North America

Canada’s housing agency announced it will tighten mortgage qualification rules for high-risk borrowers, a controversial move that could curb credit in an economy trying to emerge from its deepest contraction of the postwar era, Bloomberg News reported. The state-owned Canada Mortgage & Housing Corp., which offers default insurance to home buyers with low down payments, said it will narrow eligibility criteria as of July 1. Buyers will need higher credit scores and lower debt burdens to qualify, the agency said Thursday in Ottawa.

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Comark Holdings Inc said on Wednesday it would restructure under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) as the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic hit the Canadian apparel retailer’s business, Reuters reported. Apparel retailers have been facing mounting debt and bankruptcies as the economic damage brought on by the pandemic has forced store closures and pressured discretionary spending. The fashion retailer’s Ricki’s, Cleo and Bootlegger websites will remain operational, Comark said, adding it would optimize its store footprint during the restructuring.

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Seadrill has written down the value of its oil drilling rigs by $1.2 billion and hired bankers and lawyers to evaluate a financial restructuring that could allow the company to reduce its $7.4 billion debt, it said on Tuesday, Reuters reported. The company on Monday announced its intention to delist from the New York Stock Exchange later this month, while maintaining its Oslo Bourse listing.

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Clothing retailer Reitmans Canada Ltd said on Monday it would permanently shutdown its Thyme Maternity and Addition Elle brands and slash its work force by about 1,400 employees as part of a restructuring plan, Reuters reported. Last month, the company said that it had obtained preliminary approval to seek bankruptcy protection in order to restructure its operations as the COVID-19 pandemic causes prolonged store closures.

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Cirque du Soleil, its spotlight dimmed by the coronavirus pandemic, will receive $200 million in aid from Canada’s Quebec province, an official said on Tuesday, as part of broader efforts to revive and keep the hard-hit international entertainment group based in Montreal, Reuters reported. Quebec Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon said the province has an agreement in principle that would give it the option to buy a majority stake in Cirque if shareholders TPG and Chinese conglomerate Fosun International Ltd (0656.HK) decide to pull out.

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President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is betting that a new trade agreement with the US and Canada will usher a flood of investment into Mexico that will help lift it out of the coronavirus crisis, the Financial Times reported. But instead of celebrating the launch of the USMCA on July 1 with champagne, US, Canadian and European companies are filing local lawsuits to protect their investments. They are also considering arbitration under the successor to the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) and other international treaties.

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Reitmans Canada Ltd on Tuesday obtained preliminary approval to seek bankruptcy protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, the latest retailer seeking to restructure its operations as the COVID-19 pandemic causes prolonged store closures, Reuters reported. Reitmans, which was founded in 1926 and retails fashion apparel through 576 stores across Canada and online, said it obtained the order from a Quebec court, leading to an operational, commercial and financial restructuring.

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The Canadian government is in talks to hire Lazard as the financial adviser for its new loan program for large companies, according to a person familiar with the matter, Bloomberg News reported. The program, known as the Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility, will allow firms with at least C$300 million ($214 million) in annual revenue to apply for credit if they can’t get it from banks or other sources.

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Canada unveiled a loan program for large firms that have been hit by Covid-19 and can’t get financing by conventional means. The Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility is for companies and non-profit organizations with annual revenue of C$300 million ($214 million) or more, Bloomberg News reported. Firms in all sectors can apply for the funding except the finance industry. Companies that receive money will have to accept limits on executive pay, dividends and share buybacks.

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Canada’s privately held Aldo Group Inc said on Thursday it would restructure under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) as the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak weighed on the footwear retailer’s business, Reuters reported. The announcement follows the high-profile bankruptcies of Neiman Marcus Group NMRCUS.UL and J. Crew Group Inc, as retailers around the world face unprecedented disruption and heavy debt piles brought on by the pandemic.

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