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LACKIE: Outdated open houses no longer necessary, not worth the risks


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Being able to produce a well-attended open house is clear and demonstrable.

It’s also a great way for agents to get themselves in front of prospective buyer clients. Nice to meet you, are you currently working with an agent?

Here’s why I loathe open houses:

You have no idea who is there and why.

Unlike a buyer-broker showing where the buyer has been pre-qualified, open house attendees could be anyone.

The nosy neighbour who is dying to see your renovation. Someone looking for valuables. Someone with an hour to kill before brunch.

On a sunny day, you’re likely to have a slew of people out for walks who happen upon your sign and decide to pop in.

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

If the weather is terrible, people will stay home and come with their agent at their convenience.

It seems like an excellent way to gauge interest, but it’s often not.

You can have fifty groups through an open house and still have no offers. You can have a poorly attended open house and still have a bidding war.

I will take a list of agents who have shown my property and can provide clear and instructive feedback to relay to my client any day.

Conversely, there is no upside to assuming the liability that comes with bringing strangers through a private residence in the midst of a global pandemic. It’s just not responsible.

You think you might be interested in a house you saw online? Skip the open house and repeat after me: just because it’s permitted, doesn’t make it wise.

— Brynn Lackie is a second generation realtor and life-long resident of Toronto

@brynnlackie





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Tanzanian miner finds third rare tanzanite gem worth millions after record haul


A small-scale miner from Tanzania made another record discovery of one of the world’s rarest gemstone this month, hauling in a precious, 14-pound stone valued at $2 million, according to a report.

Saniniu Laizer, 52, became an overnight millionaire in June after he sold two violet-blue tanzanite gemstones said to be the largest ever found in the country. Weighing a total of 33 pounds, he sold them for 7.74 billion Tanzanian shillings ($3.4 million U.S. dollars).

Laizer announced he would slaughter one of his 2,000 cows, have a big party, and invest in the local community after finding the two record stones earlier this summer, according to the BBC.

TANZANIAN MINER FINDS RECORD TANZANITE GEMS, BECOMES OVERNIGHT MILLIONAIRE

“There will be a big party tomorrow,” said Laizer, from the Manyara region. “I want to build a shopping mall and a school. I want to build this school near my home. There are many poor people around here who can’t afford to take their children to school.”

“I am not educated but I like things run in a professional way. So I would like my children to run the business professionally,” he continued.

The BBC reported that he has four wives and more than 30 children.

Saniniu Laizer poses with two rough Tanzanite stones back in June, said to be the largest ever found in the country.

Saniniu Laizer poses with two rough Tanzanite stones back in June, said to be the largest ever found in the country.
(TANZANIA MINISTRY OF MINERALS)

While a party isn’t on his schedule this time around, Laizer said on Monday he would continue with his dream in using the money to build a school, as well as a health facility in his community — located in the northern Manyara region.

SCHOOLGIRLS IN INDIA DISCOVER ASTEROID AFTER TRAWLING THROUGH SPACE IMAGES

Tanzanite is said to be a gemstone found only in the northern region of the country. It’s reportedly used to make ornaments — with its rarity defined by how clear or well defined the color is.

Tanzania President John Magufuli had ordered the military to build a wall surrounding a Manyara mining site in 2017 — believed to be the world’s only source of tanzanite — with its supply estimated to be depleted within 20 years, a geologist told the news organization.

Last year, Tanzania set up trading centers to allow artisanal miners, like Laizer, to sell their gems and gold to the government. Many reportedly mine by hand without any affiliation to mining companies. Following his recent discovery, Laizer encouraged other small scale miners to work for the government.

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“Selling to the government means there are no shortcuts,” he said during a ceremony celebrating his find in the northern Mirerani mine, according to the BBC. “They are transparent.”



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Are Gas Deposits in the Mediterranean Worth a War?


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Man and woman arrested and €30k worth of drugs seized in Co Dublin


A man and woman have been arrested and €30,000 worth of drugs have been seized following a search of a house by gardaí in Loughlinstown, Co Dublin on Friday.

Cannabis worth €20,000 and cocaine worth €10,000 were discovered in a vehicle at the property in the Loughlinstown Drive area of Loughlinstown. Knives, batons and pepper spray were also seized.

The man and woman, both in their 30s, were arrested at the scene.

They are being detained under Section 2 of the Drug Trafficking Act 1996 at Dún Laoghaire Garda Station.

Investigations are ongoing.



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Scrapped: How nearly $150 billion worth of energy projects have been shelved in Canada


By Kevin Martine

Canadian and international investors have had a hard time getting shovels in the ground on their projects, even after securing regulatory approval. The reasons have been many: pure economics, political divisions, Indigenous disapproval and environmental concerns.

All of the above factors have left a slew of projects stranded as Canadians are unable to agree on our need to develop resources and at the same time fight climate change. Together, they make up around $150 billion of lost investment opportunity that would have generated taxes, jobs and businesses for the domestic economy.

Here are some of the major energy projects over the past few years that never saw the light of day:

Project: Frontier Oilsands Mine

Cost: $20.6 billion
Company: Teck Resources Ltd.

The proposed oilsands mine in northern Alberta was expected to produce 260,000 barrels of oil per day. It was cancelled by the proponent over the weekend amid a major fight between Ottawa and Alberta over climate change issues, a lack of pipeline capacity and low oil prices. The project was expected to push up Canadian carbon emissions and was opposed by environmental groups, but enjoyed the support of many First Nations in the region.

Project: Northern Gateway
Cost: $7.9 billion
Company: Enbridge Inc.
The proposed pipeline to bring oil from northern Alberta to a port in Kitimat B.C. was approved by Stephen Harper’s government in 2014, but was quashed by a Federal Court of Appeal two years later. It was rejected by the Liberal government in 2016.

The pipeline was expected to ship 525,000 barrels of oil per day to international markets and boost pipeline capacity to meet the needs of surging Canadian oil production.

Project: Energy East
Cost: $16 billion
Company: TransCanada Corp. (now TC Energy Corp.)

A proposed pipeline to carry 1.1 million barrels of crude oil per day from Alberta and Saskatchewan to coastal refineries in New Brunswick. TransCanada planned to build 1,500 kilometres of new pipe and reverse the direction on another 3,000 km of an existing pipeline. It faced heavy opposition in Quebec and Ontario and the environmental review process was marked by controversy. The National Energy Board, the regulator at the time, ultimately asked the company to restart the environmental review process. TransCanada scrapped the project in October 2017.

Project: Pacific Northwest LNG
Cost: $36 billion
Lead company: Petronas Bhd.

The proposed LNG pipeline and export terminal in Prince Rupert B.C. on the Pacific Ocean was to export as much as 18 million tonnes of natural gas per year. The Malaysian state-owned oil and gas company and its international partners said high upfront investment costs along with plummeting global prices for natural gas reduced the feasibility of the project. The project also faced a lengthy environmental review process, with concerns raised by local Indigenous groups about the project’s impact on fragile salmon spawning grounds in the area. It was cancelled by Petronas in July 2017.

Project: Aurora LNG
Cost: $28 billion
Lead company: Nexen Energy

The proposed LNG export terminal was expected to be built south of Prince Rupert in B.C. The project was a partnership between Nexen, the Chinese-oil company based in Calgary, and Japan-based INPEX Gas. It was expected to handle between 10 to 12 million tonnes of natural gas each year, but the proponents announced in September 2017 that they would scrap the project.

Project: Prince Rupert LNG
Cost: $16 billion
Lead company: Royal Dutch Shell

The proposed LNG export facility in Prince Rupert B.C. was expected to have an export capacity of up to 21 million tonnes per year. It was cancelled in March 2017, after its developer BG Group was acquired by Royal Dutch Shell.

Shell said that it was cancelling the project because it wished to focus on its other B.C. LNG project in Kitimat B.C. The LNG Canada export terminal will connect resources in B.C. to Asian markets via the Coastal Gaslink — the pipeline opposed by some hereditary Wet’suwet’en chiefs who are upset that the pipeline traverses through their unceded territory. The opposition has led to rail blockades across the country and has emerged as another flashpoint in the debate over Indigenous issues and resource development.

Project: WCC LNG
Cost: $25 billion
Lead company: Exxon Mobil Corp.

A proposed LNG export facility in Prince Rupert B.C. which was expected to export 15 million tonnes of natural gas per year, with room to expand to up to 30 million tonnes per year. It was being developed as a joint partnership between Exxon Mobil Corp. and its subsidiary the Calgary-based Imperial Oil Ltd. The project was shelved indefinitely in December 2018.



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A deal for the Bay is finally close, but is the retailer even worth saving?


The Financial Post takes a look at 11 people and companies we’ll be watching closely in the new year.

It is 4 p.m., precisely a week before Christmas at a Hudson’s Bay store at the corner of Yonge and Bloor in downtown Toronto. The area is one of the city’s biggest shopping destinations during the busiest season of the year. But the Bay is dreary.

Most of the fluorescent lights are burnt out in the men’s fragrances department. A level up, in women’s wear, the mannequins outnumber the humans. Dozens more lights are out, others are flickering and one is buzzing, while the ceiling panels are stained black by either dust or smoke, it’s difficult to tell.

The carpet, too, has curious stains. A splotch beside a rack of Adrianna Papell dresses looks like a lady dancing. And the renovation work on the hotel next door groans through the floor, thudding, thrashing, scratching.

This is the Bay on the edge of the so-called Mink Mile, a magnet for the city’s fanciest shoppers. This is also a little piece of what two warring factions of investors, bankers and Bay Street lawyers have been fighting for months to control.

Late Friday, Hudson’s Bay Co.’s chairman Richard Baker and his group of shareholders announced they were raising their bid for the department store chain by $75 million, to $11 a share or $1.18 billion in total. That increase was enough for the takeover bid’s loudest opponent and HBC’s largest minority shareholder, Catalyst Capital Group Inc., which pledged to support the deal when it’s put to a vote.

The Bay store at Yonge and Bloor streets in Toronto.

The Bay store at Yonge and Bloor streets in Toronto.

Peter J. Thompson/National Post files

And with that, the takeover battle for Canada’s oldest company — older than the country by 197 years — appears close to a conclusion, but amid all the talk around the fate of the historic Canadian retailer, a nagging question remains: Is the Bay actually worth saving?

Industry observers say it would take some combination of closing certain stores, shrinking others and making drastic improvements to the in-store experience — meaning improved service, cleaner stores and a better mix of brands — to make the Bay relevant again.

But even then, it might be too late.

“Do I think in its current state it can survive? No,” said Fred Waks, a former president of RioCan REIT who has spent decades developing shopping centres.

If you want to know why the Bay, unchanged, will die, Waks invites you to walk into one of the stores and look around.

“You look at the floors and you look at the ceilings and you look at the fixtures,” he said. “To find somebody to help you is extremely rare.”

Do I think in its current state it can survive? No

Fred Waks, a former president of RioCan REIT

Up till now, HBC has been frank about its survival prospects if shareholders reject Baker’s offer. Left on the public market, the argument goes, HBC would struggle to find support for the expensive, time-consuming work of overhauling the business, repurposing real estate and improving its e-commerce efforts.

Since Baker first announced the takeover bid this summer, Catalyst has been the main shareholder standing in his way. Arguing that Baker was undervaluing the company, Catalyst launched a competing bid of its own.

Baker and Catalyst then traded barbs in a seemingly endless stream of press releases until, last month, Catalyst succeeded in delaying a vote on the bid altogether by complaining to the Ontario Securities Commission.

HBC Chairman Richard Baker in 2015.

HBC Chairman Richard Baker in 2015.

Peter J. Thompson/National Post files

Baker’s new offer rescues what looked like a doomed deal since Catalyst, with a 17-per-cent stake, boasted enough allies to derail the old bid in a shareholder vote, which required support from a majority of minority shareholders.

For months, Baker’s group refused to budge, insisting $10.30 was their “best and final offer” and declining to entertain outside bids. But Friday’s revised bid — the third in a series of Baker group offers, starting at $9.45 in June — matched what Catalyst was itself willing to pay for HBC.

At $11 per share, Catalyst’s 32.3 million shares are worth $22.6 million more than they were at $10.30 per share. With Catalyst now onside, Baker’s group of shareholders — a handful of international investors, including the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and Boston-based Abrams Capital Management LP — have surpassed a major hurdle.

A special committee of HBC’s board of directors have endorsed Baker’s offer as the best, most plausible way forward. But there are still some barriers to the deal. In light of the new offer, the committee is seeking an updated valuation and fairness opinion on the company. HBC is allowed to terminate Baker’s $11-per-share deal if it’s below the new fairness opinion’s formal valuation range. The deal also needs to pass a shareholder vote.


A customer holds a shopping bag inside the Hudson’s Bay Co. flagship store in Toronto.

Cole Burston/Bloomberg files

But HBC’s challenges do not end if and when the deal closes.

“The retail environment is deteriorating,” special committee chair David Leith told shareholders in a November letter.

In the year and a half since Helena Foulkes took over as chief executive, HBC has rid itself of underperforming assets so it can focus on its core businesses — the Bay and Saks Fifth Avenue — while closing Home Outfitters and selling off Lord and Taylor, as well as the Gilt e-commerce business and HBC’s European operations.

But still, it wasn’t enough to stop HBC’s stock from tanking, Leith said in December. Over five years, the price fell about 64 per cent, to around $6 in June, before Baker’s take-private bid was announced. In a call with investors in December, Foulkes acknowledged the Bay’s biggest issues: hard-to-find staff and hard-to-navigate stores.

“We’re fixing the fundamentals of the store environment,” she said.

Foulkes is also in the middle of cutting down the Bay’s mix of brands, culling 600 older, more conservative ones, and replacing them with 75 designer labels. For those new brands, the Bay is focusing on getting them from places such as South Korea and Scandinavia, instead of the traditional fashion markets of London, Paris and Milan.

But fixing the business will take cutting more than brands, said Kathleen Wong, a retail analyst at Veritas Investment Research.

“It’s tough,” she said last month. “There are way too many stores.”

The Hudson's Bay flagship store in Toronto.

The Hudson’s Bay flagship store in Toronto.

Cole Burston/Bloomberg files

For years, Wong said, HBC seemed intent on expanding, adding new banners and pushing into new markets while its flagship brand, the Bay, floundered. The Bay currently has 89 department stores across Canada, but reducing that footprint is complicated.

“When you look at it, it’s a bit late now,” she said. “If HBC wants to get out now, who’s going to buy the real estate?”

One major problem is that the properties were built for department stores and, lately, department stores have not been strong tenants. In more suburban areas, the Bay tends to be an anchor tenant in shopping malls, and locked into hefty long-term leases. Again, it’s tough to move a footprint of that size.

“It’s not like you can just whip out a pad of paper and decide you’re going to move out of some of these locations,” said Michael LeBlanc, a former executive at HBC in the early 2000s who now runs M.E. LeBlanc & Co., a retail consultancy. “They’re decades-long leases and who’s gonna buy them?”

The other issue with maintaining such a vast cluster of sprawling department stores is that it takes a lot of money to run. You need the staff and the budget to, say, replace each light bulb when it goes out. If you don’t, the whole brand reputation suffers.

Signage inside a Hudson's Bay store in Toronto.

Signage inside a Hudson’s Bay store in Toronto.

Cole Burston/Bloomberg files

“If you’ve got a big fleet like that, and you want them all to maintain the brand standard, it takes a lot of investment,” LeBlanc said. “Maybe you don’t need them to be as big as they are.”

But shrinking stores causes a similar problem: “Who gets the rest?” he asked, pointing out that it takes time and investment to redevelop parts of stores for new tenants.

But regardless of the size, the stores just need to look and operate better, said Waks, the retail real estate developer, who now runs Trinity Development Group Inc.

“If you don’t put the capital in real estate,” he said, “you do not get the productivity.”

The best example of that, Waks said, is the Bay at Yonge and Bloor. It’s in a prime shopping location and yet it doesn’t appear to have been upgraded in years.

Why on Earth is anyone going to shop there based on the shopping experience?

Fred Waks

“Why on Earth is anyone going to shop there based on the shopping experience?” he said, also pointing out that a flagging department store is at risk of losing the best brands.

In a neighbourhood such as the Mink Mile, brands have other options. The luxury department store Holt Renfrew is down the street. And major brands such as Chanel and Versace have their own stores in nearby Yorkville.

“They don’t want to downplay their brand,” Waks said. “You have to show them that you’ve got the customer base and the sales and the ability to move their wares.”

If not, the brand pulls out, giving customers one less reason to shop in the store. As fewer customers come, more brands stay away, sending the store spiralling further and further, until it looks something like the Bay on Bloor: dowdy, dirty and empty.

“If you don’t invest,” Waks said, “you lose.”

Financial Post

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Texas shooting: Two people killed by armed gunman at church near Forth Worth | World | News


One person died at the scene of the shooting and one en route to the hospital, the Dallas Morning News said, citing a spokeswoman for local emergency services. Authorities were rushing to the scene at White Settlement, a suburb northwest of Fort Worth, where the West Freeway Church of Christ is located, local media said. The Fort Worth Fire Department issued an “active threat” assignment at around 11.30am (17.30pm GMT) local time and was assisting operations at the scene, according to reports.

A witness told a local CBS affiliate that a man armed with a shotgun walked up to a server during communion and opened fire, before being shot by a person attending the service.

“You feel like your life is flashing before you.

“I was so worried about my little one,” witness Isabel Arreola told the network.

Authorities believe the attacker was among the three people shot but it was not known whether he had been killed or injured, CBS 11 reported.

Mike Drivdahl, spokesman for the Fort Worth Fire Department, said the shootings took place at the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, about 10 miles west of Fort Worth.

He said he had no information on the motive for the attack.

MedStar Mobile Healthcare spokeswoman Macara Trusty said one person died at the scene of the shooting and one person died en route to a hospital.

She said all the victims are male and Mr Drivdahl said that one of those shot was the gunman.

It was not immediately clear whether he was killed.

A witness told CBS11 News the gunman walked up to a server during Communion with a shotgun and began firing until another church member shot the suspect.

“It was the most scariest thing,” Isabel Arreola told the TV station.

“You feel like your life is flashing before you.

“I was so worried about my little one.”

Governor Greg Abbott issued a statement of condemnation for the “evil act of violence” at a “sacred” place of worship.

“I am grateful for the church members who acted quickly to take down the shooter and help prevent further loss of life,” Mr Abbott said.

“I ask all Texans to join us in praying for the White Settlement community and for all those affected by this horrible tragedy.”

White settlement is a city of about 17,000 people in Tarrant County.

Mr Drivdahl said his fire department was assisting city and county authorities in the investigation.

Bomb sniffing dogs were on the scene as a precaution, Mr Drivdahl said.

He added that he did not know how many people were attending the service when the shooting started.

“It’s a very tragic day whenever anyone in our community suffers,” Mr Drivdahl said.

“It not only affects people who were here today, it affects first responders as well.”



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