Wary of cyber security laws, UK eyes softly-softly approach

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain will try to get companies to beef up cyber security by encouraging investors and shareholders to hold them to account on the issue, but will reject U.S.-style mandatory reporting of online attacks, government officials say.

Scientists find gene link to teenage binge drinking

LONDON (Reuters) – Scientists have unpicked the brain processes involved in teenage alcohol abuse and say their findings help explain why some young people have more of a tendency to binge drink.

CAP REIT gets Olympic village

One month ago, CAP REIT completed the $176.5-million acquisition of Montreal’s Olympic Village property, two 21-storey pyramid shaped buildings that were a major landmark for those who attended the 1976 Olympics and which were a short walk from the other landmark, the non-retractable roofed Big O.

Today, CAP REIT will complete a $160.8-million equity financing, a move that means ownership of the iconic east end Montreal buildings will be in the public’s hands.

CAP REIT acquired the buildings and the 980 residential suites from El-Ad Group, an Israeli-based real estate conglomerate that bought them in 2004. From 1998-2004, the buildings were owned by Metcap Living (which paid $64.5-million for them); from 1976-1998 they were owned by the Olympic Installations Board which spent $90-million to build them. Over the years, the buildings have attracted their share of criticism.

While CAP REIT’s financing — the sale of 6.7 million units at $24 per unit — is not directly tied to CAP REIT’s latest acquisition, it will be part of the mix. Plans call for the proceeds to be used to pay down part of the amount taken on under CAP REIT’s credit facility including a bridge loan. Specifically, CAP REIT paid for buildings through the assumption of an existing $82-million first mortgage and from the bridge loan.

Since June CAP REIT has bought $708-million worth of buildings that were funded by assumed mortgages, drawdowns on credit facilities and equity financings. It has also sold some buildings but has added almost 5,000 suites or about 14% of its total number of residential units.

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With REIT’s being the investment of choice for many Canadians, two newly-formed issuers are pushing ahead to try and meet the demand for yield.

• Agellan Commercial REIT Trust. This new issuer is seeking about $155-million of capital to buy properties in Canada (Ontario and Quebec) and the U.S. (including Ohio and Texas.) The seller owns about $450-million worth of commercial real estate. Agellan plans to pay out about 90% of its estimated adjusted funds from operations (AFFO) until the end of next year. The reason: that payout will allow the REIT to meet its internal funding needs, while being able to support stable growth in cash distributions.

• FAM REIT. This issuer is so brand new that it doesn’t a full time chief executive. But that will occur when the company files a final prospectus and Shant Poladian, a former real estate analyst with Canaccord Genuity, is given the job.

While FAM plans to acquire industrial, office and retail properties in Canada and the United States, the initial properties to be purchased are all in Western Canada except for one in Ontario. (The properties are being purchased from Huntingdon Capital Corp. which will, continue to manage them.) The issuer plans to raise about $75-million while the so-called initial properties are valued at $186 million. The intends, at least initially, to make monthly cash distributions equal to about 95% of the REIT’s AFFO.

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Closed-end funds have also been in the market with offerings for U.S. real estate. One week back Slate U.S. Opportunity (No. 2) Realty Trust raised US$50-million from the public and US$21.6-million from a private placement with a plan to invest in U.S. assets and make quarterly distributions, while Propel Capital raised $42-million for its North American REIT Income Fund that aims to pay out 6% a year.

 

On Twitter, Obama puts question mark over mortgage deduction

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Taking to Twitter to press his case in “fiscal cliff” talks with Congress, President Barack Obama said on Monday that tax breaks benefiting middle class families such as the mortgage interest deduction could be at risk if rates for top earners do not rise.

Cooling housing market shows stricter mortgage rules working: Flaherty

OTTAWA — Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is not worried about a housing collapse, saying Monday he is happy he has helped cool the market with the latest round of stricter mortgage rules.

The finance minister says he is also encouraged Canadians are paying down their mortgages and credit cards, and taking on less debt.

More Canadians are paying down their mortgages, more Canadians are paying their credit cards on time

“When it comes to consumer debt, I am encouraged by the reaction of Canadians. More Canadians are paying down their mortgages, more Canadians are paying their credit cards on time. This is very desirable,” he said.

The housing slowdown was a big part of the disappointing economic downturn recorded in the third quarter, with the sector falling 3.5% annualized.

That was caused in part because Flaherty made mortgage payments more expensive in July by dropping the maximum amortization period to 25 years, but the minister says he has no regrets.

Overall, the country’s economy advanced a snail’s pace of 0.6%, about half the expectation of the Bank of Canada.

Flaherty says he believes Canada is on track to achieve modest growth in the next fiscal year, but warns Canadians not to expect dramatic growth.

“We are on track, as we anticipate, for modest growth, moderate growth, in the next fiscal year,” he told reporters in Ottawa.

With files from Reuters

NASA probe reveals organics, ice on Mercury

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) – Despite searing daytime temperatures, Mercury, the planet closest to the sun, has ice and frozen organic materials inside permanently shadowed craters in its north pole, NASA scientists said on Thursday.

Ford Canada inching closer to title of Canada’s best-selling automaker for 2012

The Canadian auto industry has seen incredible growth in 2012, and we are pleased that Ford of Canada has outpaced it in November

TORONTO — Ford Canada is on the road to taking the title of Canada’s best-selling automaker this year, after reporting its best November in more than a decade and taking first place for sales for another month.

The Oakville, Ont.-based subsidiary of one of Detroit’s big three automakers said Monday that its November sales rose to 19,447, up 7.4% from a year ago, marking its best November since 2001.

That was about 2,400 more units than at Chrysler Canada, which had its best November since 2000.

Ford’s Canadian car sales rose 14%, while truck sales were up 6%.

“November was a record-breaking month for Ford of Canada,” said Dianne Craig, president and CEO at Ford of Canada.

“The Canadian auto industry has seen incredible growth in 2012, and we are pleased that Ford of Canada has outpaced it in November.”

For the first 11 months of 2012, Ford’s sales rose 1% to 259,194 vehicles from 256,597 in 2011.

The Ford Focus car had its best November since 2003 with a 37% rise.

Sales of the Ford Transit Connect cross-over vehicle were up 93% and sales of the Ford Escape sport-utility vehicle were up 47%. Both vehicles had their best November on record.

The Canadian built Ford Edge, Flex and Lincoln MKT saw increases of 21%, 25% and 34%, respectively.

Meanwhile, rival Chrysler Canada said it sold 17,013 vehicles in Canada last month, up five% from November 2011, when the company sold 16,244.

Chrysler said the increase helped it post its longest growth streak in its history at 36 consecutive months of year-over-year sales growth. Chrysler also called it the best start to a year through 11 months since 2000.

Passenger car sales improved to 2,802 cars sold for the month, up from 1,909 sold in the same month, one year ago.

Total truck sales dipped to 14,211 compared with 14,335 in November 2011.

Japanese automaker Toyota Canada said November sales of 14,512 Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles fell just slightly from 14,563 sold last November. However, year-to-date Toyota sales are up 21.1% from last year, when the company was struggling to pump out supply after Japan’s devastating tsunami in March.

The company said sales of its trucks, of Lexus vehicles and hybrids all had record months.

Fellow Japanese carmarker Hyundai Auto Canada Corp. said year-over-year sales grew 20% to 10,101 units for the best November in its history. Hyundai has sold 128,420 vehicles in Canada year-to-date, a gain of 4.6% over the first 11 months of last year.

Kia Canada reported its best November ever with sales up to 5,719 vehicles, a 17.8% year-over-year increase. For the first 11 months of the year, sales are up 19.7%.

In the U.S., carmakers from Chrysler to Volkswagen reported brisk demand in November, and said sales rose on everything from small SUVs to sedans.

November sales, when calculated on an annual basis, are likely to be 15 million or more, the highest rate since March of 2008, according to LMC Automotive, a Detroit-area industry consulting firm.

That’s higher than the 14.3 million annual rate so far this year, even though November is normally a lacklustre month due to cold weather and holiday anticipation.

The Canadian Press

Arianna Huffington: #My2K and How to Keep Our Political Debate From Going Over the Cliff

Hey, have you heard about this thing called “the fiscal cliff”? Actually, the better question is: Have you heard about anything except the fiscal cliff? Nine months ago, the term had not even entered the media lexicon. And now it’s suddenly everywhere. But whether or not we go over the fiscal cliff, around the fiscal curve, or down the fiscal slope remains to be seen, but one thing is already certain: Our political debate has already gone over the cliff. Why can’t we channel some of the ingenuity we clearly possess for producing manufactured crises — and giving them catchy names — into solving our real problems? The debate the country should be locked in right now isn’t about the fiscal cliff and the deficit but about the growth cliff and the 20 million unemployed or underemployed Americans. The only way we’re going to grow the economy is if we grow the debate about the economy.

Read more: Ben Bernanke Federal Reserve, Fiscal Cliff, Fiscal Cliff Negotiations, Federal Reserve, Obama Fiscal Cliff, Ben Bernanke, Politics News