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Daily Pulse

One of our most accessible tools, this daily comment keeps you abreast of developments on the North American and international financial markets.

Michel Doucet

Michel Doucet
Vice-President and
Portfolio Manager

November 26, 2020

Canada

Calgary-based Imperial Oil Ltd. said Wednesday it is laying off about 200 of its 6,000 employees across Canada as part of a cost-cutting initiative due to low oil prices. The oilsands, refining and energy retailing company, which has been reluctant to cut staff during the current and previous industry downturns, also confirmed Wednesday it has reduced the number of contractors it employs by about 450 since the start of the year. Imperial is 69.6 per cent owned by U.S. energy giant ExxonMobil Corp., which said in October it would cut its global workforce by about 15 per cent, equating to about 14,000 jobs.

United States

Salesforce is in talks to acquire Slack, and a deal could be announced as soon as next week, according to a person familiar with the matter. Shares of Slack closed almost 38% higher Wednesday after the Wall Street Journal first reported that Salesforce held talks to buy the company. Salesforce, whose stock closed down 5% on Wednesday, is scheduled to release its fiscal third-quarter earnings next week. It’s unclear how much the deal would be worth, but Slack’s market cap ballooned to more than $20 billion following the WSJ’s original report. Slack would be one of the biggest software deals ever for the industry. It would rank among IBM’s $34 billion purchase of Red Hat in 2019, Microsoft’s $27 billion purchase of LinkedIn in 2016 and Facebook’s $19 billion purchase of WhatsApp in 2014.

Disney is expanding the scope of its layoffs to around 32,000 workers as the coronavirus pandemic continues to pummel the theme park industry. In an SEC filing published Wednesday, the company revealed that thousands of employees will have their jobs terminated in the first half of fiscal 2021. The majority of these layoffs will be from its parks, experiences and products division and include the 28,000 workers that the company previously announced in September. Prolonged closures at Disney’s California-based theme parks and limited attendance at its open parks has forced the company to slim down its workforce. In addition, as of Oct. 3, around 37,000 employees who were not expected to be laid off were placed on furlough.

Europe

European stocks traded around the flatline Thursday as investors paused for breath after a global rally in recent sessions. The Europe Stoxx 600 index opened 0.2% higher before paring those gains. Looking at individual stocks, shares of insurer Aviva were trading 1.4% lower after the British insurer said that it expects to pay a total dividend for 2020 of 21 pence (28 cents) and is exploring options for divesting its remaining businesses in Asia and continental Europe in order to focus on Britain, Ireland and Canada. Shares of AstraZeneca were up 0.6% Thursday before paring gains to trade 0.4% lower as questions are raised over the way Astrazeneca and Oxford University tested their coronavirus vaccine, with the head of the White House’s vaccine task force voicing doubts about trial data and the drug’s efficacy rate.

Asia

JD Health, a unit of Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com, is looking to raise more than $3 billion in its Hong Kong debut. JD Health is planning to sell 381.9 million shares at a range of 62.80 to 70.58 Hong Kong dollars ($8.10-$9.11), according to a filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange. The exercise of an over-allotment option to sell more stock could also bring the size of the IPO up to about $4 billion. JD Health looks set to be Hong Kong’s biggest IPO of 2020, according to Reuters. That development came after Ant Group’s highly-anticipated initial public offering in Shanghai and Hong Kong was abruptly suspended earlier in November. Shares of JD.com in Hong Kong gained 0.82% on Thursday.

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