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Meralco rate rises in April



By Adam J. Ang

Households in Metro Manila will likely see an increase in their electricity bills in April with a typical households set to see a P21 hike, Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) said on Thursday.

The rate hike comes amid falling demand in Luzon where most economic activities have been halted due to the enhanced community quarantine.

In a statement, Meralco said that the overall electricity rate rose by P0.1050 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to P8.9951/kWh from March’s P8.8901/kWh.

Households consuming 300 kWh, 400 kWh, and 500 kWh could expect their monthly bills to rise by P31.50, P42.00, and P52.50, respectively.

The rate increase was due to the normalization of the universal charge, after a one-time refund in the universal charge-NPC stranded contract costs (UC-SCC).

Last March, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) ordered Meralco to implement a P0.1453/kWh rate reversal in the UC-SCC, representing collections in excess of the amount due to Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM).

Universal charges are remitted to the government for the electrification in off-grid areas, the National Power Corporation’s financial obligations in excess of privatization proceeds, and watershed rehabilitation and management.

However, Meralco noted that the April rate is still “significantly” lower compared to the rate in the same month in 2019.

It said the rate hike is tempered by the P0.0495/kWh decrease in the feed-in tariff allowance (FiT-All) for April, following the suspension of its collection as ordered by the ERC.

Recently, Meralco claimed a force majeure event during the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine, bringing down generation charges for its customers.

The distribution utility invoked a force majeure provision in its Power Supply Agreements (PSA), lowering fixed charges for generation capacity that was not consumed, as power demand dropped.

The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines earlier noted that electricity demand in the Luzon grid declined around 20-30% amid the Luzon-wide lockdown due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Generation charges for this month dropped by P0.0247/kWh to P4.6385/kWh, significantly lower compared to the April 2019 generation rate of P5.6322/kWh.

A force majeure event is an uncontrollable event that makes it impossible for power plant operators to fulfill their obligations. Without this, Meralco said that generation rate would have increased by P0.0259/kWh from last month’s rate.

Cost of power from its PSAs, which accounts to 51% of Meralco’s total electricity supply, was lowered to P0.1696/kWh, while charges from Independent Power Producers, which supplies 38% of the utility’s power needs, also decreased by P0.0965 due to higher average plant dispatch and Peso appreciation.

Moreover, charges from the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market, which has an 11% share in its supply needs, fell by P0.9429/kWh driven by improved supply conditions in the Luzon grid.

Earlier, Meralco announced a one-month extension of payments of bills falling from March 1 to April 14 in part of its measures to help households affected by the ECQ. Bills for the period will be computed based on customers’ average electricity consumption from January to March.

The ECQ has been extended until end-April.

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Quarantines relaxed nationwide on June 1



THE country will be transitioning into more relaxed lockdowns starting June 1, with fewer restrictions on people’s movement and more outdoor activities and physical reporting to work allowed.

Most areas in the Philippines will be placed under a modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) — the least strict lockdown level — the starting Monday, while Metro Manila, Davao City, Region 2 (Cagayan Valley), Region 3 (Central Luzon), Region 4-A (Calabarzon consisting of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon), Pangasinan, and Albay will be placed under general community quarantine (GCQ).

The Omnibus Guidelines on the Implementation of Community Quarantine issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) states that GCQ involves the imposition of temporary measures on movement of transportation, industries, and presence of uniformed personnel. However, this is less strict than the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) which was originally imposed on Metro Manila and many parts of the Philippines and allowed only sectors delivering basic goods and services to operate and with public transportation prohibited.

MGCQ is also called the “transition to the normal,” with much fewer restrictions than GCQ.

In areas under GCQ, persons under the age of 21 and those 60 and above, and people who suffer from immunodeficiencies, or have comorbidities or other health risks, and pregnant women, are not allowed to leave their homes unless they are obtaining essential goods and services or have to go to work in permitted industries and offices. The same limitation is imposed on the people living with them. But under MGCQ, everyone is allowed to leave their residence.

The GCQ restrictions on leaving the house do not apply though when it comes to outdoor exercise. Everyone is allowed to do outdoor non-contact sports and exercises under GCQ such as walking, jogging, running, biking, golf, swimming, tennis, badminton, equestrian, and skateboarding as long as minimum public health standards are followed such as the wearing of masks, observing social distancing, and no sharing of equipment.

For MGCQ, both outdoor and indoor non-contact sports and exercises will be allowed. The same minimum health standards should be observed.

Unlike GCQ areas where mass public gatherings are banned and leisure establishments and areas are closed, under MGCQ movie screenings, concerts, sporting events, entertainment activities, community assemblies and non-essential work gatherings, among others, are allowed — but attendees will be limited to 50% of the venue’s capacity.

Under MGCQ, employees of public and private offices can resume physically reporting to work at full operating capacity. All public transportation will also be allowed to operate as long as minimum health standards are implemented, especially social distancing.

No face-to-face or in-person classes will be allowed under GCQ, while under MGCQ, tertiary schools can conduct face to face classes as long as minimum health standards are followed, although the mass gathering of students will still be banned. For those in K-12, the Department of Education’s Learning Continuity Plan, which includes remote and distance learning, will be adopted for areas under GCQ and MGCQ. — Gillian M. Cortez

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



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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Stocks, Futures Drop Ahead of Trump’s China Talk: Markets Wrap



(Bloomberg) — Stocks fell with U.S. futures on Friday as President Donald Trump’s planned press conference on China threatened to further stoke tensions between the world’s two largest economies. Treasuries gained alongside most European bonds.The Stoxx 600 Index declined for the first time in five days, dragged lower by travel shares and automakers, as deteriorating Sino-American ties cast a cloud over a global stock rally spurred by reopening economies. Contracts on the main U.S. equity benchmarks nudged lower after Trump told reporters he would announce what the administration would do “with respect to China,” following Beijing’s moves to enact a law that may curb freedoms in Hong Kong. The White House didn’t immediately specify a time.The euro extended gains after the region’s inflation rate fell to the lowest in four years, adding to reasons for authorities to expand monetary stimulus. The dollar weakened for a second day.Global stocks have mostly shrugged off escalating tensions between Washington and Beijing, but Trump’s planned press conference appears to have spooked investors. It comes amid growing good news on the economic front as governments add to stimulus and ease lockdown measures in the wake of the coronavirus. Meanwhile, clues on the next stages for Federal Reserve policy may also come Friday, when Chairman Jerome Powell participates in a virtual discussion.“I’m very cautious on my medium and even long-term outlook for the markets,” Kate Jaquet, a portfolio manager at Seafarer Capital Partners LLC, said on Bloomberg TV. “I perceive there to be a very large disconnect between stock-market valuations across the globe and underlying company fundamentals.”Elsewhere, crude oil trimmed its biggest monthly advance on record, while gold edged higher.Here are some key events coming up:Trump is expected to hold a news conference Friday where he will discuss steps with regard to China.Powell takes part in a question-and-answer discussion on Friday.These are some of the main moves in markets:StocksFutures on the S&P 500 Index declined 0.5% as of 10:23 a.m. London time.The Stoxx Europe 600 Index sank 1.1%.The MSCI Asia Pacific Index dipped 0.2%.The MSCI Emerging Market Index climbed 0.2%.CurrenciesThe Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index declined 0.3%.The euro jumped 0.5% to $1.1132.The British pound dipped 0.1% to $1.2304.The onshore yuan strengthened 0.1% to 7.14 per dollar.The Japanese yen strengthened 0.4% to 107.21 per dollar.BondsThe yield on 10-year Treasuries decreased two basis points to 0.67%.The yield on two-year Treasuries decreased one basis point to 0.16%.Germany’s 10-year yield declined one basis point to -0.43%.Britain’s 10-year yield fell two basis points to 0.193%.Japan’s 10-year yield climbed less than one basis point to 0.005%.CommoditiesWest Texas Intermediate crude declined 3.9% to $32.41 a barrel.Brent crude dipped 3.5% to $34.07 a barrel.Gold strengthened 0.4% to $1,725.46 an ounce.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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