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Sagicor Financial Company Gets Green Light To Acquire Canada-Based Life Insurance Firm ivari   Published: 29 September 2023

  • Sagicor Financial Company has confirmed that it received regulatory approvals to acquire Canada-based life insurance firm, ivari. Sagicor says the transaction is expected to close on or about October 3 this year, subject to the satisfaction of all closing conditions.
  • The company announced that last year it was tipped to acquire ivari, one of the largest providers of universal life insurance in Canada.
  • The deal, once complete, will add CAD$13.9Bn to Sagicor's existing assets. In August 2022, Sagicor said the expected consideration, to be paid in cash at the close of the deal, is CAD$325Mn.
  • The acquisition of Ivari will transform Sagicor into a leading North American insurer serving the middle market in addition to market leadership in the Caribbean. Furthermore, the acquisition of Ivari is consistent with Sagicor's business goal of expanding into individual life insurance and diversifying into neighbouring geographic areas.
  • This acquisition is likely to result in a rating upgrade on the Company from S&P and/or Fitch which both noted that ivari would add value to Sagicor's credit profile given the prospective business and geographic diversification, ivari's good capital adequacy, and better asset quality in the group's investment portfolio.

(Source: RJR News)

81% Rise in Cruise Tourists to Trinidad Expected Published: 29 September 2023

  • Approximately 88,000 passengers are expected to set foot on Trinidad's shores during the upcoming cruise season, reflecting an 81% increase compared to last year, Tourism Trinidad Ltd has stated.
  • 'Building upon the achievements of the 2022-2023 season, initial projections indicate that approximately 88,000 passengers and 30,000 crew will set foot on Trinidad's shores, ushering in an influx of economic prosperity, cultural enrichment, and boundless opportunities for local businesses.
  • For the upcoming season, there are ten inaugural visits and five new cruise lines expected to arrive. 'The last cruise season showcased the remarkable potential of Trinidad's cruise industry. A total of 48,243 passengers arrived via 29 calls at the Cruise Ship Complex in Port of Spain. This past season exemplified the island's ability to offer a remarkable experience to cruise visitors from around the world,' the release stated.
  • 'The economic impact of the previous season was undeniable. The passenger disembarkation rate was at 80% or four in every five passengers with an average spend of US$43 per person. This infusion of spending power generated substantial revenue for local businesses, invigorating sectors such as retail, hospitality, transportation, and entertainment, and contributing to the overall economic growth of Trinidad,' it stated.
  • Tourism Trinidad CEO Carla Cupid added, 'Employment opportunities flourished as the cruise season unfolded. Local guides, tour operators, taxi drivers, craft vendors and service personnel played a pivotal role in ensuring an unforgettable experience for cruise passengers. This surge in employment not only provided income for individuals but also fostered skills development and contributed to the growth of the local tourism sector.'

(Source: Trinidad Express Newspaper)

Peru Seeks Mining Investment Amid Local ‘Chaos’ Published: 29 September 2023

  • Peru is looking to put the "chaos" of months-long protests earlier this year behind it to revitalize flagging mining investment in the world's no. 2 copper-producing nation, even as executives demand more stability to boost spending.
  • As a mining conference in the southern Andean region of Arequipa got started this week, Prime Minister Alberto Otarola addressed concerns about political instability and protests that have led to an expected 18% drop in mining investment this year.
  • "We are not going to allow the country to fall into chaos, disorder and insecurity," Otarola told hundreds of gathered mining business leaders, adding the government was also working to streamline environmental permitting regulations.
  • In interviews with Reuters, senior executives said that while things had improved since major nationwide protests at the start of the year, governance remained weak, while unclear rules and red tape for issues such as using contractors and securing environmental permits remained an obstacle to new investment.
  • Copper output has rebounded this year, but sliding investment in the Andean country, which has had six presidents in the last five years, has put production and the wider economy at risk. Mining makes up 60% of Peru's total exports.
  • "Peru has been growing and that is good, but at the institutional level we have not grown at the same speed, with the level of political maturity," Victor Gobitz, president of Peru's biggest copper mine Antamina said. "We have a fragmented political system, which takes its toll on the entire country."

(Source: Reuters)

US GDP Growth Unrevised At 2.1% In The Second Quarter As The Economy Shows Resilience   Published: 29 September 2023

  • The U.S. economy maintained a fairly solid pace of growth in the second quarter and activity appears to have accelerated this quarter, but a looming government shutdown and an ongoing strike by auto workers are dimming the outlook for the rest of 2023.
  • Inflation also remains elevated and tight labour market conditions continue to prevail, with the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rising slightly last week, the reports showed on Thursday.
  • "The big news is not that nothing has changed, but that the economy remains resilient, inflation remains elevated and the Fed's worst-case scenario, stagflation, has been avoided for now," said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer at Independent Advisor Alliance in Charlotte, North Carolina. "Given how much the Fed has raised rates, it's impressive that the economy is still growing at this pace."
  • Gross domestic product increased at an unrevised 2.1% annualized rate last quarter, the government said in its third estimate of GDP for the April-June period. That was in line with economists' expectations. A downgrade in growth in consumer spending to a lacklustre 0.8% rate from the previously reported 1.7% pace was offset by a sharp upward revision to business investment in factories amid a push by the Biden administration to bring semiconductor manufacturing back to the United States.

(Source: Reuters)

U.S. Government Shutdown Is Unlikely to Cause an Immediate Recession   Published: 29 September 2023

  • Federal government shutdowns have become so common in recent years that forecasters have a good read on how another one would affect the American economy. The answer is fairly simple: The longer a shutdown lasts, the more damage it is likely to inflict.
  • A brief shutdown would be unlikely to slow the economy significantly or push it into recession, economists on Wall Street and inside the Biden administration have concluded. That assessment is based in part on the evidence from prior episodes when Congress stopped funding many government operations.
  • On the other hand, a prolonged shutdown could hurt growth and potentially President Biden’s re-election prospects. It would join a series of other factors that are expected to weigh on the economy in the final months of this year, including high interest rates, the restart of federal student loan payments next month and a potentially lengthy United Automobile Workers strike.
  • A halt to federal government business would not just dent growth. It would further dampen the mood of consumers, whose confidence slumped in September for the second straight month amid rising gas prices. In the month that previous shutdowns began, the Conference Board’s measure of consumer confidence slid by an average of seven points, Goldman Sachs economists noted recently, although much of that decline reversed in the month after a reopening.
  • Gregory Daco, the chief economist at EY-Parthenon, said a government shutdown would not be a “game changer in terms of the trajectory of the economy.” However, he added, “the fear is that, if it combines with other headwinds, it could become a significant drag on economic activity.”
  • Goldman Sachs economists have estimated that a shutdown would reduce growth by about 0.2 percentage points for each week it lasted. That’s largely because most federal workers go unpaid during shutdowns, immediately pulling spending power out of the economy. However, the Goldman researchers expect growth to increase by the same amount in the quarter after the shutdown as federal work rebounds and furloughed employees receive back pay.
  • The economy appears healthy enough to absorb a modest temporary hit. The consensus forecast from top economists is for growth to approach 3.0%, on an annualized basis, this quarter. Yet, economists expect growth to slow in the final months of the year, raising the risks of recession if a shutdown lasts several weeks.

(Source: The New York Times)

Third Supplementary Estimates Tabled; $58.2Bn More To Be Spent But More Revenues Projected Published: 28 September 2023

  • Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr. the Hon. Nigel Clarke, tabled the Third Supplementary Estimates for the fiscal year 2023/24 in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (September 26). In a statement to the House, Dr. Clarke said the estimates provide for a total expenditure of $1.094Trn, an increase of $58.2Bn over the second supplementary estimates.
  • He indicated that financing of the estimates is programmed from a projected $43.1Bn increase in revenues and grants. This, the Minister pointed out, will primarily comprise increased tax revenues of $35.8Bn, non-tax revenues totalling $6.1Bn, and grants amounting to $1Bn.
  • Clarke highlighted that the estimates reflect, among other things, allocations to facilitate the second-year implementation of the compensation restructuring for ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) not accommodated in the second supplementary estimates.
  • Provisions have been made for non-debt recurrent expenditure of $719.4Bn. This includes below-the-line sums, representing an increase of $39.1Bn over the second estimates; capital expenditure of $66.6Bn, representing an $8.7-Bn reduction on the previous allocation; and debt service of $308Bn, comprising interest payments of $170Bn, which represents an increase of $14.9Bn, and amortisation payments of $138Bn amounting to an increase of $12.9Bn.
  • The additional $39.1Bn in non-debt recurrent expenditure is allocated as follows – $1.4Bn to recurrent programmes; $37.2Bn for compensation of employees; and $0.6Bn to other outflows, comprising loans to public bodies. He highlighted the net increase of $1.4Bn on recurrent programmes is, therefore, the end result of adjustments inclusive of $1.7Bn allocated for the holding of local government elections within the fiscal year.
  • The minister also pointed out that $480Mn has been allocated to the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, of which $400Mn is for social housing and $80Mn to support the trucking of water by the National Water Commission (NWC) to drought-stricken areas. He advised that $420Mn has been allocated to the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, of which $100Mn is programmed for the cleanup of town centres, $200Mn for community roads, $120Mn for indigent housing, and $60Mn for the trucking of water.
  • Additionally, $1.6Bn has been allocated to support compensation restructuring payments for central government agencies as well as the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC), which will receive $472Mn, as well as $345Mn to the University Hospital of the West Indies; $395Mn to the Caribbean Maritime University; $120Mn to the Tourism Enhancement Fund; and $107Mn to the Ministry of Health and Wellness entities.
  • As a result of this, the Central Government’s spend for fiscal year 2023/24 is, therefore, now estimated at $1.094Trn, up from $1.036Trn. A fiscal balance surpluses of 0.3% of GDP is projected to be generated from the operations of the Central Government in FY 2023/24 and FY 2024/25. Furthermore, a debt-to-GDP ratio of 74.2% is projected for end-FY 2023/24 and is expected to continue to decline gradually throughout the medium term to target of 60.0% or less by FY 2027/28.

(Source: JIS News)

Guyana-Venezuela Territory Disagreement Threatens Peace in the Region Published: 28 September 2023

  • Present, Dr. Irfaan Ali has reaffirmed Guyana’s commitment to defending its sovereignty and sovereign rights over its territory, in light of recent objections raised by Venezuela regarding the local oil auction.
  • Venezuela issued a statement challenging Guyana’s sovereignty, noting that certain maritime areas are not under Guyana’s sovereign rights, and any actions within these areas violate international law unless agreed upon with Venezuela.
  • President Ali responded firmly, stating: “The Government of Guyana reserves the right to pursue economic development activities in any portion of its sovereign territory or any appurtenant maritime territories.”. He said too: “Any unilateral attempt by Venezuela to restrict the exercise by Guyana of its sovereignty and sovereign rights will be wholly inconsistent with the Geneva Agreement and the rule of international law.”
  • In April of this year, the World Court ruled that the case Guyana brought before it seeking to affirm the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award settling the boundaries between it and Venezuela was admissible. This meant that the court could move forward with hearing the substantive case on its merits, of whether the 1899 arbitral award settling the boundaries of the two countries is valid and binding.
  • The ruling marked the second time that the international court has rejected jurisdictional objections raised by Venezuela.
  • Guyana is seeking a final and binding judgement that the 1899 Arbitral Award, which established the location of the land boundary between then British Guiana and Venezuela, remains valid and that the Essequibo region belongs to Guyana and not Venezuela.
  • Further to this, CARICOM in a recent statement outlined that it views the stated intention of Venezuela to “apply all the necessary measures” to prevent the operations licensed by Guyana in its waters, as a threat of the use of force contrary to international law. They expounded that this also is not in keeping with the long-standing position of the Latin American and Caribbean countries that the Region must remain a Zone of Peace.

(Sources: Guyana Chronicle & Caricom

UK's IFS sees 90% chance of budget deficit overshoot by 2027/28   Published: 28 September 2023

  • Britain's Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) estimated on Thursday that there was a 90% chance that public borrowing in four years would be higher than the government's budget watchdog has forecast.
  • The IFS - a non-partisan think tank closely watched by politicians and economists - said borrowing in the 2027/28 tax year was likely to be 40Bn pounds ($49Bn) higher than the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecast in March, at 3.1% of gross domestic product rather than 1.7%.
  • Finance Minister Jeremy Hunt will set out new OBR forecasts and budget plans on Nov. 22, when he will seek to reconcile lowering inflation with fellow Conservative lawmakers' desire for tax cuts ahead of a national election expected next year.
  • Borrowing in the 2022/23 financial year totalled 128Bn pounds, or 5.1% of GDP, as Britain's government spent heavily on energy subsidies after Russia's invasion of Ukraine pushed up households' and businesses' heating bills.
  • The IFS said OBR forecasts were unable to adjust for the tendency of British governments to borrow more during unexpected shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic but to spend the benefits of any unexpected tax windfall.
  • One solution could be to limit new tax and spending measures to a single fiscal event each year, rather than the current budget in the spring and fiscal update in the autumn, she said. Britain's opposition Labour Party - which is leading the Conservatives in opinion polls by a wide margin - said last week it would aim to limit tax and spending measures to a single budget event in November.

(Source: Reuters)

China's Industrial Profits Extend Slump For January-August, Pace Of Downturn Eases   Published: 28 September 2023

  • Profits at China's industrial firms extended a double-digit drop for the first eight months, but the pace of declines eased slightly as a flurry of policy support steps has started to stabilise parts of the stuttering economy.
  • The 11.7% year-on-year fall in profits narrowed from a 15.5% contraction for the first seven months. This outcome is in line with expectations and potentially suggests a modest recovery is beginning to take root for some businesses.  "This data reflected that domestic demand has stabilised and the demand and supply side has seen balanced recovery," said Bruce Pang, chief economist at Jones Lang Lasalle.
  • NBS statistician Yu Weining said in an accompanying statement that "a series of policies to promote macroeconomic recovery" last month's underpinned earnings. Profits improved for 30 of 41 major industrial sectors during the period, with the losses in the raw material manufacturing industry narrowing significantly on rising commodity prices and recovered demand. Twenty-eight industries out of the 41 saw earnings dropping in the January-July period.

(Source: Reuters)

TransJamaican Highway Limited (TJH) Announces Big Dividends Amid Stellar Performance Published: 27 September 2023

  • TransJamaican Highway Limited (TJH) has announced an exciting development for its shareholders. On September 26, 2023, the company's Board of Directors declared an interim dividend payment of JMD$0.1866 per share.
  • This dividend payment will be extended to shareholders on record as of the close on October 10, 2023, with the actual payment slated for October 25. Potential investors should note the ex-dividend date is set for October 09, 2023.
  • As of September 26, 2023, the dividend yield stood at an impressive 7.3%, notably higher than its average yield of 6.3% since its listing on the stock exchange.
  • This dividend declaration can be attributed to the company’s strong performance which came on the back of a significant reduction in operating expenses since the acquisition of Jamaican Infrastructure Operator (JIO), coupled with increased revenues driven by rate adjustments and increased traffic flow.
  • That said, the company has reported a whopping 387% increase in year-to-date profit, and its cash generated from operations has surged by 71%. This financial robustness places TJH in a strong position in the market and augurs well for both current and potential investors.
  • TJH's stock price has surged year to date by 99.3%, closing at $2.79 on September 27, 2023, with a P/E of 14.8x. Future prospects for TJH seem promising. The company aims to ride on the momentum of its recent JIO acquisition and has detailed plans to go cashless by 2028. By embracing technologies like debit and credit cards, along with the Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) for toll payments, TJH expects to boost operational efficiency. This digital transition can significantly reduce costs, positioning TJH at the forefront of technological advancement in the sector.
  • The company remains vigilant in exploring opportunities to further its market position and extend its profitability horizon. A cornerstone of this expansion strategy involves the potential operation of the new leg of Highway 2000 East-West (‘Phase 1C’, 28km between May Pen and Williamsfield). With the recent completion of this new leg, TJH holds the right of refusal to purchase a Concession that allows it to either partially or fully own, manage, and operate this leg.

(Source: JSE)