken Sweet covers banks and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for The Associated Press. Follow or message him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/kensweet .



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Direct flight from YKA to TO

A direct flight to Toronto will come to the Kamloops Airport this summer.

The seasonal Air Canada flight will begin on June 21 with direct service to the Toronto Pearson International Airport.

“We are thrilled that Air Canada Rouge is launching new nonstop service to Toronto Pearson,” said Heather McCarley, managing director of Kamloops Airport. “This is an important connection for Kamloops. Thanks to Air Canada’s global network, it opens up our region to travellers coming from all corners of Canada and around the world with one ticket and one stop.”

The Kamloops Airport will celebrate the new flight this Thursday, with an event featuring local VIP's.

The flight will run from June until early October.

Last month the Westjet added a direct flight to Calgary from Kamloops.  

Castanet will update the public when more information about the flight becomes available.



5G - what does it mean?

A study commissioned by the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association lays out the potential benefits from the deployment of powerful, ultra-fast 5G wireless networks. A look at the findings in the Accenture report, by the numbers:

$40 billion: Estimated economic growth from the adoption of 5G technology by 2026.

$26 billion: Amount estimated to be spent on 5G network infrastructure and adoption over a seven-year period.

154,000: Temporary, direct and indirectly related jobs expected to be created between 2020 and 2026 for the 5G network build-out.

16 million: Expected number of 5G connections by the end of 2026.

$3.3 billion: Potential gains for large farms from price savings and yield increases as a result of 5G.

20: Percentage decline in unplanned maintenance in the oilsands if 5G sensors and monitoring devices are used.

$17 million: Possible extra revenue for a service provider offering programming like "Hockey Night in Canada" through an at-home virtual reality experience.



Are you a 'data cow?'

Artificial intelligence could give internet giants like Facebook and Amazon even more power to reshape the Canadian economy, threatening the viability of domestic businesses, researchers warn.

A December presentation to senior civil servants said that Canadian companies were losing ownership of — and access to — data to the likes of Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google, requiring a federal policy response.

Artificial intelligence "will reinforce this trend," presenters from the National Research Council warned top officials, adding that a national data strategy would be necessary to prevent Canada from becoming "a nation of 'data cows' for other countries."

The presentation, among other documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, provides a window into the scale of the problem the Liberals are trying to tackle by crafting a national data strategy, and the breadth of departments involved in its creation.

The Liberals took another step towards the creation of the strategy by launching online and in-person consultations that will run through the summer in order to inform a final policy.

Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains said the government wants to hear voices beyond industry stakeholders before settling on any policy options.

"Its fundamentally about saying, 'Look, you have a voice, you should participate,' because in the new economy, technology (is) practically touching every aspect of our lives," Bains said.

"Data is such a key part of that. that's why it's important we understand it in a much broader sense and really engage Canadians throughout the process."

The Liberals have been under pressure from business leaders and academics to swiftly craft a national strategy to harness the expanding power of the data-driven economy, and tackle the thorny issues of privacy and misuse that accompany talk of big data.

Complicating matters is the fact that the rules of the game are shifting with the pace of technological change: the large internet companies that hold vast amounts of data operate largely outside the reach of traditional government regulation and taxation.

Old-school regulations, such as minimum wage and corporate tax rules, tend to have less of an impact on online platforms, suggesting a non-traditional policy response is called for, deputy ministers at the December meeting were told.

Copyright laws were also flagged for restricting access to the data needed by companies to harness the power of artificial intelligence. Technologies like AI depend on vast amounts of high-quality data, as well as expertise to properly analyze it and make use of it.



Best year ever for Ferries

BC Ferries' year-end results show vehicle traffic was higher than ever last year, resulting in consolidated net earnings of $59.9 million.

The company says in a news release that fiscal 2018 also had the highest level of passenger traffic in two decades.

Ferries president Mark Collins says the strong fiscal performance helps the company increase service, invest in new vessels and terminal infrastructure, offer discounts and minimize borrowing.

The release says BC Ferries provided 1,190 more round trips compared with the year before in an effort to keep up with stronger demand.

In April, the fares of most routes, with the exception of the three Metro Vancouver to Vancouver Island runs, were reduced by 15 per cent and seniors are again allowed to travel for free Monday to Thursday.

BC Ferries announced last week that it would remove a fuel rebate starting June 27 because of high fuel prices on the world market.



Verizon a trailblazer

Verizon is pledging to stop sales through intermediaries of data that pinpoints the location of mobile phones to outside companies, the Associated Press has learned.

It is the first major U.S. wireless carrier to step back from a business practice that has drawn criticism for endangering privacy. The data has allowed outsiders to track wireless devices without their owners' knowledge or consent.

Verizon, the nation's largest mobile carrier measured by subscribers, said that about 75 companies have obtained its customer data from two little-known California-based brokers that it supplies directly — LocationSmart and Zumigo.

The company made its disclosure in a letter to Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who has been probing the phone location-tracking market. Last month, Wyden revealed abuses in the lucrative but loosely regulated field involving Securus Technologies and its affiliate 3C Interactive. Verizon says their contract was approved only for the location tracking of outside mobile phones called by prison inmates.

After a thorough review of its program, Verizon notified LocationSmart and Zumigo, both privately held, that it intends to "terminate their ability to access and use our customers' location data as soon as possible," wrote Verizon's chief privacy officer, Karen Zacharia.

Though Verizon is ending sales to brokers, Verizon stopped short of ending the practice completely. Zacharia said the company would be careful not to disrupt "beneficial services" such as fraud prevention and would "work with these aggregators to ensure a smooth transition for these beneficial services to alternative arrangements so as to minimize the harm to customers and end users."

In the interim, Verizon will not authorize any new uses of the location data, she said.



Air competition heats up

Competition is heating up for Canada's most price-sensitive travellers as WestJet Airlines gears up to launch the country's second ultra-low cost airline Wednesday.

Swoop, an offshoot of WestJet Airlines, will make its maiden flight on its pink and white aircraft before the sun rises in Hamilton, Ont. on a trip to Abbotsford, B.C.

"From my perspective coming into this fresh — I've been in Canada four months now — I personally believe there's a huge opportunity in Canada," said Swoop president Steven Greenway.

Greenway is an Australian native who has worked in executive positions at airlines including Japanese low-cost carrier Peach, Virgin Blue, Virgin Atlantic and Qantas.

Swoop marks his sixth airline startup.

By discounting travel, Swoop, Flair Airlines and others are trying to repatriate the more than five million Canadians who cross the border to catch flights from airports in Buffalo and Plattsburgh, N.Y., and Birmingham, Wash.

He expects competition will increase significantly over the next 12 months as Canada Jetlines gears up to join Swoop and Flair in offering deeply discounted fares along with charges for everything from a onboard drink to carry-on and checked baggage.



Class-action over breaches

Proposed class-action lawsuits have been filed against Bank of Montreal and CIBC's direct banking division Simplii Financial over recently disclosed cybersecurity breaches impacting up to 90,000 customers.

Law firms Siskinds LLP and JSS Barristers say they have filed the proposed class actions against the two Canadian banks in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, alleging the institutions failed to establish robust security measures to protect clients' sensitive information.

The banks did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Simplii and BMO warned in May that "fraudsters" may have accessed certain personal and financial information of some of its customers, up to 40,000 clients and 50,000 clients, respectively.

Both institutions said they had been contacted by entities claiming to have accessed their client's personal data. A BMO spokesman said a threat was made to make the information public.

BMO and CIBC have since offered clients free credit monitoring and have pledged to cover any money lost from affected bank accounts due to fraud.

The proposed class action lawsuits, which have not yet been certified, are seeking general, compensatory, consequential and punitive damages on behalf of affected Simplii Financial and BMO clients.

The data breaches have had far reaching implications on clients' personal lives and financial affairs, the full extent of which has yet to be determined, said Sajjad Nematollahi, a lawyer with Siskinds.

"Financial institutions like CIBC and BMO are entrusted with their clients' most sensitive personal information, and are expected to have in place robust security measures to safeguard that information against unauthorized access, use or theft," he said in a statement.

"Canadian financial institutions are required and expected to continuously review their defence systems and use best industry practices to protect Canadians' personal and financial information."



Magna plugs in to EVs

Magna International Inc. says it will form two new joint ventures with a Chinese company to engineer and build electric vehicles.

The Ontario-based auto parts company and Beijing Electric Vehicle Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of the BAIC Group, are expected to take over an existing BAIC manufacturing facility where the first production vehicles are planned for 2020. The plant has the capacity to build up to 180,000 vehicles per year.

Magna says the engineering and manufacturing joint ventures will also be set up to offer engineering and complete vehicle manufacturing to other customers.

The plans for the joint venture follow an agreement in April that saw BAIC Group and Magna agree to develop smart electric vehicle architecture for the Chinese market.

It is expected that this work will be transferred to the engineering joint venture and will form the platform of the new electric vehicles to be launched by the joint venture.

Both joint ventures are subject to a number of conditions and Magna says it will work with authorities to implement legally binding joint-venture agreements over the coming months.



Spade's funeral in birthplace

A funeral will be held for fashion designer Kate Spade this week in Kansas City, where she was born.

The Kansas City Star reports that services for Spade are planned for 3 p.m. Thursday at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Redemptorist Church. Her father, Frank Brosnahan, says it's the same church where Spade's grandparents wed.

Spade was found dead by suicide on June 5 in her New York City home. She was 55 and had a teenage daughter and husband.

Spade was working as an accessories editor at Mademoiselle magazine when she launched her company with husband Andy Spade in 1993.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for donations to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or a Kansas City animal shelter.



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