North America

A stalemate between the U.S. and other members of the World Trade Organization, including the European Union and China, stands to cripple the organization’s top court, threatening the global body’s survival, the Wall Street Journal reported. On Wednesday the court, called the Appellate Body, will no longer have enough judges to rule on big trade disputes between countries. At stake are international rules negotiated over five decades by the U.S. and Europe to boost global trade.
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Alberta may consider buying back some of its bonds in an effort to smooth its maturities as its debt outstanding rises, Bloomberg News reported. The buy-back strategy, including terms and amounts, is still under analysis, according to Jerrica Goodwin, an Edmonton-based spokeswoman at Alberta’s finance ministry said. The plan, which may start as soon as the next fiscal year beginning in April, won’t reduce overall debt outstanding but could allow Alberta to spread out maturities over the longer term, she said.

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Canada’s biggest banks are facing a storm of challenges, with a slowdown in consumer spending and a dearth of public listings pushing some big lenders to make hefty job cuts as their profitability falters, the Financial Times reported. The decision by Bank of Montreal (BMO), Canada’s fourth-largest bank, to slash its global workforce by 5 per cent highlights the growing problems facing the country’s financial services sector.

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Seadrill Chairman John Fredriksen, the oil rig firm’s top shareholder, is stepping down with immediate effect, the company said on Thursday, as it holds discussions with lenders about restructuring its massive debts, Reuters reported. The 75-year-old billionaire investor, who said his support for the company remained unchanged, will be replaced by Glen Ole Roedland, who has worked in shipping, oil, gas and other industries, Seadrill said. The company, which is listed in Oslo and New York, only emerged from U.S.

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A surge in the number of people who can’t pay their debts is raising eyebrows in Canada, BNN Bloomberg reported. Some 11,935 consumers filed for insolvency in September, according to the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy — a 19-per-cent increase from a year earlier and the biggest annual gain since 2009. So far in 2019, there have been 102,023 consumer insolvencies, the second-most for the first nine months of a year in records dating back to 1987.

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Canada is on track this year to record the largest increase in consumer insolvency filings in a decade and the first increase in business insolvencies since 2001, says a national association of insolvency and restructuring professionals, Try-City News reported. The total number of Canadian insolvencies increased 8.4 per cent over the past 12 months to September, according to a report from the federal government's Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy.

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Cash-strapped Cuba has begun paying a fourth installment on its renegotiated $2.6 billion debt to 14 creditor nations, and its chief debt negotiator, Ricardo Cabrisas, told Reuters this week that all payments would be made, even if a bit late, Reuters reported. Communist-run Cuba reached an agreement in 2015 with members of the Paris Club of wealthy creditor nations that forgave $8.5 billion of the $11.1 billion in debt it defaulted on through 1986, as well as charges.

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More than two-thirds of global corporate bond fund managers expect default rates to climb over the next 12 months, according to a new report from the International Association of Credit Portfolio Managers, Bloomberg News reported. In a September survey of over 100 member institutions in more than 20 countries, 68% of respondents said they expect defaults to rise, up from 58% three months ago. In the survey, 74% said North American default rates will climb, while 75% expect European default rates to increase, up from 52% in June.

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Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce, Dwight Sutherland believes Barbados must have strong insolvency legislation and sound insolvency procedures as it seeks become globally competitive, Loop reported. Addressing a meeting on the country’s Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, hosted in conjunction with IMPACT Justice and the Government of Canada, he noted that the Mia Mottley-led Government was committed to implementing relevant reforms to improve business on the island.

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Businessman Denis O’Brien’s Digicel may seek to refinance at a discounted price some $1.3 billion (€1.2 billion) of bond debt due to be repaid in early 2021, to take advantage of the fact that they are trading at a discount in the market, according to US debt research firm Xtract Research. However, such a move would be considered by debt ratings agencies as a more aggressive distressed debt manoeuvre than the one completed by Digicel earlier this year, The Irish Times reported.

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