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The Convenience U CARWACS Show West goes virtual

Screen Shot 2020-09-14 at 5.58.27 PMThe Convenience U CARWACS Show – Greater Vancouver is moving online, with a new action-packed virtual event, The Convenience U CARWACS Show West Digital.

The change is in response to ongoing efforts to keep attendees safe in the face of the ongoing pandemic. While COVID-19 is changing how the show will be delivered, one thing will not change –  this is an exceptional opportunity for convenience retailers, convenience-gas and car wash operators in Western Canada to connect with key suppliers across North America.

The events kicks off November 4 and participants will have an unprecedented opportunity to access interactive event content at their convenience and for a longer period of time.

  • Connect and engage in real-time with key industry suppliers for 7 days
  • Browse the interactive products/equipment/solutions sourcing guide
  • Gain industry insights through educational content
  • Complete access to all materials and exhibitor profiles for 90 days

Registration is opening soon. For more information, go ConvenienceU.ca

In the meantime, CLICK HERE to sign up for show news!


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McCowan’s hand sanitizing stations help operators safeguard staff and customers

Screen Shot 2020-06-05 at 3.52.25 PMIn an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, hand sanitizing stations are a must-have for c-store, gas and car wash sites.

From freestanding to wall- or counter-mounted stations, McCowan offers a variety of affordable designs and solutions to help keep your staff and customers safe.

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Please contact us at:

416-291-7111   sales@mccowan.ca

www.mccowan.ca

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A look at how provinces plan to emerge from COVID-19 shutdown

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Provinces have been releasing plans for easing restrictions that were put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Here is what some of the provinces have announced so far:

Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador is now permitting outdoor games of tennis to resume, though players must bring their own equipment, and not share it. Pet grooming services can also begin operating again today (May 25). Pet grooming companies will have to ensure their employees have personal protective equipment.

The province is in “alert level four” in its five-level reopening plan, allowing some businesses such as law firms and other professional services to reopen along with regulated child-care centres, with some restrictions.

Small gatherings for funerals, burials and weddings are also permitted with a limit of 10 people following physical distancing rules.

Municipal parks, golf courses and driving ranges can open and recreational hunting and fishing are permitted. But officials say parties or other social gatherings are still banned.

Overnight camping will be permitted when the province moves to level three, though there’s no word yet when that will happen.

At Level 3, private health clinics, such as optometrists and dentists, will be allowed to open, as well as medium-risk businesses such as clothing stores and hair salons.

At Level 2, some small gatherings will be allowed, and businesses with performance spaces and gyms are to reopen.

Level 1 would represent “the new normal.”

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil has announced there will be no return to school this year, and a decision on whether daycares will reopen will be made by June 8. Nova Scotia has eased some public health restrictions, however, directives around physical distancing and social gatherings remain in place.

Trails and provincial and municipal parks can now reopen along with garden centres, nurseries and similar businesses, but playground equipment is still off limits.

Public beaches have also reopened along with outdoor activities like archery, horseback riding, golf, paddling, boating and tennis, with the proviso that social distancing and hygiene be maintained.

Sportfishing is permitted and people can attend boating, yacht or sailing clubs for the purpose of preparing boats for use. Drive-in religious services are now allowed, if people stay in their cars, park two metres apart and there are no interactions between people.

The government has also announced the loosening of some restrictions and introduced a “family bubble” policy, allowing two immediate family households to come together without physical distancing.

The province is following federal health guidelines and the chief medical officer of health has stressed that the number of new COVID-19 cases caused by community transmission must drop to few or no cases for at least two weeks _ ideally 28 days _ before an economic recovery plan is implemented.

Prince Edward Island

P-E-I is accelerating its Renew PEI Together plan. Phase two of the plan began May 22 as scheduled, but the third phase will now begin June 1 instead of June 12.

Under phase 2, indoor gatherings of up to five people are allowed, as well as outdoor gatherings of no more than 10 people from different households. Non-contact outdoor recreational activities are permitted, while retail businesses can also open when they are ready. Precautions, such as physical distancing remain in place.

Phase three will allow gatherings of up to 15 people indoors and 20 people outdoors, organized recreational activities and the opening of child-care centres and in-room dining.

Screening also continues at points of entry into the province and all people coming into P.E.I. are required to isolate for 14 days. Priority non-urgent surgeries and select health-service providers, including physiotherapists, optometrists and chiropractors, resumed on May 1.

New Brunswick

New Brunswick moved to the “yellow phase” of its COVID-19 recovery plan on May 22, allowing barbers and hair stylists to reopen as well as churches and fitness facilities. Dental care, massage, chiropractors and other “close contact” businesses and services were also allowed open their doors.

Non-regulated medical services along with personal service businesses such as beauty salons and tattoo parlours can reopen as well, and more businesses and services will resume in waves over the next few weeks.

New Brunswickers can now form so-called “bubbles” with up to 10 family and friends.

Starting May 29, additional public gatherings of 50 people or fewer will be allowed as long as there is physical distancing.

As well, swimming pools, saunas, water parks, yoga and dance studios, rinks, pool halls and bowling alleys will be able to reopen.

Also starting May 29, temporary foreign workers will once again be allowed to enter the province. But the workers will still have to be quarantined for 14 days once they arrive in New Brunswick.

As the final part of the yellow phase, overnight camps will be allowed to open on June 19.

Licensed daycares were allowed to start reopening May 19. Children don’t have to wear masks or maintain physical distancing, but are being kept in small groups.

Anyone who has travelled outside of New Brunswick will not be allowed to visit early learning and child-care facilities for 14 days.

Retail businesses, offices, restaurants, libraries, museums and seasonal campgrounds were earlier allowed to reopen providing they have clear plans for meeting public health guidelines. The resumption of elective surgeries was also part phase two of the province’s reopening plan.

Phase one, which started on April 24, allowed limited play on golf courses as well as fishing and hunting. Post-secondary students were allowed to return if it was deemed safe by the school, and outdoor church services were again permitted, providing people remain in their vehicles and are two metres apart.

The final phase, which will probably come only after a vaccine is available, will include large gatherings.

Quebec

Quebec began allowing outdoor gatherings with a maximum of 10 people from three families with social distancing in place as of May 22. And today (May 25) some retail businesses are set to reopen in the greater Montreal area. Quebec reopened retail stores outside Montreal on May 11.

Day camps across the province will be allowed to open as of June 22, with physical distancing and other COVID-19 health measures in effect. That means smaller groups of children and frequent handwashing. As for sleep-away summer camps, the province says they won’t be allowed reopen until next year.

Lottery terminals are also reopening after being shut down on March 20 with sales moving to online only.

Quebec’s construction and manufacturing industries have resumed operations with limits on the number of employees who can work per shift. Elementary schools and daycares outside Montreal reopened on May 11, but high schools, junior colleges and universities will stay closed until September.

Elementary schools in the greater Montreal area will remain closed until late August.

Premier Francois Legault says public health conditions haven’t been met in the area hardest hit by the coronavirus, so Montreal daycares will also remain closed until at least June 1.

Meanwhile, checkpoints set up to slow the spread of COVID-19 came down on May 18 in various parts of Quebec, including between Gatineau and Ottawa.

Ontario

Ontario began its first stage of reopening May 19 including lifting restrictions on retail stores and surgeries.

The province says workplaces can begin to reopen but working from home should continue as much as possible.

The Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario says the profession is currently in Stage 2 of its three-phase reopening plan. Dentists had previously only been allowed to practice emergency or urgent care on patients in-person, but can now offer other essential services with enhanced precautions.

All construction can resume, and limits will be lifted on maintenance, repair and property management services, such as cleaning, painting and pool maintenance.

Most retail stores that have a street entrance can reopen with physical distancing restrictions, such as limits on the number of customers in a store and providing curbside pickup and delivery.

Golf courses can reopen though clubhouses can only open for washrooms and take-out food. Marinas, boat clubs and public boat launches can also open, as can private parks and campgrounds for trailers and RVs whose owners have a full season contract, and businesses that board animals.

Other businesses and services included in the stage one reopening include regular veterinary appointments, pet grooming, pet sitting and pet training; libraries for pickup or deliveries; and housekeepers and babysitters.

Premier Doug Ford earlier announced that Ontario schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year.

Meanwhile, this summer’s Honda Indy Toronto has officially been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Manitoba

The Manitoba government has lifted its one-month limit on people’s prescription drug supplies, allowing people to again get prescriptions filled or refilled for 90 days.

Its health offices, including dentists, chiropractors and physiotherapists can also reopen. Retail businesses can reopen at half occupancy providing they ensure physical spacing.

Restaurants can reopen patios and walk-up service.

Museums and libraries can also reopen, but with occupancy limited to 50%.

Playgrounds, golf courses and tennis courts reopened as well, along with parks and campgrounds.

On May 22 the province began allowing groups of up to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors.

The province also plans to ease a ban on people visiting loved ones in personal care homes. By the end of this week, homes will be allowed to offer limited, outdoor visits with a maximum of two guests per resident.

Visitors will be screened on their arrival and will have to continue to practice physical distancing.

A second phase is to begin no earlier than June 1. That’s when restaurants would be allowed to open indoor dining areas and non-contact children’s sports would resume.

On May 21 Premier Brian Pallister released a draft plan for the second phase of reopenings, however, no date was set for the changes. Pallister said there would be public consultation and the plan could be pushed back if pandemic numbers rise.

Some places, such as cinemas, theatres and concert venues, will remain closed. But bars, tattoo parlours, dine-in restaurants, fitness clubs and pools would be allowed to open their doors again under limited capacity.

Youth and adult sports would resume along with film productions. Religious services could be conducted outdoors with no crowd limits if people remain in their vehicles.

Mass gatherings such as concerts and major sporting events will not be considered before September. Meanwhile, Manitoba has extended a province-wide state of emergency until mid-June, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Saskatchewan

The Saskatchewan government’s five-phase plan to reopen its economy started May 11 with dentists, optometrists and other health professionals allowed to resume services. Phase 1 also includes reopened golf courses and campgrounds.

Under phases 2 and 3 the province says restaurants, gyms and nail salons can start reopening on June 8. Restaurants will be allowed to operate at half capacity and restrictions will also lift on some personal care services, childcare centres and places of worship.

The government also plans to increase its 10-person gathering limit to 15 people indoors and to 30 for those outdoors. The increase wasn’t supposed to happen until a later date.

Phase 4 could see arenas, swimming pools and playgrounds opening.

In Phase 5, the province would consider lifting restrictions on the size of public gatherings.

Alberta

Alberta has increased the limit for outdoor gatherings to 50 people – up from 15.

The province allowed stores, restaurants, daycares and hair salons to reopen across much of the province on May 14. Those businesses in Calgary and Brooks can reopen today (May 25).

Restaurants can only open at half capacity.

Premier Jason Kenney says if the first stage of reopening goes well, the next phase – which includes movie theatres and spas – could go ahead on June 19.

Alberta allowed some scheduled, non-urgent surgeries to start on May 11.

Service provided by dentists, physiotherapists and other medical professionals are also permitted. Golf courses reopened May 2, though pro shops and clubhouses remain shuttered.

British Columbia

The provincial government allowed a partial reopening of the B.C. economy starting May 19.

The reopening plans are contingent on organizations and businesses having plans that follow provincial guidelines to control the spread of COVID-19. Hotels, resorts and parks will follow in June.

Parents in B.C. will be given the choice of allowing their children to return to class on a part-time basis in June. The government says its goal is for the return of full-time classes in September, if it’s safe.

Under the part-time plan, for kindergarten to Grade 5, most students will go to school half time, while grades 6 to 12 will go about one day a week. A mix of online and classroom post-secondary education is planned for September.

Conventions, large concerts, international tourism and professional sports with a live audience will not be allowed to resume until either a vaccine is widely available, community immunity has been reached, or effective treatment can be provided for the disease.

Northwest Territories

The Northwest Territories announced on May 12 a reopening plan that contains three phases, but the government didn’t say when it would be implemented.

The plan includes more gatherings and the possible reopening of some schools and businesses. However, the territory’s borders remain closed indefinitely to non-residents and non-essential workers.

There are several requirements that must be met before any measures are relaxed: there must be no evidence of community spread; travel entry points in the territory are strong and secure; risks are reduced from workers coming into the territory; and expanded community testing is available.

Yukon

The territory’s reopening plan outlines five phases including a period after a vaccine is available.

The plan’s “restart” phase began May 15, with businesses that were ordered to close allowed to reopen as long as they submit an operational plan.

Two households of up to 10 people in total are also able to interact with each other as part of a “household bubble.”

But bars and restaurants that offer dine-in services won’t be allowed to reopen until the chief medical officer of health lifts restrictions.

The territory’s borders also remain closed but residents are allowed to travel throughout Yukon more easily.

 


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COVID-19 will have lasting effects on consumer behaviour: Accenture

Several underlying consumer trends have risen to prominence during the COVID-19 crisis, leading to a wave of new behaviours—from online shopping to buying local—that are likely to persist long after the pandemic is over, according to a new study from Accenture.

The survey of more than 3,000 consumers in 15 countries (including Canada) found that people are purchasing more personal hygiene and cleaning products, plus canned and fresh foods. But it’s not just what consumers are purchasing that has changed, but how they’re purchasing.

According to Accenture, the crisis has led to a significant increase in e-commerce (particularly in North America) as well as interest in purchasing local. The study also reports an expected rise in so-called “conscious consumption,” characterized by an emphasis on limiting food waste, shopping more consciously and seeking out more sustainable options.

Perhaps the most visible manifestation of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis is in e-commerce—which has risen exponentially as consumers around the world have retreated to the safety of their home. Online grocery has become highly sought-after, though its sudden rise in popularity has exposed infrastructure flaws that retailers will need to address.

Most notably, says Accenture, the lack of system capacity left many consumers struggling to find a timely delivery slot. That led to many high-frequency users looking elsewhere (most notably to local brands) to fulfill their orders.

In the U.S., food delivery service Instacart saw its subscription grow 10 to 12 times in states with the most reported COVID-19 cases. Accenture found that one in five consumers who ordered groceries online during the crisis did so for the first time, a number that rose to one in three among consumers 56 and over.

According to the U.K. online supermarket chain Ocado, nearly every one of the close to 800,000 active customers it had at the end of 2019 wanted to place an order once a week during March. Basket size also rose in tandem with demand, growing by more than 50%.

Accenture says demand for e-commerce capabilities (both grocery and otherwise) will persist beyond the pandemic, with online expected to account for 37% of all consumer purchases of goods and services, up from 32% currently. The data suggests a “clear need for a substantial increased investment in this channel,” says Accenture.

As the crisis continued, survey respondents also indicated they planned to do fewer and larger grocer shops, as well as shop in closer neighbourhood stores and shop more cost consciously.

Originally published at Canadian Grocer.


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C-stores meet consumers’ needs during pandemic: CICC survey

Screen Shot 2020-03-23 at 1.30.39 PMThe majority of Canadian consumers believe the convenience industry has stepped up to support communities and front-line workers during the COVID-19 crisis, according to a new survey from the Convenience Industry Council of Canada.
The CICC conducted a survey through Abacus Data of 2,280 Canadians across the country to gauge their opinions on the convenience sector and its handling of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

“One of the things we were tying to ascertain is how people’s habits changed. Not surprisingly there has been a decline in the frequency and generally going to a c-store,” says CICC president and CEO Anne Kothawala. “The other thing we wanted to find out is what people’s impressions are in terms of how c-stores are stepping up to support the community and front-line workers. There is a lot that has been done, but as an industry we don’t tout our own horn very much. Nonetheless, it was clear based on the results a vast majority of people feel that we are doing a good job.”

While the data is fresh out of the field and the CICC is still conducting analysis, here are some highlights.

unnamed-1A majority of convenience store customers (between 56% and 60% depending on the type of convenience store) believe that the sector has stepped up to support their community during these challenging times. These beliefs are held most strongly in Atlantic Canada and in Quebec.

unnamed-1A majority of customers (between 59% and 62%) believe that the convenience industry has also been providing much needed support for front-line workers, including convenience store employees as well as other workers in essential services like health care. These beliefs are held most strongly in Atlantic Canada and in Alberta.

In its analysis, CICC observed: “What is truly interesting is that our customers opinions of our performance during the COVID crisis, and their willingness to continue visiting our retail locations holds extremely steady across all demographics including regional variations, age, gender, income, and education levels.”

Kothawala says the goal was to get a better sense of if and why consumers were opting to shop at convenience stores?

While senior consumers were not major c-store shoppers (this makes sense, as people over 60 were advised to stay home and avoid shopping as much as possible), data shows that, overall, consumers very much rely on convenience stores. The primary reasons customers continue to support the sector include:
  • Convenient location and hours
  • Ease of access to retail locations
  • Avoiding the longer lines seen at larger grocery retailers
  • Availability of items that that can’t easily be purchased elsewhere, such as  lottery, tobacco and vaping products.

“We can be a very convenient and sometimes essential option for people,” says Kothawala, pointing out that many people were turning to their local c-store for items, such as eggs and flour when the grocery stores were sold out.

The data reflects that consumers depend on convenience stores for a wide variety of items. “What this pandemic has shown us is at a time like this we should be allowing convenience stores to sell more products rather than restricting the products,” says Kothawala, adding “It is then a good argument for us to go back to the Ontario government to say people are turning to c-stores for a whole range of products. And if we were allowed, for example, to sell beer and wine, that would have been one less stop for many consumers.”

Overall, CICC analysis shows “it is extremely encouraging to see that Canadians have recognized the dedication the convenience sector and our staff have put in to serving our customers during these challenging times.”

 


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COVID-19 is changing consumer coffee habits

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Home has become ground(s) zero for coffee consumption during the current COVID-19 crisis, according to a new study.

While Canada’s coffee addicts might argue that they are essential services, the country’s largest coffee chains have either limited access or closed stores entirely as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. That has led to a “big shift” from out-of-home to in-home consumption, according to Field Agent Canada.

In a recent survey of 700 Canadians, more than three-quarters of respondents (79%) identified as regular coffee drinkers. Coffee consumption has remained stable during the pandemic, at an average of 2.4 servings a day.

But while 91% of Canadians were consuming coffee purchased outside the home prior to the enforcement of social distancing rules, that number has fallen to 46% amid social-distancing requirements.

One of the most pronounced changes in at-home consumption has been the rise of instant coffee, with 25% of respondents saying they have used it at home in the past week. It is the biggest segment among respondents who indicated that they have tried new coffee drinks during the stay-at-home period, ahead of cappuccino, drip coffee and lattes.

Tim Hortons is the most frequently used coffee brand at home (13%), followed by Folgers, Maxwell House, Starbucks and Nescafé (all at 8%) and Nespresso and McCafe at 7%. There has been some experimentation among coffee drinkers, however, with 11% of respondents indicating they have purchased another brand because their preferred brand was out of stock.

Ten per cent of respondents said they have purchased a brand that’s more expensive than their usual brand, while 7% said they have purchased a less expensive brand. Twelve per cent said they have experienced longer than usual wait times for online orders.

Not surprisingly, supermarkets were the most common response given to a question about where respondents had purchased coffee for home consumption (35%), followed by Costco (26%), Walmart (23%) and drug stores (7%).

Six per cent of respondents said they have purchased a new coffee machine since the crisis began, with drip coffee, Nespresso and K-Cup machines the most popular new purchases. Coffee is a $6.2 billion business in Canada, according to the Canadian Coffee Association and, along with water is the most commonly consumed beverage among adults.

Originally published at Canadian Grocer. 


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Imperial Oil reports $188M loss as COVID-19 hits workers, slows work schedule

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CEO Brad Corson

Imperial Oil Ltd. is slowing or deferring maintenance work throughout its operations as it tries to ensure employee safety in the wake of a COVID-19 outbreak that has infected 83 workers at its Kearl oilsands mine in northern Alberta.

The Calgary-based company said Friday it will start a planned one-month maintenance shutdown of one of its two production trains at Kearl in a few days and extend it by an extra month to late June or early July to allow more distancing between workers.

The extension means production at Kearl will fall from the record average of 226,000 barrels per day in the first quarter – and 238,000 bpd in March – to about 150,000 bpd in the second quarter, CEO Brad Corson told a conference call on Friday.

“This allows us to progress at a more measured pace and greatly reduce the number of people we have working at site at any given time and without affecting the overall scope,” he said.

“It also allows us to complete the work at a time of likely low prices so we can have the asset fully up and running as and when prices recover.”

He said the company has also reduced the scope of maintenance at its Sarnia, Ont., refinery, will defer planned work at its Sarnia chemical plant and is postponing planned maintenance at its Nanicoke, Ont., and Strathcona (Edmonton) refineries until after this year.

Twenty-two of the Kearl workers stricken with the coronavirus have recovered and the others are being monitored or treated as necessary, Corson said.

Work at the project is continuing with enhanced physical distancing, cleaning and health screening, along with supplying face masks and moving fewer workers on transport airplanes and buses.

Kearl is owned by Imperial at 71% and its parent company, ExxonMobil, with 29%.

The record output at Kearl thanks to the introduction of supplemental ore crushers drove overall Imperial production to about 419,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day in the first three months of 2020, up from 388,000 boe/d in the same period last year.

Record throughput at its Strathcona refinery helped take its overall processing total to 383,000 barrels per day, the same as a year ago.

Corson said demand for jet fuel and gasoline fell significantly in March, while diesel demand dropped by a more moderate amount, due to measures taken to limit the pandemic. However, there are signs demand may be slowly recovering, he added.

Imperial reported a net loss of $188 million in the first quarter due to lower commodity prices and non-cash charges of $301 million, with $281 million of that due to a reduction in the value of its inventory as crude oil prices plunged in March and $20 million from a goodwill impairment.

It had a net profit of $293 million in the same quarter last year.

Fellow oilsands producers Husky Energy Inc. and Cenovus Energy Inc. both reported writedowns and losses earlier this week.

Imperial’s revenue and other income totalled $6.69 billion in the quarter, down from $7.98 billion in the first quarter of 2019.

Imperial’s average realized bitumen price averaged $18.08 per barrel in the first quarter of 2020, compared to $48.85 per barrel in the first quarter of 2019.

Crude-by-rail shipments averaged 97,000 bpd from its co-owned Edmonton rail terminal in the first quarter of 2020, up from 53,000 bpd in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Shipments by rail fell to about 10,000 bpd in April and are being phased out as pipeline space is freed up amid industry-wide production cutbacks due to current low oil prices, said Corson.

Analysts said Imperial beat their expectations on production and on cash flow, the latter thanks to higher profits from its refining and marketing sector.

Imperial cut its 2020 capital spending plan at the end of March by $500 million to between $1.1 billion and $1.2 billion and targeted a reduction in expenses by $500 million compared with 2019 levels in an effort to deal with impact of the pandemic.

 


File photo: Jeff McIntosh Canadian Press

Suncor CEO predicts slow recovery for sector from pandemic demand crunch

Incoming Suncor president and CEO Mark Little addresses shareholders. Photo: Jeff McIntosh Canadian Press

Suncor president and CEO Mark Little. File photo: Jeff McIntosh Canadian Press

CALGARY – Consumer demand for fuel is growing slightly after a sudden decline due to measures to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic but the CEO of Suncor Energy Inc. says he doesn’t expect a full recovery for his company or the Canadian energy sector until at least 2022.

The Calgary-based oilsands and refining giant surprised analysts by cutting its quarterly dividend by 55% to 21 cents per share as it reported a first-quarter net loss of $3.525 billion on Tuesday.

It had 18 years of consecutive annual dividend increases, with the latest announced in February.

The cut was necessary as the company resets its target of breaking even at a West Texas Intermediate price of US$35 per barrel, down from the previous mark of US$45, said CEO Mark Little on a conference call on Wednesday.

“Although we expect the crude market to substantially recover by 2022, the risk of an extended period of economic uncertainty, translated into weaker commodity prices and higher volatility, remains possible,” he said.

“In the second quarter, we know our industry is being challenged by … a significant supply and demand imbalance which has resulted in the largest collapse in crude prices ever. These market conditions require decisive leadership and action.”

The company, which sells fuel across Canada through its Petro-Canada network, has seen a reduction in demand of 50% for gasoline, 70% for jet fuel and 20% for diesel, Little said.

As North American oil storage fills to near capacity, any rebound in upstream oil production must be led by recovery in the downstream and that means it depends on when governments reopen the economy and consumers feel confident about travelling again, Little said.

There will be further delays as the high level of crude inventories is drawn down, he added.

Chief financial officer Alister Cowan said on the call he expects that Suncor’s gross debt of about $20 billion will grow by $2 billion or $3 billion this year, but the company will break even on a cash flow basis in 2021.

In a report, analyst Michael Dunn of Stifel FirstEnergy estimated the dividend cut will save Suncor about $1.56 billion per year.

“While not altogether surprising, the cut was not a sure thing given Suncor’s liquidity and track record of dividend increases. We agree with the move,” he said.

Suncor’s capital spending plan for 2020 is being cut to $3.8 billion, a further reduction of $400 million compared with its recent guidance and down $1.9 billion or about one-third compared with its original 2020 plan.

It added it intends to cut operating costs by $1 billion or 10% this year compared with 2019 levels.

Suncor registered an impairment charge of $1.38 billion on its 54.1% share of the Fort Hills oilsands mine it operates and $422 million against its share of the East Coast offshore White Rose and Terra Nova assets.

Suncor also recorded a $397-million after-tax inventory writedown, as well as a $1-billion unrealized after-tax foreign exchange loss on U.S. dollar denominated debt.

Due to lower demand for refined products, Suncor is reducing its outlook for refinery throughput to between 390,000 and 420,000 barrels per day from the previous goal of between 440,000 and 460,000 bpd.

 

 


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Here’s how provinces plan to emerge from COVID-19 shutdown

Provinces have been releasing plans for easing restrictions that were put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Here is what some of the provinces have announced so far:

Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador plans to loosen some public health restrictions in a series of “alert levels” descending from five. The move to Level 4 today is to allow some medical procedures to resume as well as low-risk activities, such as golf, hunting and fishing. Low-risk businesses, including garden centres, and professional services such as law firms are to reopen at this level. Alert Level 4 is to remain in place for at least 28 days. At Level 3, private health clinics, such as optometrists and dentists, are to be permitted to open, as well as medium-risk businesses such as clothing stores and hair salons. At Level 2, some small gatherings will be allowed, and businesses with performance spaces and gyms are to reopen. Level 1 would represent “the new normal.” Legislators, meanwhile, have passed a bill giving peace officers’ the power to transport people who fail to respect health directives to departure points from the province. The amendment to the Public Health Protection and Promotion Act followed the implementation of a travel ban barring anyone but permanent residents and asymptomatic workers in key sectors from entering the province.

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil announced last week that there will be no return to school this year. He also said a decision on whether daycares will reopen will be made by June 8. Nova Scotia has eased some public health restrictions, however, directives around physical distancing and social gatherings remain in place. Trails and provincial and municipal parks can now reopen, but playground equipment will continue to be off limits. Garden centres, nurseries and similar businesses can open, and while golf driving ranges can open, courses will remain closed. Sportfishing is permitted and people can attend boating, yacht or sailing clubs for the purpose of preparing boats for use. Drive-in religious services will be allowed, as long as people stay in their cars, they are parked two metres apart and there are no interactions between people.

Prince Edward Island

Members of a household can now gather indoors with up to five other people. Other precautions, such as physical distancing remain in place. Screening also continues at points of entry into the province and all people coming into P.E.I. are required to isolate for 14 days. Priority non-urgent surgeries and select health-service providers, including physiotherapists, optometrists and chiropractors, resumed on May 1 under The Renew P.E.I. Together plan. The plan also allows outdoor gatherings and non-contact outdoor recreational activities of no more than five individuals from different households.

New Brunswick

New Brunswick is allowing more businesses and services to open as it launches the second phase of its COVID-19 recovery plan. Daycares, retail businesses, offices, restaurants, libraries, museums, seasonal campgrounds and ATV trails can now reopen under certain conditions. The conditions include having an operational plan that explains how they’re meeting public health guidelines including physical distancing, hand hygiene and allowing staff to remain home when ill. Two-household “bubbles” remain in place, but now outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed if physical distancing is respected. The resumption of elective surgeries is also part of phase two. The third phase will allow regular church services, dentistry work and reopened fitness centres. The final phase, which will probably come only after a vaccine is available, will include large gatherings. Phase one, which started on April 24 allowed limited play on golf courses as well as fishing and hunting. Post-secondary students were allowed to return if it was deemed safe by the school, and outdoor church services were again permitted, providing people remain in their vehicles and are two metres apart.

Quebec

Quebec is reopening elementary schools and day cares outside the Montreal area today. Students will be subject to physical distancing and frequent handwashing while school officials keep up with cleaning, disinfecting and following public health guidelines. Libraries, gyms and cafeterias will also remain closed. Attendance isn’t mandatory, and some school boards have indicated that most parents are keeping their kids home for now. Schools in the Montreal area, for their part, will remain closed until at least May 25, while high schools and junior colleges won’t be back until the fall. Quebec is also reopening retail stores outside Montreal today while those in the greater Montreal region are to reopen May 25. Premier Francois Legault says the province will keep close tabs on the situation in the city before deciding whether stores, daycares and elementary schools can reopen later this month. Quebec’s construction industry is to completely start back up today, while manufacturing companies are also resuming operations with initial limits on the number of employees who can work per shift. Lottery terminals in the province have also begun to reopen after being shut down on March 20 with sales moving to online only.

Ontario

Ontario is allowing non-essential retail stores to open for curbside pickup today. Garden centres and nurseries were allowed to reopen on May 8, while hardware stores and safety supply stores could reopen on May 10. Those stores must follow the same public health measures as grocery stores and pharmacies do, such as physical distancing, offering contactless payment and sanitizing surfaces. Provincial parks will reopen today, though camping grounds, beaches and playgrounds inside the parks will remain closed. Premier Doug Ford says visitors must continue physical distancing and he wants people to only visit parks that are local to them. Ontario has extended its emergency orders, which include a ban on public gatherings of more than five people and the closure of bars and restaurants except for take-out and delivery. Libraries, theatres and concert venues, as well as outdoor amenities such as playgrounds, and most child care centres also remain closed. The province has separately announced that publicly funded schools will be closed until at least May 31. Ontario liquor stores are expanding store hours that were reduced in March, rolling out earlier opening and later closing times in stages until they apply to all stores in the first week of June.

Saskatchewan

The Saskatchewan government’s five-phase plan to reopen parts of its economy started earlier this month with dentists, optometrists and other health professionals being allowed to resume services. Phase 1 also includes reopened golf courses and campgrounds. Phase 2 will give the green light to retail businesses and salons. Restaurants and gyms could open in Phase 3, but with limited capacity. Phase 4 could see arenas, swimming pools and playgrounds opening. In Phase 5, the province would consider lifting restrictions on the size of public gatherings.

Manitoba

The Manitoba government is lifting its one-month limit on people’s prescription drug supplies. Starting today, people will be able to get prescriptions filled or refilled for 90 days, which was the previous limit. Last Monday Manitoba allowed health offices, including dentists, chiropractors and physiotherapists to reopen. Retail businesses were allowed to reopen at half occupancy as long as they ensure physical spacing. Restaurants could reopen patios and walk-up service. Museums and libraries also reopened, but with occupancy limited to 50 per cent. Playgrounds, golf courses and tennis courts reopened as well, along with parks and campgrounds. A second phase is to begin no earlier than June 1. That’s when restaurants would be allowed to open indoor dining areas and non-contact children’s sports would resume. Mass gatherings such as concerts and major sporting events will not be considered before September.

Alberta

Alberta will allow some scheduled, non-urgent surgeries to resume today. Service provided by dentists, physiotherapists and other medical professionals will also be permitted. Golf courses reopened May 2, though pro shops and clubhouses remain shuttered. On May 14, retail businesses, such as clothing, furniture and bookstores, will be allowed to reopen gradually. Cafes and restaurants with no bar service will also be allowed to run at half capacity. The second phase also includes potential kindergarten to Grade 12 classes _ with restrictions _ and the reopening of movie theatres and theatres, again, with restrictions. The third phase would see nightclubs, gyms, pools, recreation centres and arenas reopen, all with restrictions. There is no timeline for the final two phases.

British Columbia

The province is phasing in the reopening of its economy with certain health services, retail outlets, restaurants, salons and museums resuming some operations in mid-May. All of the government’s reopening plans are contingent on organizations and businesses developing plans that follow provincial guidelines to control the spread of COVID-19. Hotels, resorts and parks will follow in June. A mix of online and classroom post-secondary education is planned for September, along with classes returning for students in kindergarten to Grade 12. Conventions, large concerts, international tourism and professional sports with a live audience will not be allowed to resume until either a vaccine is widely available, community immunity has been reached, or effective treatment can be provided for the disease.


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Gas retailers in Atlantic Canada forced to sell fuel at a loss

shutterstock_692687404Retailers in Atlantic Canada are struggling under the one-two punch of reduced business due to COVID-19 and gas price regulations.

Retail gasoline pricing is the region is unique to the rest of the country, as gas prices are regulated.

“Regulation is supposed to reduce price volatility, but in March when the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic coupled with the dire effects of the global oil price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia, the result was a rapid decrease in the regulated selling price of motor fuel,” the Convenience Industry Council of Canada said in a release. “As a result of steadily decreasing consumer demand, many retailers were carrying significant inventory. Each time the price of fuel was adjusted, the future for our retailers became yet more uncertain as the difference between the posted regulated price to consumers and the product cost to retailers continued to grow.”

In essence, Atlantic gas retailers were burdened with inventory that they purchased at a price much higher than what they could sell it for.

It’s estimated that Atlantic convenience gas stations are losing upwards of $14 and more on every fill up, or 20-25 cents per litre, until they could clear their inventory, according to CICC. “The total loss on fuel to each retailer in March was in the tens of thousands of dollars, on average. These are real losses because there is no pent up or deferred demand that can or will be made up down the road.”

While area retailers are accustomed to ups and downs throughout the year due to supply and pricing, it typically evens out in the end. However, more recent losses are unprecedented and represent a huge financial burden.

“We know many convenience gas retailers may not be able to absorb that financial hit and without help there could be business closures,” said CICC.

The industry association is working with CIPMA and the Atlantic Convenience Stores  Association to discuss the issue with provincial governments in the Atlantic region and come up with potential solutions that will help the nearly 2,500 convenience stores in the Atlantic region that sell gasoline.