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Telus sat out ‘uneconomic’ pricing competition for mobile customers in Q3: CEO

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Telus Corp.’s wireless business faced bruising competition from aggressive pricing during the back-to-school period, but chief executive Darren Entwistle told analysts Thursday his company chose to “remain on the sidelines” during some of the most intense rivalry.

The Vancouver-based company, which operates the Telus, Koodo and Public Mobile wireless services, reported 111,000 net mobile phone additions during the three months ended Sept. 30 — 10,000 lower than last year’s third quarter, but better than some analyst estimates.

“The year-over-year decline was largely due to Telus purposely choosing to remain on the sidelines for some of the more aggressive and uneconomic competitive activity that occurred in the quarter,” Entwistle told a conference call.

Analyst Aravinda Galappatthige wrote in a report for Canaccord Genuity that the Telus wireless net additions topped his estimate of 105,000 net additions. Drew McReynolds of RBC Dominion Securities had expected 115,000 additions, but noted the consensus had been 109,000.

Entwistle said many customers opted for unlimited data plans with a higher monthly cost than they had previously, but without the potential for overage fees for going over usage limits.

He said the simplified pricing structure helped reduce the number of calls to customer support and quicker marketing and support calls, which are part of company’s cost of acquiring and cost of retaining customers.

However, Entwistle said reduction of those costs was “significantly moderated” by “competitive intensity around device promotions and the persistence of the subsidy model alongside unlimited data by some of our peers.”

The comments came after Telus reported $440 million or 72 cents per share in net income for the three months ended Sept. 30, down from $447 million or 74 cents per share a year ago.

On an adjusted basis, Telus earned 76 cents per share for the quarter, up from an adjusted profit of 74 cents per share a year ago.

Analysts on average had expected a profit of 75 cents per share, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

Operating revenue totalled nearly $3.7 billion, down from $3.77 billion a year ago when the company saw $171 million in one-time equity income related to the sale of Telus Garden.

Wireless operating revenue was $2.1 billion, up $23 million from a year earlier after excluding the impact of Telus Garden. Wireline operating revenue, including home television and internet, was up 0.1 per cent at $1.68 billion.

Telus said it will increase its quarterly dividend to 58.25 cents per share, up from 56.25 cents per share, and expects to spend about $2.75 billion per year on capital projects in both 2020 and 2021. 

Telus was the last of Canada’s three national wireless companies to report quarterly results since they all introduced a new pricing strategy and new device financing options.

Both Bell Canada and Freedom Mobile, a regional carrier that competes with Telus in parts of Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, said last week they used subsidies to reduce their customers’ cost of new devices.

Rogers said it also offered device subsidies during the back-to-school period but indicated that it’s strategy is to eliminate or reduce that expense as much as possible.  

Several analysts lowered their expectations for the sector after Rogers slashed its revenue expectations for this year, primarily because of the swift adoption of new unlimited data plans and intense price competition on mobile devices.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 7, 2019.

Companies in this story: (TSX:T, TSX:RCI.B, TSX:BCE, TSX:SJR.B)

 

David Paddon, The Canadian Press


The post Telus sat out ‘uneconomic’ pricing competition for mobile customers in Q3: CEO appeared first on Canadian Business – Your Source For Business News.



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Behind the Relentless Stock Rally, Waves of Anxiety Are Building

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(Bloomberg) — Nerves are fraying underneath the stock market’s technology-fueled rally.Short bets against the biggest equity exchange-traded fund are stubbornly high and recently ticked up, even after the ETF’s 41% climb from March’s lows. The Cboe Volatility Index — known as the market’s “fear gauge” — remains elevated, while investors are piling into products that shield against losses. Meanwhile, a near-record mountain of cash seems stuck on the sidelines. All this as liquidity is in short supply.While pundits will argue forever whether any of those things are actually bad news for bulls, the stats show caution is bubbling beneath a surge that’s left behind everything but the biggest of tech companies. Heavyweights such as Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. hitting record highs have helped cushion the S&P 500 from a resurgence in coronavirus cases, with the gauge down about 0.2% over the past month. An equally weighted version of the index — which gives Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. as much influence as Microsoft Corp. — has tumbled roughly 6.4% over that same period.“It’s been a bull market that really has not been fully embraced,” said Emily Roland, co-chief investment strategist at John Hancock Investment Management. “There’s a certain amount of skepticism inherent in investors today, and it makes sense.”Stubborn ShortsSkepticism is evident in the still-sizable cohort of holdouts betting against the $278 billion SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust, ticker SPY. Short interest as a percentage of shares outstanding on SPY — a rough indicator of bearish bets on the fund — is currently 5.1%, according to data from IHS Markit Ltd. Short-interest reached a near-record of 7.4% on March 3, and was as low as 1.2% at the beginning of 2020.There’s “no doubt” that the Fed’s stimulus is driving the run-up in asset prices, which could explain the unloved nature of the rally, according to Penn Mutual Asset Management.“It’s harder to love a rally if it’s more of a liquidity-driven phenomenon rather than earnings just doing fantastic,” said Mark Heppenstall, the firm’s chief investment officer.Volatility JittersWhile well below March’s soaring heights, the VIX is still flashing warnings for a stock market fresh off its best quarter since 1998. The measure of implied equity swings remains elevated at about 27, roughly double its February low. The gauge spent all of 2019 below 30.Rising stocks usually imply a falling VIX, as markets price in good news on the horizon. However, the blistering speed of the equity rebound has upset that relationship, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc., which estimates that the gap between the gauge and S&P 500 returns is one of the largest on record.Caution is evident in ETF flows. The $1.2 billion ProShares Ultra VIX Short-Term Futures ETF — the largest volatility-tracking fund — posted roughly $263 million in inflows last week for its strongest weekly showing since 2016, and is on track to absorb an additional $159 million this week.Building a BufferThe current landscape has sparked interest in so-called buffer ETFs, which cushion holders from a certain percentage of losses in exchange for a cap on gains. It’s a space pioneered by niche issuer Innovator ETFs — whose funds have attracted over $3 billion since first launching in 2018 — though competitors have started to launch rival defined-outcome ETFs as demand grows.“For people who have FOMO right now and they’ve been sitting on the sidelines and missed a 40% bounce, they’re saying, ‘do I get in now or are we back at a top?’” said Bruce Bond, Innovator’s chief executive officer. “It allows them to not have to time the market perfectly, but to get in and participate in the upside.”So far, the buffer funds have worked as advertised. When stocks bottomed on March 23, the $252 million Innovator S&P 500 Power Buffer ETF was nursing year-to-date losses of 17.5% versus the S&P 500’s 30% tumble. Four months later, the Innovator ETF is up about 1.3% in 2020 while the index is still down 1.4%.Cash HoardAnd then there’s the near-record levels of cash sitting on the sidelines. U.S. money-market absorbed $1 trillion during the pandemic-fueled turmoil, swelling total assets to an all-time high of roughly $4.8 trillion in late May. That stockpile has started to shrink — barely. The total sum still sits at about $4.65 trillion, Investment Company Institute data show.“That money has to come from somewhere, and presumably it’s coming out of risk assets,” said Phil Orlando, chief equity strategist at Federated Hermes. “This extraordinary amount of cash is the one metric you can put your finger on that would suggest you’ve got some concerns.”Shallow DepthWhile massive intervention on the part of the Federal Reserve has largely restored bond market functioning, JPMorgan Chase & Co. warns that equity liquidity levels are far from normal. Market depth for E-mini S&P 500 futures — the ability to trade without substantially impacting prices — remains about 60% below levels seen before March’s correction, analysts wrote in a note.That “unstable equilibrium” could leave stocks exposed should turmoil descend on markets again, they wrote.“Liquidity conditions have improved considerably, though not fully, and overall functioning has mostly been restored, but markets remain in an unstable equilibrium and vulnerable to shocks,” strategists including Joyce Chang, Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou and Marko Kolanovic wrote in a report.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.



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Trump administration quietly rolls back protections against predatory payday loans

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President Donald Trump quietly ended a rule intended to protect low-income Americans from predatory high-interest payday loans this week. The move reverses a banner Obama-era initiative that required lenders to make sure that someone taking out a loan could afford to repay it. 

The rule, which was instituted and then reversed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) would have held payday lenders to the same basic rules that banks must abide by, evaluating someone’s income and monthly payments before handing them a personal loan.

Democrats and other advocates say that the Trump administration is removing essential protections for vulnerable populations in the midst of a global pandemic and recession. 

“By eliminating the ability-to-repay protections, the CFPB is making a grave error that leaves the 12 million Americans who use payday loans every year exposed to unaffordable payments at annual interest rates that average nearly 400%,” said Alex Horowitz, senior research officer with Pew Charitable Trusts’ consumer finance project.

Elizabeth Warren, who led the creation of the bureau following the 2008 financial crisis called the decision “appalling.” 

The interest rates on payday loans average at 400% nationally but often exceed 600%, compared to personal loan rates that typically range between 10% and 28%. About 80% of people who take out payday loans aren’t able to pay them back within two weeks and have to take out another loan, perpetuating their indentureship to these loan companies, according to the CFPB. The industry also has a history of purposefully targeting communities of color

In 2017, the Obama-appointed CFPB approved a rule to limit loans of this nature after conducting five years of research and hearing public comments. The rule was set to be implemented in 2018 but was delayed by Trump’s former CFPB head Mick Mulvaney and then overturned entirely by current-head Kathy Kraninger. 

“Our actions today ensure that consumers have access to credit from a competitive marketplace, have the best information to make informed financial decisions, and retain key protections without hindering that access,” said Kraninger in a statement.

No new research was done by Kraninger to justify the rollback and some ex-CFPB staffers allege that some Trump appointees manipulated data around payday loans when proposing the rollback. 

Mike Hodges, the CEO of Advance Financial, one of the country’s largest payday lenders has donated well over $1.25 million to Trump and said in an online webinar last year that his donations have given him access to administration officials where he pled his case to rollback the rule. 

“I’ve gone to [Republican National Committee chair] Ronna McDaniel and said, ‘Ronna, I need help on something,’” Hodges said during the online seminar, hosted by industry consultant group Borrow Smart Compliance.

“She’s been able to call over to the White House and say, ‘Hey, we have one of our large givers. They need an audience,’” he said. “I have gone to the White House and … the White House has been helpful on this particular rule that we’re working on right now. In fact, it’s the White House’s financial policy stance to remove the rule and even the payments piece.”

Senator Sherrod Brown related the rule change directly to Hodges’ donations this week, saying that “the CFPB gave payday lenders exactly what they paid for by gutting a rule that would have protected American families from predatory loans that trap them in cycles of debt.”

Presidential candidate Joe Biden indicated in a recent tweet that if elected president he would fire Kraninger from her role. “Here’s my promise to you: I’ll appoint a director who will actually go after financial predators and protect consumers,” he wrote. 

More politics coverage from Fortune:



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How a hair-care company went from salon supplier to sanitizer powerhouse

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When AG Hair moved into its new, 70,000-sq.-foot, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Coquitlam, B.C., two years ago, it was part of a plan to supercharge expansion of its hair care product line to salons in international markets. Europe was next on its list. Then COVID-19 hit.

Not only was the European expansion put on hold, but salons in major markets across Canada and the United States were temporarily closed. Very few were purchasing hair products, so manufacturing was halted in mid-March, leaving most of the company’s 82 employees out of work.

AG Hair could have waited out the pandemic but instead decided to lean into its entrepreneurial culture and make a sharp pivot. It began providing hand-sanitizing products for front-line health-care workers, addressing a global shortage.

“We realized there was this massive need for health-care professionals, and we wanted to make a difference and be able to provide them with the products they needed,” says AG Hair CEO Graham Fraser.

AG Hair received Canadian and U.S. approvals a week after applying for the licences needed to make sanitizer, and produced samples to show local authorities within 48 hours.

AG Hair’s Coquitlam facility has pivoted to making hand sanitizer (Photograph by Alana Paterson)

“That rapid response time, and the fact that we had gone through all of the Health Canada regulatory hurdles, showed [the local health authorities] that we were a partner they could trust and someone they could look to, to deliver the products they needed,” Fraser says.

Within a month, the company started pumping out the products, first for the health-care industry, then for consumers on its own website and on Amazon. About 10 per cent of AG Hair’s hand-sanitizer production also went to people in need, as identified by organizations such as United Way.

Parallel 49 Brewing Company is also using AG Hair’s Coquitlam manufacturing facility to produce its own blend of liquid hand sanitizer for front-line health and emergency workers, in partnership with the B.C. government.

Fraser credits his team for its energy and creativity in making the hand-sanitizer production happen, and helping put AG Hair staff back to work.

“We realized we had an opportunity . . . and then it became this incredible, almost war-room mentality and collaboration with our owners, our executive team and our people to say, ‘How are we going to get through this?’ ” Fraser recalls. “I think our success speaks to the type of people we have and the entrepreneurial spirit of pursuing every avenue we have, understanding how we can produce the products and making it happen.”

AG Hair’s commitment to investing in future growth is a big part of what makes it a Best Managed company, says Nicole Coleman, a partner at Deloitte and co-lead of its Best Managed Program in B.C.

“Capability and innovation come through quite strongly with this company,” says Coleman, who is also AG Hair’s coach at Deloitte. “I don’t think they would be able to pivot as quickly if they weren’t so strategic and had the internal capabilities to do it.”

The manufacturing facility was a big investment, but one Coleman says has already paid dividends.

“They were looking forward with a strategic plan in mind about future growth and how they could expand, rather than just focusing on the day to day,” she says. “Best Managed companies are always pushing the envelope and are conscious about planning for the future.”

AG Hair was founded in Vancouver in 1989 by hairstylist John Davis and graphic artist Lotte Davis. The husband-and-wife team began bottling hair products in their basement and selling them direct to salons from the back of a station wagon.

The company eventually moved its manufacturing off-site, to a third party. One day, John went to watch the operations and was surprised to see salt being poured into the mixture. Although he was told salt is commonly used as a thickener, he didn’t like the potential side effects of dry hair and skin.

It was at that moment John decided the company would oversee its own manufacturing. “Through that experience, John also became an expert in product development,” says Fraser, who came to the company in 2000 as director of sales.

After having worked for more than two decades at PepsiCo and Kraft Foods, Fraser was eager to work at a smaller, more agile company where he felt he could help make a difference.

“It was perfect because I got to bring a lot of structure and process that I learned in those organizations, but I also learned an awful lot about being an entrepreneur from John and Lotte: that sense of urgency, the decision-making process, the need to get things done and drive things forward and pursue opportunities,” he says.

Fraser has helped drive AG Hair’s expansion into the U.S. and internationally, including Australia, Taiwan, and Central and South America. A portion of its sales go to One Girl Can, a charity founded by Lotte that provides schooling, education and mentoring for girls in sub-Saharan Africa.

Fraser also oversees the development of new, trending products, including a new deep-conditioning hair mask made with 98 per cent plant-based and natural ingredients. Hand-sanitizing spray and gel will be the latest addition to the company’s product lineup.

“We don’t see the demand [for hand-sanitizing products] going away,” he says. “As the isolation policies start to get lifted, people are going to need forms of security and protocols as they get back into regular life and work. We see there’s going to be a need for these types of products long-term.”


This article appears in print in the June 2020 issue of Maclean’s magazine with the headline, “Working out the kinks.” Subscribe to the monthly print magazine here.

The post How a hair-care company went from salon supplier to sanitizer powerhouse appeared first on Canadian Business – Your Source For Business News.



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