U.S. requires HeidelbergCement, Italcementi to divest U.S. assets

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – German cement producer HeidelbergCement AG and Italian producer Italcementi SpA have agreed to divest some U.S. assets to settle the Federal Trade Commission’s charge that…

No cryptocurrency anytime soon, Bank of Canada says: ‘We’re very far off’

Bank of Canada senior deputy governor Carolyn Wilkins is pouring cold water on rumours that the central bank is developing its own cryptocurrency.

In a speech in Calgary Friday, Wilkins reiterated that the digital currency CAD-Coin the Bank of Canada said it was experimenting with Thursday is only a prototype for how large transactions between banks might be settled in the future. Anyone looking forward to the central bank issuing a digital currency for public use like Bitcoin or Ether should be prepared to wait a long time, she said.

“I think we’re very far off,” she said. “Our priority is to see upgrades made to the core payment systems that the financial system relies on and that the Bank oversees.”

On Thursday, a person attending a panel discussion at Calgary’s Payments Panorama conference tweeted a slide from a presentation on a Bank of Canada experiment. The slide revealed the Bank of Canada was exploring how distributed ledger technology could be used to make payment settlement between banks more efficient and secure.

Distributed ledger technology, also known as blockchain, links computers together to create a tamper-resistant record. It allows parties that don’t entirely trust each other, such as competing banks, to conduct secure transactions without an intermediary making sure everything is on the level.

To conduct the experiment, the Bank of Canada created CAD-Coin, a medium of exchange that served as a sort of receipt of transactions within the system. Similar to trading real dollars for poker chips and exchanging them back into dollars at the end of the night, CAD-Coin has no value outside the settlement system.

“Because it cannot be used anywhere else, it is a different animal altogether from a digital currency for widespread use,” Wilkins said.

Despite the Bank of Canada’s statements clarifying it was just an experiment and never intended for public use, headlines about Canada’s new “digital fiat currency” appeared in publications around the world Thursday and Friday.

Jan Pilbauer, chief information officer for Payments Canada, said the experimental settlement system was powered by the distributed ledger software Ethereum. R3, a consortium of financial institutions exploring potential uses of blockchain technology, was responsible for coding the distributed ledger, he said.

Some might be disappointed that they won’t be able to buy a bag of chips with a CAD-Coin any time soon, but Pilbauer said he’s enjoying the attention the topic is getting.

“People are interested in payments, which doesn’t happen every day,” he said. “Payments are making headlines. I’m excited.”

Financial Post


Under pressure, senators formulate gun control compromise

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Some Republican senators tried on Friday to craft a compromise bill to impose limited gun restrictions in the face of pressure from Democrats and public rage over the Orlando mass shooting, the deadliest in modern U.S. history.

Transport Canada seeks to regulate train emissions for the first time

Transport Canada plans to regulate emissions from locomotives for the first time, a move forecast to cost the rail industry $162.3 million over 10 years but reduce emissions by nearly 10 per cent.

The government published the details of its proposed regulations Friday in the Canada Gazette. The goal is to align Canada’s standards with the United States as the Liberals seek to reduce emissions from all forms of transportation.

“Aligning locomotive emission standards with the U.S. will provide regulatory certainty for the rail industry and improve the efficiency of the North American transportation system,” Transport Minister Marc Garneau said in a statement.

“Most importantly, these regulations will lead to environmental benefits that protect the health of Canadians and advance green technologies.”

According to the proposal in the Canada Gazette, the rail industry is responsible for 11.1 per cent of all nitrogen oxide emissions and 4.6 per cent of particulate matter emissions.

Transport Canada’s cost-benefit analysis found that the proposed regulations will cost $162.3 million over 10 years but will create benefits worth $244.9 million, including a 9.3 per cent reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions and an eight per cent drop in particulate matter emissions. This doesn’t include the potential reduction in healthcare costs.

The move comes as North American railways struggle with declining volumes amid weak commodity prices and subdued consumer demand. Total North American carloads are down 10.4 per cent so far in the second quarter, according to Cowen and Co., led by declines in coal, metals and chemicals.

Canadian National Railway Co. spokesman Mark Hallman said the company will review the proposed regulations before commenting on them, but added that CN and the industry as a whole have done “much on their own to reduce the carbon footprint of rail operations.”

CN has achieved a 36 per cent improvement in fuel and carbon efficiency over the past 20 years based on fuel consumption per 1,000 gross ton miles, Hallman said.

“CN also continues to lead the rail industry in fuel efficiency, consuming 15 per cent less fuel per gross ton mile than the industry average,” he added.

Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The government suggested railways could pass on at least some of the costs of compliance to shippers, adding that this should not “have a significant impact on business and consumers.”

It also said it would provide flexibility for small railways with revenues of $30 million or less.

Under the existing U.S. regulations, emissions standards vary by the type of locomotive and the year it was originally manufactured.

The proposed rules would require railways to conduct regular emissions tests and cut down on the amount of time spent idling.

Obama, Saudi prince focus on Iraq and Syria in Washington meeting

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama and the deputy crown prince of Saudi Arabia on Friday discussed ways to support Iraqis in their fight against Islamic State militants and the importance of a political transition in war-torn Syria, the White House said.

iOS 10 Hidden Features: Split-View Safari, Mail Filters, Universal Clipboard and More

iOS 10 has been described by Apple as its biggest iOS update ever, with new features like a total overhaul of the Lock screen, a revamped Messages app that includes its own dedicated App Store, among other improvements, a Siri SDK for developers, a more capable Photos app, a redesigned Apple Music app, and hundreds of other changes, big and small.

In the video below, we’ve rounded up some of the smaller but still significant changes that have gone largely under the radar, like an easy access “Unsubscribe” button for newsletters in the Mail app, side-by-side Safari multitasking on iPads, Notes collaboration, cross device copy and paste, voicemail transcription, and more.

Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos.

Over the beta testing period, Apple will undoubtedly introduce refinements to many of the previously announced features, along with tweaks to the interface and new minor features to streamline iOS 10 ahead of its release in the fall. We’ll have ongoing coverage of iOS 10 and the other operating system updates unveiled at WWDC — watchOS 3, macOS Sierra, and tvOS 10.

Don’t miss out on our previous videos, which have covered iOS 10 and macOS Sierra features:

WWDC 2016 Overview in Seven Minutes

iOS 10’s Overhauled Lockscreen

The New iOS 10 Photos App

The New iOS 10 Messages App

Siri on Mac

For full details on all of the new features included in iOS 10, make sure to check out our dedicated iOS 10 roundup.

Related Roundup: iOS 10

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How capital ratios can steer a bank’s financing options

It may not be as popular an assignment now as it was in the past, but compare and contrast is still a useful way to analyze a situation.

Here the situation is the different approach taken recently by Canadian Western Bank (CWB) and National Bank of Canada (NA) to improve their various capital ratios.

This week CWB announced a $125 million common equity financing, which was later upped to about $150 million. In the revised deal the underwriters bought 6.125 million shares at $24.50 a share.

The immediate effect of the financing was a rise in the bank’s common equity Tier I ratio (CET1) to about 8.9 per cent. Prior to this the ratio — which measures the bank’s core equity capital compared with its total risk-weighted assets — stood at about 8.2 per cent. (That ratio will fall about 15 basis points when the bank’s previously announced purchase of GE’s Franchise Finance portfolio closes this quarter.)

At the current 8.2 per cent, the bank’s CET1 ratio was viewed as a tad low when compared with the seven per cent minimum allowed by the regulators and the same ratio at the other banks. But the regulators demand a cushion above that minimum and a one percent spread is the lowest they’ll tolerate.

In those circumstances and with the immediate priority to improve its CET1 ratio, the bank opted to sell common shares. Earlier this year, when the same bank had a different set of priorities, it chose to sell rate-reset preferred shares: 5.6 million at $25 a share for which it will pay 6.25 per cent.

But rate-reset pref shares don’t have the ability to change a bank’s CET1 ratio. Instead they change two other capital ratios: the Tier 1 ratio and the Total Capital Ratio. (After its recent common equity financing, those two ratios for CWB will rise to 10.80 per cent — up 70 basis points — and 12.90 — again up 70 basis points — respectively.)

For CWB, the longer-term effect of the common equity financing is that it will add to its capital base and aid in its growth plans.

On the other hand, the National Bank decided to raise permanent capital by way of two issues of rate-reset preferred shares. In January it raised $400 million — at a yield of 5.60 per cent — and followed up with another $400 million at 5.40 per cent this month.

In both cases, the financings were not done to improve any capital ratios. Instead, as the release said at the time, the offerings’ net proceeds will be used “for general corporate purposes” and added to the bank’s “capital base.” As one analyst noted Friday, the financing was done at a time when other banks were raising capital in the same form. “They took advantage of the market opportunity,” he said, noting that while rate-resets are permanent capital, the issuer has the option to redeem them every five years.

Last October, National Bank deviated from the script when it raised $300 million of common equity — a move that upped its CET1 ratio. While the proceeds were earmarked for general corporate purposes, the bank noted overall restructuring changes ($85 million) and a potential substantial loss on its investment in Maple Financial Group added to the desire to raise permanent capital.

Financial Post


U.S. and Canada say ‘significant differences’ remain in softwood lumber dispute

The U.S. and Canada have “significant differences” amid talks toward a new softwood-lumber trade pact, according to the countries’ top trade officials.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Canadian International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland released a joint statement Friday stressing that negotiations continue on what they described as an important part of both economies.

The previous softwood lumber deal expired in October 2015, and the file has historically been one of the thorniest between the two trading partners. Both countries have until October to iron out a new trade accord, after which U.S. companies can file new trade cases against Canadian imports.

“While significant differences remain between us, this period of intensive engagement has helped define shared goals and explore options for several key components of any new agreement,” Froman and Freeland said. “The United States and Canada are committed to continuing negotiations in an effort to achieve a durable and equitable solution for North American softwood lumber producers, downstream industries and consumers.”

The two nations have long sparred over softwood lumber, with the dispute gaining steam in the early 1980s when U.S. lumber companies complained Canada gave producers access to cheap timber on government land. Since the deal expired last year, there’s been little sign of an imminent agreement.

‘War’ Ahead?

“It will be an absolute miracle if they get something done in time,” said Kevin Mason, managing director ERA Forest Products Research, a Vancouver-based financial research company. “I think we’re definitely heading for a trade war that will be long and extended and nasty.”

Canadian lumber exports to the U.S. have risen sharply since the expiration of the agreement, which is stoking American fears about Canadian lumber taking market share away from U.S. producers, Mason said in a telephone interview.

The U.S. has already challenged Canada on other trade issues, including tariffs on supercalendered paper, and it would not be surprising for duties on lumber to be as high as 30 per cent this fall, he said.

“We’re not doing ourselves any favours by how aggressively we’ve been pushing ourselves into the market,” Mason said.

Canadian lumber exports to the U.S. gained 24 per cent from October to April from a year earlier, Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Joshua Zaret said in a June 16 report. April exports were up 31 per cent to the highest level since April 2007, according to the report.

Bloomberg News