Jan 19 (Reuters) – Wells Fargo & Co, the
third-largest U.S. bank by assets, said on Thursday it would
merge its international business with its wholesale banking unit
that serves corporate clients.
Pass the parcel is alive and well at Quebec-based MAAX Inc., a manufacturer of bathroom products and accessories.
For the third time in the past 13 years, the company, formed in 1970 and which in its heyday employed 3,800 people in 24 plants and distribution centres in North America and Europe, has a new owner.
If the timeline is extended to the past 20 years, the company has had four owners given that it went public in 1997. Since then it has been sold to a private equity consortium, suffered through the U.S. financial and housing crisis and gone through a restructuring where its major lender, Brookfield Capital Partners, acquired control. It is a significantly smaller company than it was at its peak.
American Bath Group is MAAX’s newest owner. This month the Tennessee-based company – which itself was acquired for US$750 million by a private equity owner, Lone Star Funds, last September – won the right to the keys to the company.
American Bath bought MAAX from Brookfield, which acquired control in 2008 because it provided the capital to the private equity consortium that bought MAAX in the summer of 2004 for $640 million. Boston-based J.W. Childs Associates, Borealis Private Equity and Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System were in the consortium. Brookfield made Mark Gold MAAX’s chief executive in 2010. We were unable to reach Gold.
The refrain runs this way: there is nothing wrong with dual class of share companies, provided there are coattail provisions because in the event of a takeover, all shareholders will be treated equally.
To that argument the proponents add another: investors like to know that those who built the company that is now going public still have a large stake because it gives them comfort in the investment they are about to make.
Maybe, but Anita Anand, the J.R. Kimber Chair in Investor Protection and Corporate Governance at the University of Toronto, has a different take. In her view, there is “a potential” for shareholders to be mistreated in a buy-out situation. “We saw that in the Magna situation,” she said, noting that in return for collapsing its dual classes of shares the company agreed to pay the Stronach family a ton of cash and stock. In return the market rewarded the holders of Magna’s subordinate voting shares with a pop in the share price.
Overall, Anand said there are “very few safeguards,” for investors who purchase shares in dual-class companies. She added that “it’s well acknowledged,” that corporate governance models that have a dual-class structure are “somewhat problematic” and not perceived well by many sectors of the market.
Given the dearth of IPOs in Canada — a pattern that mirrors the situation in the U.S. — and the recent trend for those that go public here to have two classes of shares — Anand argued it’s time for regulatory action.
“To me it’s incumbent on securities regulators to look at dual-class share structures and to ensure that there are safeguards for subordinate shareholders in the going public situation and in the buy-out situation,” she said.
While the TSX has mandated that coattails be included for all new companies that go public, Anand said a change of control can occur in situations other than a takeover. One way is proxy contests where, she says, the coattail “provisions don’t necessarily apply,” meaning “you can’t ensure fair treatment of the subordinate shareholders merely by the coattail provisions that the TSX mandate.”
Each year, 8 million tons of plastic wind up in the ocean. At this rate, by 2050, we’ll have more plastic than fish in our big blue seas.
That threat played a major role in motivating Unilever, the company behind such brands as Dove and Suave, to upend its approach to packaging. Unilever announced on Jan. 14 that all of its plastic packaging will be recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.
“If we want to solve the issue of plastic in the ocean, we can’t go to the symptoms,” CEO Paul Polman told The Huffington Post. “We have to go to the source.”
While recycling experts welcomed the announcement, some said they were “cautiously optimistic” about how effective it will be.
Jennie Romer, attorney and founder of plasticbaglaws.org ― a resource for cities and states looking to reduce plastic bag consumption – emphasized that while introducing recyclable packaging is a move in the right direction, it won’t serve as a cure-all.
Just because something is recyclable, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be recycled, Romer noted.
Just 14 percent of plastic packaging is collected for recycling, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
Ramping up recycling figures will also mean improving recycling programs, ensuring products will be accepted at curbside bins and developing informative programs for consumers.
“This is a step towards getting there,” Romer said of Unilever’s commitment.
But Romer added that she wants to make sure Unilever’s plan amounts to more than a public relations announcement that gives “consumers that warm and fuzzy feeling.”
Romer noted that while Unilever has altruistic intentions, it’s also responding to pressure from environmental groups and consumers. And “that pressure needs to continue,” she said.
To achieve a true circular economy – one that effectively reduces waste and pollution – Romer stressed the need for companies to make their packaging from post-consumer recycled plastic, such as an empty shampoo bottle that can be broken down and repurposed.
Unilever has committed to using post-consumer recycled plastic in its packaging. The company said it will increase its use of recycled plastic content in its packaging to at least 25 percent by 2025.
Part of why this element is so critical is because it creates demand for purchasing reusable plastic, explained Brent Bell, vice president of recycling at Waste Management, the largest recycler in the United States.
Unilever emphasized its intentions to work in coalitions, with governments and other companies in order to propel the movement toward sustainable packaging and improved recycling figures.
Together with 40 industry leaders, Unilever joined an initiative launched by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The goal is to increase global recycling rates for plastic packaging to 70 percent.
Polman said it’s “difficult to identify” how much it will cost Unilever to transition to a more sustainable packaging model.
But in an effort to make it easier for other companies to adopt similar strategies, Polman said Unilever is eager to share some of its innovative breakthroughs.
“We’re willing to share this because we think it’s more important that we all do this,” Polman said.
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Ride-hailing company Uber Technologies Inc has agreed to pay $20 million to settle claims by the U.S. government that it exaggerated prospective earnings in seeking to recruit drivers and downplayed the costs of buying or leasing a car, documents filed with a federal court on Thursday showed.