Mining oil and gas companies to face tougher rules on disclosing payments

LONDON — Canada is adopting a G8 initiative that would require companies to disclose any payments they make to governments, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Wednesday in London at a meeting with oil, gas and mining executives.“In advance of the G8 summit, I’m pleased to announce that Canada will establish new, mandatory reporting standards for payments made to foreign and domestic governments by Canadian extractive companies,” Harper said.“With 70% of the world’s mining companies listed in Canada, and 70% of the world’s free-enterprise oil located in Canada, our participation will help transform the way industry reports payments worldwide.”Leaders of the world’s eight richest countries pledged after their 2011 meeting in Deauville, France, to consider new rules that would allow for greater scrutiny of companies’ payments to governments. Critics say such measures are badly needed to expose corruption in countries with an abundance of natural resource riches.Other countries, such as the United States and Hong Kong, already have similar measures in place.Canada is a major player in the extractive industry, with hundreds of companies operating thousands of projects around the world.Half of the mining that takes place around the world is done by Canadian companies. Sixty per cent of all the world’s mining and exploration companies and 35% of all oil and gas companies are listed on Canadian exchanges.Anthony Hodge, head of the International Council on Mining and Metals, an industry group that represents some of the biggest mining companies, said the rules are needed both inside and outside Canada.“This is not limited to out of Canada. There are issues inside Canada that are a real concern on this,” Hodge said.“But the issue is when you find yourself in a culture different than a Canadian culture where that kind of activity may be more common practice. And that’s tough to deal (with) when you’re a Canadian company trying to understand that culture and trying to bring to the table a less corrupt approach to doing business.”While there are already some standards and mechanisms in place for companies, these new rules would be enforceable by law.“Now, obviously, this regime has been subject and will be subject going forward to additional consultations within Canada, but this is a direction we’re determined to pursue because this information is essential for citizens to hold their governments accountable,” Harper said.“We’ll obviously be working closely with the partners in the developing world.”The federal government will now consult with the provinces and territories, First Nations and aboriginal groups, industry and civil society organizations as it sets up its reporting regime. A senior Canadian government official, speaking on the condition his name not be used, said he expects it will take about two years to hold consultations and develop a framework for the new reporting regime.Details such as how the reporting regime would be policed, and by whom, along with potential penalties for any companies that do not report their payments to other countries, need to be ironed out. It’s possible provincial securities regulators could play a role, the official said.The government is also trying to avoid burdening companies with too much extra paperwork, he added.Transparency is at the top of the agenda at the coming G8 summit in Northern Ireland. British Prime Minister David Cameron wants to leave the lakeside Lough Erne resort with an agreement on tougher transparency measures in hand.“As you know, my trip here and around Europe this week is in advance of the G8 meetings next week. Prime Minister Cameron, as we know, has identified a number of priorities for the G8 this year, and one of those is transparency in the extractive sector, specifically in the mining and energy sectors,” Harper said.“This has long been a priority for Canada. We put great emphasis in Canada on corporate social responsibility, and through our various foreign-aid programs, we have assisted transparency in the extractive sector around the world.”But Cameron is reportedly encountering some resistance to a proposal that would force companies to reveal who actually owns them. Some might consider it somewhat embarrassing to the British prime minister, who is chairing the G8 summit, if he fails to seal a deal on ownership-disclosure rules.Beyond talks about the economy and financial issues, the G8 is also expected to focus on international security, particularly the Syrian conflict, Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs and anti-terrorism measures in Africa’s Sahel region.The G8 summit comes as Canada and the European Union are trying to conclude lengthy negotiations on a free trade agreement. The Prime Minister’s Office has sought to play down any expectations a deal will be announced while Harper is in Europe this week, saying an agreement at this juncture is unlikely.Canada is under pressure to conclude a deal before the European Union turns its attention to free trade negotiations with the United States this summer.Among the issues believed to be on the negotiating table are financial services, Canadian beef exports, country-of-origin rules for vehicles, procurement limits for provinces and municipalities and drug patent protection.Meanwhile, sources tell The Canadian Press the Conservative government has agreed to smooth the way for more takeovers of Canadian companies by European firms in one of several concessions during free trade talks.Canada has also agreed to open up parts of its hydro-electric sector to a limited amount of foreign investment, say sources in Canada with intimate knowledge of the talks.Canadian negotiators have also agreed to a provision to raise the threshold for reviewing foreign acquisitions from Europe to $1.5 billion, sources say. All acquisitions under that value would not be subject to a government assessment about whether they create a net benefit for Canada. read more

Grocer Loblaw Companies Ltd focusing on smaller stores highquality fresh food

Grocer Loblaw Companies Ltd. focusing on smaller stores, high-quality fresh food The head of Loblaw Companies, the country’s largest supermarket chain, said Thursday that savvy shoppers are no longer just looking to pay the lowest prices they can for food.Galen G. Weston, the company’s executive chairman and newly named president, said Thursday that data from its latest quarter showed that customers are willing to pay more if they can get a wide assortment of high quality fresh food.“Early indications across the board suggest that when we put the right proposition in front of the customer, price is not the biggest determinant of what they choose to buy,” Weston said after Loblaw released quarterly financial results.Weston said that shelling out more for produce is a trend that can be tracked across nearly all of the grocer’s banners, including at its discount chain, No Frills.Loblaw is currently navigating its way through a competitive time in the grocery industry, with U.S. entrants like Target, Amazon and Walmart trying to lure away customers with lower prices and low-cost or free shipping.On top of that, the food retailer is also facing inflationary pressure with the rising cost of beef and produce. Weston said the company absorbed some of the cost difference in the last quarter and didn’t raise prices sharply.Canada’s domestic supermarket giants have responded to increased competition by adding or expanding stores. Last year, Sobeys bought Safeway Canada for $5.8 billion and Loblaw began the process of acquiring Shoppers Drug Mart.The Competition Bureau gave conditional approval of the $12.4-billion Shoppers deal in March but required Loblaw to sell a number of locations — a process that hasn’t been completed.In its latest results, Loblaw (TSX:L) reported a loss of $456 million or $1.13 per share for the three-month period ended June 14. The loss compared with a profit of $177 million, or 63 cents per share in the same quarter of 2013. However, excluding the adjustments related to the Shoppers acquisition and other one-time items, the company said it earned $301 million, or 75 cents per share, for the quarter compared with a profit of $181 million, or 64 cents per share a year ago.Analysts on average had expected a profit of 67 cents per share, according to data compiled by Thomson Reuters.The grocer said the addition of Shoppers Drug Mart helped boost revenue nearly 40 per cent to $10.3 billion compared with $7.5 billion year-over-year. Sales at Shoppers totalled $2.61 billion in the quarter and its same-store sales increased 2.5 per cent over the second quarter of 2013.For the second quarter, Loblaw said the square footage of its supermarkets grew by about one per cent, below the industry rate of three per cent. Despite this, the company reported retail sales were up 1.6 per cent and same-store sales were up 1.8 per cent.Although it’s actively working at reducing the square-footage at its Real Canadian Superstores, Loblaw said it will continue to open smaller, more high-end “Inspired” locations like the one inside Toronto’s Maple Leaf GardensIt currently operates 19 of these stores, mostly in Ontario and Quebec, and said they’ve been well-received by a wider audience than initially thought. The company hasn’t committed to how many more locations it will open, but guessed that figure will sit around 50.The growth in sales can partly be attributed to the company’s focus on utilizing one of its “greatest strengths”: its loyalty programs, which help it collect important sales data so it can offer tailored discounts to repeat customers. The Shoppers Optimum program has more than 10 million active members, while the PC Plus program has more than six million members.RBC analyst Irene Nattel said Loblaw delivered better than expected results by “ticking all the boxes investors are looking for.”In addition to Shoppers Drug Mart and its main grocery store business, which includes several other banners, Loblaw also operates the clothing line Joe Fresh, real estate trust Choice Properties and financial services division President’s Choice Financial.Follow @LindaNguyenTO on Twitter. by Linda Nguyen, The Canadian Press Posted Jul 24, 2014 8:44 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email read more