Long-term investors are turning to alternative assets & private markets to lift returns in a low-growth world

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Desmarais brothers to step down as CEOs in overhaul of Power Corp

Massive reorganization at one of the country’s largest financial services firms

By David Scanlan | Bloomberg.com

Billionaires Andre Desmarais and Paul Desmarais Jr. are stepping down as co-chief executive officers of Power Corp. of Canada as part of a massive reorganization at one of the country’s largest financial services firms.

The Desmarais brothers, sons of the family who runs the Montreal-based firm, will stay on as chairman and deputy chairman. Jeffrey Orr, current CEO of the Power Financial Corp. unit, takes the top job at a new entity combining the two main units of the insurance and asset management company.

“The reorganization is a natural step that reflects our evolution from a diversified holding company into one that is primarily focused on financial services,” Andre Desmarais, 63, said in a statement Friday.

Shares of Power Corp. surged as much as 7.5 per cent, heartened also by a 10 per cent increase in the dividend, while Power Financial was up as much as 9.4 per cent. Both were the biggest intraday increases in a decade and handing the brothers an immediate payoff. The family was worth $8.38 billion in 2018, putting them seventh among Canada’s wealthiest families according to Canadian Business magazine.

By combing the two companies, Power Corp. says it will simplify its corporate structure, eliminating the dual-holding format and reducing costs. That may help unlock shareholder value. Neither Power Financial nor Power Corp. have regained their pre-2008 financial crisis highs, unlike the country’s big banks.

Power Corp. also said the new structure should allow the company to focus on financial services, where it faces relentless pressure on fees from ETFs and robo advisers, and from declining interest rates for its life insurance business. Power businesses include insurer Great-West Lifeco Inc. and money manager IGM Financial Inc.

“Canadian banks have been able to take advantage of their booming individual, or retail, businesses in Canada to substantially grow their earnings and balance sheets,” Paul Desmarais Jr., 65, said in a May 2018 speech. “By contrast, during the same 10-year period, the individual businesses of the three major Canadian life insurance companies – including our subsidiary Great-West Lifeco – have more or less stagnated.”

PAUL’S SON

As part of the reorganization, Power Financial shareholders will receive 1.05 Power Corp. subordinate voting shares, or $33.50, and some cash for each share they own. That’s little more than the $32.77 Power Financial last traded at. Power Financial is currently controlled by Power Corp.

“There’s change but it’s evolutionary change and it’s continuity,” Orr told analysts on a conference call. “It’s just part of an ongoing strategy that we’ve been pursuing to create shareholders value.”

The shake-up makes no mention of Paul Desmarais III, 37, son of Paul Jr. and a senior vice president of Power Corp. who oversees the company’s startup strategy, which includes majority-owned robo adviser Wealthsimple Inc. He is also the executive chairman of Sagard Holdings, a subsidiary of Power Corp. which has invested in public and private equity since its founding in 2005 and has moved into private credit last year.

The Desmarais family will continue to control the company through its Pansolo Holding Inc.

With assistance from Sandrine Rastello, Paula Sambo and Doug Alexander

Bloomberg.com

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Brookfield acquires mortgage insurer Genworth Canada in $2.4-billion deal

BANKING REPORTER | The Globe and Mail

Brookfield Asset Management Inc.’s private-equity arm is making a long-term bet on Canada’s mortgage market with a $2.4-billion deal to take control of Genworth MI Canada Inc., the country’s second-largest mortgage insurer.

Brookfield Business Partners LP, a publicly-traded subsidiary of the global asset manager, is acquiring a 57-per-cent stake in Genworth MI Canada from the mortgage insurer’s American parent company, Genworth Financial Inc.

Brookfield will pay $48.86 a share for nearly 49 million shares in Genworth MI Canada – a 5-per-cent discount to the price at Monday’s close on the Toronto Stock Exchange, but an 18-per-cent premium compared with the date when the company was formally put up for sale.

The deal appears to relieve a headache for Richmond, Va.-based Genworth, which has waited years for regulators to approve a separate deal that would see the American company acquired for US$2.7-billion by a privately held Chinese buyer, China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co. Ltd. That transaction, which was first announced in October, 2016, has stalled while awaiting approval from Canadian regulators and federal officials, who are required to consider the potential impact on Canada’s mortgage industry and have held the deal up over national-security concerns, even after U.S. regulators gave it a green light.

Earlier this summer, Genworth Financial announced it was considering “strategic alternatives” for Genworth MI Canada, seeking to break the deadlock. That raised the prospect that, absent a suitable buyer, Genworth Financial’s stake in its Canadian subsidiary might have to be sold into the public market at a discount. But Brookfield emerged with deep pockets and the industry expertise needed to take control.

“We are pleased to find such a high-calibre buyer for our interest in Genworth Canada,” said Genworth Financial president and chief executive Tom McInerney.

Genworth Financial’s share price shot up 15.8 per cent on Tuesday, and Brookfield Business Partners shares rose 2.7 per cent, but stock in Genworth MI Canada fell 1.7 per cent.

The Canadian arm of Genworth is a rare asset. It is Canada’s largest private-sector mortgage insurer, providing a backstop against defaults to residential mortgage lenders, and it trails only the government-owned Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) in size. Its only privately owned competitor is Canada Guaranty Mortgage Insurance Company, which is jointly owned by Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and financier Stephen Smith.

Genworth Canada currently has a 33-per-cent share of the country’s mortgage-insurance market, while CMHC holds half and Canada Guaranty the remaining 17 per cent, according to data from RBC Dominion Securities Inc. But the federal housing agency has been ceding its share to the private insurers.

Genworth’s improving position in a highly consolidated market made it a logical target for Brookfield Business Partners, which seeks to acquire and manage companies in sectors where the barrier to entry is high. Brookfield also has extensive expertise in mortgages and housing: It is one of the largest residential real estate developers in North America, active in real estate financing, and owns the Royal LePage brokerage.

Brookfield Business Partners managing partner David Nowak described Genworth Canada as “a high-quality leader in the mortgage-insurance sector,” in a statement.

The total share of mortgages that are insured has been falling, from 57 per cent in 2015 to 41 per cent in 2019, according to a recent CMHC report. The shift toward uninsured mortgages comes as regulators have tightened rules on mortgage lending, requiring borrowers to meet stricter tests to qualify for mortgage insurance.

Even so, the housing sector as a whole has continued to grow, adding a steady stream of new demand for mortgage insurance, particularly from first-time home buyers. And Brookfield is betting that Genworth can grab a larger share of the market, making full use of Brookfield’s deep relationships with banks that do the lion’s share of Canada’s mortgage lending.

The deal is expected to close before then end of 2019, subject to approvals from Canada’s banking regulator and Minister of Finance.

Brookfield is not currently looking to acquire the 43 per cent of Genworth MI Canada’s shares that are owned by other investors. But Jaeme Gloyn, an analyst at National Bank Financial Inc., said that prospect “is not entirely off the table” and “would likely unfold at a premium” to the price Brookfield is paying for control.

Ratings agency DBRS Ltd. called the deal “positive for Genworth Canada,” which has been more stable than its U.S. parent.

Oceanwide Holdings consented to the transaction and extended the deadline to finalize its own deal with Genworth Financial until Dec. 31.

Source: The Globe and Mail

Swap These Financial Stocks to Reduce Risk

Victoria Hetherington

Rising household debt, falling house prices, slowing credit applications – it’s a wonder anyone is still buying shares in Canada’s Big Six banks. Indeed, from financing weed suppliers to exposing itself to a potentially volatile American market, big Bay Street bankers may be too rich by half for the low-risk appetites of domestic investors looking to them for stability.

Take Bank of Nova Scotia (TSX:BNS)(NYSE:BNS), with its exposure to the U.S. economy, for instance. Scotiabank does substantial business south of the border, and as such may have left itself vulnerable to the potential of a widespread market downturn in the U.S. Even with this leg up, though, it still managed to underperform the Canadian banking industry as well as the TSX index for the past year.

More shares have been bought than sold by Bank of Nova Scotia insiders in the past three months, though not in vastly significant volumes. The usual boxes are ticked by its value, indicating P/E of 10.6 times earnings and P/B of 1.4 times book, while a stable dividend yield of 4.88% is augmented by a good-for-a-bank-stock 6.6% expected annual growth in earnings.

Again, overexposure to the United States market is an issue with Bank of Montreal(TSX:BMO)(NYSE:BMO). Specifically, this comes from BMO Harris Bank, a large personal and commercial bank; BMO Private Bank, which offers wealth management across the U.S.; plus BMO Capital Markets, an investment and corporate banking arm of the parent banker.

With year-on-year returns of 8.1%, BMO outperformed the industry and the market, and as such seems a safe bet on the face of it. Its one-year past earnings growth of 24.6% shows rapid recent improvement given its five-year average growth rate of 6.1%. Meanwhile, a P/E of 11.3 times earnings and P/B of 1.5 times book show near-market valuation, and a dividend yield of 3.9% is matched with a 3.6% expected annual growth in earnings.

Try the “insulated” alternatives

An example of domestic alternative on the TSX index would be Laurentian Bank of Canada (TSX:LB). Although its one-year past earnings dropped by 4.2%, a five-year average past earnings growth of 14.3% shows overall positivity, while a P/E of 9 times earnings and P/B of 0.8 times book illustrate Laurentian Bank of Canada’s characteristic good value. A dividend yield of 6.3% coupled with a 9.2% expected annual growth in earnings gives the Big Six a run for their money.

Alternatively, Manulife Finanical (TSX:MFC)(NYSE:MFC) offers a way to stick with financials but ditch the banks. This ever-popular insurance stock was up 2.33% in the last five days at the time of writing and is very attractive in term of value at the moment, with a P/E of 10.3 times earnings and P/B of 1.1 times book.

Manulife Financial’s 3.5% year-on-year returns managed to beat the Canadian insurance industry, but just missed out on walloping the TSX index’s 4.2%. In terms of the company’s track record, its one-year past earnings growth of 138.1% eclipsed the market and its industry, though its five-year average is sadly negative. Its balance sheet is solid, however, with its level of debt reduced over the past five years from 60.2% to the current 41% today.

The bottom line

Sidestepping banks may be a shrewd move at the moment, with other forms of financials offering a more insulated route to a broader space. While more regionalized banks like Laurentian Bank of Canada are one option, stocks like Manulife Financial, with its dividend yield of 4.17% and 11.3% expected annual growth in earnings offer a similar but less risky play on the TSX index’s financial sector.

Two-thirds of Canadians enter 2019 worried about the economy

NEWS PROVIDED BY

Financial Planning Standards Council 

TORONTOJan. 21, 2019 /CNW/ – Two-thirds of Canadians enter 2019 worried about their financial fortunes, according to a recent economic poll. The Kitchen Table Forecast, a Leger poll of 1,515 Canadians, was conducted for non-profit organizations Financial Planning Standards Council (FPSC) and Credit Canada.

The survey sought to add consumer context to reports on slowing economic growth by asking Canadians about a series of “kitchen table” issues – the sort of daily financial concerns that confront people on a daily basis, such as bill payments and debt, cost of living, job security and bankruptcy. It comes on the heels of a global report by The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that suggests Canada is showing signs of a sharp decline in growth in 2019.

“Canadians are feeling stressed about their finances and are often at a loss to improve their situation,” said author, personal finance educator and FPSC’s Consumer Advocate, Kelley Keehn. “This hopelessness can cause people to do nothing, and possibly make their condition worse. Uncertainty about an ever-changing job market and economy only intensifies the average person’s confidence and ability to handle the ebb and flow that life inevitably presents.”

The “R word” – Four-in-10 Canadians feel economy will get worse in 2019
The report didn’t ask about the dreaded “R-word” (recession) specifically; however, four-in-10 Canadians (42%) feel that the economy will get worse in 2019 – while 36 per cent believe it will stay the same. Across the country, people aged 55-plus are significantly more likely than those under 55 to feel the economy will get worse in 2019 (47% vs. 39%). Meanwhile, Quebecers (at 46%) are more confident than the rest of Canadians (34%) that the economy will stay the same in 2019.

“It’s no surprise people over 55 are more pessimistic (or realistic) when it comes to our economy. This isn’t their first rodeo and they know the red flags,” says Credit Canada CEO, Laurie Campbell. “Insolvency rates were up by more than five per cent last fall, we’ve seen five interest rate hikes since mid-2017, and the cost of living continues to rise. If debt levels don’t come down and people don’t start to get serious about paying off their debt, it’s only a matter of time before we’re in major trouble. You can only bury your head in the sand for so long.”

Looking ahead – Daily financial concerns 
Respondents were also asked the question “Looking ahead into 2019, what are you most worried about?”  Overall, two-in-three Canadians (67%) say they have worries when forecasting their prospects for the year. While gender does not play a role, those under 55 are considerably more likely to be worried (76% vs. 52% for those over 55). Respondents with children under 18 are also more likely to have concerns (79% vs. 62% for those without children).

Here are the “kitchen table” issues that are keeping Canadians up at night:

  • 34 per cent are concerned that the increased cost of living will put them further in debt
  • One-in-four (23%) are concerned they won’t be able keep up with monthly payments
  • Also, one-in-four (23%) are concerned with their debt growing
  • 13 per cent are concerned about losing their job
  • 10 per cent are concerned about other bread-winners in their home losing their jobs
  • 14 per cent are concerned about an unaffordable increase in mortgage interest rates
  • Five per cent are concerned about going bankrupt

Alternatively, one-in-four Canadians (26%) were “not worried about anything” going into 2019.

How to recession-proof your life – tips from FPSC’s Consumer Advocate, Kelley Keehn

  1. Get your emergency fund established and funded.  Experts estimate three-to-six months of household income that’s safe and secure.
  2. Do a family net worth statement.  Know your situation and know where you may be leaving money on the table, like with an employer-funded pension plan or employer RRSP matching plan.
  3. Consider your insurance needs during times of high debt in the case of death, disability or job loss.
  4. Don’t panic – seek out expert assistance from a CFP® professional who can create a plan that protects your downside without adding to your already stretched bottom line.
  5. Take a hard look at ways to cut expenses or increase your income to increase your bottom line and help fund your emergency account.

How to recession proof your life – tips from Credit Canada CEO, Laurie Campbell

  1. Build (and stick to) a monthly budget to ensure you know exactly how much money is coming in, how much is going out, and how much is left over for financial goals. See where you can cut costs – for example, find cheaper cell phone and internet plans, gym memberships and better insurance rates.
  2. Contribute regularly to an emergency savings fund. Make regular contributions – even small amounts, such as $20, is a very positive step. Consider setting up automated savings through your bank.
  3. Pay down debt. Start with paying off the credit cards with the highest interest rates first, also known as the “avalanche” method for paying down debt. Credit Canada’s free Debt Calculator can help determine the best debt repayment strategy for each individual.
  4. Always remember that Credit Canada offers free, confidential, one-on-one counselling sessions with certified credit counsellors.

The full results of the Kitchen Table Forecast can be found on the FPSC and Credit Canada websites.

About Credit Canada 
Credit Canada is a not-for-profit credit counselling agency that provides free and confidential debt and credit counselling, personal debt consolidation and resolutions, as well as preventative counselling, educational seminars, and free tips and tools in the areas of budgeting, money management, and financial goal-setting. Credit Canada is Canada’sfirst and longest-standing credit counselling agency and a leader in financial wellness, helping Canadians successfully manage their debt since 1966. Please visit www.creditcanada.com for more information.

About Financial Planning Standards Council
A professional standards-setting and certification body working in the public interest, FPSC’s purpose is to drive value and instill confidence in financial planning. FPSC ensures those it certifies―Certified Financial Planner® professionals and FPSC Level 1® Certificants in Financial Planning―meet appropriate standards of competence and professionalism through rigorous requirements of education, examination, experience and ethics. There are approximately 18,500 financial planners in Canada who have met, and continue to meet, FPSC’s standards. More information is available at FPSC.ca and FinancialPlanningForCanadians.ca. Effective April 1, 2019, FPSC will become FP Canada™: a national professional body dedicated to advancing professional financial planning. Learn more at FPCanada.ca.

About the Kitchen Table Forecast
The survey of 1,515 Canadians was completed between January 4 and January 7, 2019, for Credit Canada and FPSC using Leger’s online panel. The margin of error for this study was +/-2.5%, 19 times out of 20.

Leger’s online panel has approximately 400,000 members nationally and has a retention rate of 90%.

Websites

https://www.creditcanada.com/ 
http://www.financialplanningforcanadians.ca/   
http://www.kelleykeehn.com/

CFP® and Certified Financial Planner® are certification trademarks owned outside the U.S. by Financial Planning Standards Board Ltd. (FPSB). Financial Planning Standards Council is the marks licensing authority for the CFP marks in Canada, through agreement with FPSB. All other ® are registered trademarks of FPSC, unless indicated. © 2018 Financial Planning Standards Council. All rights reserved.

SOURCE Financial Planning Standards Council

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