TD raises US$1-billion in bank’s first green bond issue south of border

Maybe the Canadians will show them.

In the same week Standard & Poor’s released a report on the development of the U.S green bond market, which lags the rest of the world, Toronto Dominion Bank revealed plans for a US$500 million raise via a senior green bond offering.

The offering, announced Thursday morning and priced later in the day, is noteworthy for two reasons. First, the deal was quickly upsized to US$1 billion and second, it marked the first time that TD has issued a green bond in the U.S.

In going to the U.S., TD Bank followed the lead of the Export Development Corp., the first Canadian entity into that market. In January 2014, EDC raised US$300 million; since then it has completed a US$300 million raise (December 2015) and in May 2017, a US$500 million funding. (Ontario has also completed a US$500 million green bond offering in the U.S.) One week back, EDC entered the Canadian market for the first time with a $500 million raise for five years at 1.80 per cent.

Now TD is going the other way, given that in 2014 it became the first Canadian commercial bank to issue a green bond in the domestic market when it raised $500 million from a three-year offering.

Low-carbon economy

Proceeds from that issue were used to support North American projects that contribute to the low-carbon economy through either renewable energy generation, or energy efficiency and management, or green infrastructure and sustainable land use.

So how did it do? TD published the use of proceeds with the bulk ($234 million) being used for building efficiency; $130 million was invested in transportation efficiency; and $59 million was invested in wind energy. The bank also referenced a $53 million investment in Toronto’s Bay Adelaide Centre — a building that “will feature best-in-class operational environmental and life-safety systems” — and a $20 million investment in a wind farm on Manitoulin Island.

TD takes its responsibilities seriously. For instance, it’s a signatory to the green bond principles, a set of global standards that promote integrity in the green bond market.

The proceeds of the offering are also placed in a segregated portfolio until allocated while an accounting firm provides an annual assurance on the allocation and reporting of proceeds to eligible projects.

Apart from TD, two provinces — Ontario (which used the proceeds to help fund the development of a subway line in Toronto) and Quebec — and at least one private public partnership (BC’s Tandem Health Partners) have issued green bonds. Earlier this year, a report indicated that Canadian issuance could top $50 billion annually.

South of the border, the market has “remained relatively small,” according to the S&P report, which noted that US$36 billion has been issued this year, split equally between corporations and municipalities. To put that US$36 billion into perspective, at the end of June on a global basis US$221 billion has been issued and remains outstanding.

So what’s behind the slow rate of progress in the U.S., home to about one-quarter of the world economy?

S&P contrasted the U.S. situation with Europe, which has “long benefited from a transparent and enduring carbon reduction framework.” In the U.S. at the federal level, debates on climate-change mitigation have been characterized by “partisan disagreement.” That politicization of climate change has ultimately slowed progress toward a successful resolution,” added the report.

And with a commander in chief who says climate change is a “hoax” invented by the Chinese, that lack of progress continues. The report noted the situation isn’t helped by the rollback of the Clean Power Plan this year and uncertainties regarding the incentives for solar power development. Offsetting those negatives are developments at the state level.

Financial Post

bcritchley@postmedia.com

Hackers Accessed 143 Million Americans’ Social Security Numbers in Equifax Breach

(SAN FRANCISCO) — Credit monitoring company Equifax has been hit by a high-tech heist that exposed the Social Security numbers and other sensitive information about 143 million Americans. Now the unwitting victims have to worry about the threat of having their identities stolen.

The Atlanta-based company, one of three major U.S. credit bureaus, said Thursday that “criminals” exploited a U.S. website application to access files between mid-May and July of this year.

The theft obtained consumers’ names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some cases, driver’s license numbers. The purloined data can be enough for crooks to hijack the identities of people whose credentials were stolen through no fault of their own, potentially wreaking havoc on their lives. Equifax said its core credit-reporting databases don’t appear to have been breached.

“On a scale of one to 10, this is a 10 in terms of potential identity theft,” said Gartner security analyst Avivah Litan. “Credit bureaus keep so much data about us that affects almost everything we do.”

Lenders rely on the information collected by the credit bureaus to help them decide whether to approve financing for homes, cars and credit cards. Credit checks are even sometimes done by employers when deciding whom to hire for a job.

Equifax discovered the hack July 29, but waited until Thursday to warn consumers. The Atlanta-based company declined to comment on that delay or anything else beyond its published statement. It’s not unusual for U.S. authorities to ask a company hit in a major hack to delay public notice so that investigators can pursue the perpetrators.

The company established a website, https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/ , where people can check to see if their personal information may have been stolen. Consumers can also call 866-447-7559 for more information. Experian is also offering free credit monitoring to all U.S. consumers for a year.

“This is clearly a disappointing event for our company, and one that strikes at the heart of who we are and what we do,” Equifax CEO Richard Smith said in a statement. “I apologize to consumers and our business customers for the concern and frustration this causes.”

This isn’t the biggest data breach in history. That indignity still belongs to Yahoo, which was targeted in at least two separate digital burglaries that affected more than 1 billion of its users’ accounts throughout the world.

But no Social Security numbers or drivers’ license information were disclosed in the Yahoo break-in.

Equifax’s security lapse could be the largest theft involving Social Security numbers, one of the most common methods used to confirm a person’s identity in the U.S. It eclipses a 2015 hack at health insurer Anthem Inc. that involved the Social Security numbers of about 80 million people .

Any data breach threatens to tarnish a company’s reputation, but it is especially mortifying for Equifax, whose entire business revolves around providing a clear financial profile of consumers that lenders and other businesses can trust.

“This really undermines their credibility,” Litan said. It also could undermine the integrity of the information stockpiled by two other major credit bureaus, Experian and TransUnion, since they hold virtually all the data that Equifax does, Litan said.

Equifax’s stock dropped 13 percent to $124.10 in extended trading after its announcement of the breach.

Three Equifax executives sold shares worth a combined $1.8 million just a few days after the company discovered it had been hacked, according to documents filed with securities regulators.

The sales, executed on August 1 and August 2, were made by: John Gamble, Equifax’s chief financial officer; Rodolfo Ploder, Equifax’s president of workforce solutions; and Joseph Loughran, Equifax’s president of U.S. information solutions. Bloomberg News first reported the divestitures.

In a subsequent statement, Equifax said the three executives “had no knowledge that an intrusion had occurred at the time they sold their shares.”

The potential aftershocks of the Equifax breach should make it clear that Social Security numbers are becoming an unreliable way to verify a person’s identity, Nathaniel Gleicher, the former director of cybersecurity policy in the White House during the Obama administration, said in an email statement.

“This breach might just have put the nail in the coffin of the idea that we can use personal identifiers like Social Security numbers as security factors,” wrote Gleicher, who now oversees cybersecurity strategy for computer security firm Illumio.

In addition to the personal information stolen in its breach, Equifax said the credit card numbers for about 209,000 U.S. consumers were also taken, as were “certain dispute documents” containing personal information for approximately 182,000 U.S. individuals.

Equifax warned that hackers also may have some “limited personal information” about British and Canadian residents. The company doesn’t believe that consumers from any other countries were affected.

Equifax Says Hack Potentially Exposed Details Of 143 Million Consumers

The company said criminals had accessed details including names, social security numbers, and, in some cases, driver’s license numbers.

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Dollarama reaps upside of $4 price points, credit card option

TORONTO — Dollarama Inc.’s decision to introduce credit card payment as an option at its stores is clearly paying off.

The retailer, who began allowing customers to use credit cards during the second quarter ended July 30, reported blockbuster earnings results on Thursday, with sales growth of 11.5 per cent and earnings per share growth of 31 per cent. The Montreal retailer’s shares ended the day 10.6 per cent higher to $134.72 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Chief financial officer Michael Ross told analysts on a conference call that average checkouts at the till with a credit card are already running more than twice the average basket size at the till for a cash transaction.

That was substantial enough to offset the merchant’s added costs from offering credit card payment as an option, he said. Dollarama said that average basket size at the checkout rose 5.9 per cent.

In the meantime, its newer $4 items appear to be just as popular with customers as lower-priced goods, according to industry analysts.

“We believe there has been good consumer acceptance of higher price point items,” Peter Sklar, analyst at BMO said in a note to clients Thursday, noting management said that seasonal merchandise performed well in the quarter. “We believe penetration of higher priced items is greater in the seasonal category than Dollarama’s other product categories,” he said.

In addition, related to the industry metric of inventory turns, Ross said the pricier merchandise appeared to be moving as quickly at the $4 price.

Pricing and consumer perception of its prices is critical for Dollarama, not only because it has carved out its reputation as a low-cost retailer but because it does hold targeted discount sales on select items, a strategy used frequently by Walmart, Canadian Tire and a number of grocers.

“If we are selling loose-leaf (paper) at $1.25 or $1.50 and it is a great value for 50 weeks of the year and during two weeks of the year the other retailers decide to give it away for ten cents, then for two weeks of the year (customers) won’t buy it at their stores and for the rest of the year hopefully they will, because we are just not in that high-low headspace,” chief executive Neil Rossy told analysts. “On any given day any given item, somebody will be beating us, and we don’t like to play that game or chase that low low.”

Net income climbed to $131.8 million, or $1.15 per share, in the second quarter, up from $106.4 million, or 88 cents, a year ago. That beat analyst mean estimates of $1.04, according to Thomson Reuters.

Same-store sales, a key measure of retail performance, rose 6.1 per cent, and sales in the second quarter rose 11.5% to $812.5 million.

Dollarama, with 1,125 stores across the country, said it is on track to open 60 to 70 net new stores by the end of the fiscal year.

Financial Post

hshaw@nationalpost.com

Twitter.com/HollieKShaw

Drinks industry distorts alcohol cancer risk: scientists

LONDON, Sept 7 (Reuters) – The alcohol industry uses denial, distortion and distraction to mislead people about the risks of developing cancer from drinking, often employing similar tactics to those of the tobacco industry, a study said on Thursday.