Monthly Archives: June 2019

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As Villas-Boas is linked to Chelsea, club says it hopes to announce new manager in coming days

LISBON, Portugal – Chelsea announced plans Monday to appoint a new manager within days, after Portuguese media linked Porto’s Andre Villas-Boas with the Premier League club.

Portugal’s national news agency Lusa and several Portuguese newspaper websites reported that Chelsea has agreed to pay the 15-milion-euro (C$21 million) release clause in Villas-Boas’s Porto contract.

“We hope to be able to make an announcement regarding the new manager in the next few days,” Chelsea said in a statement responding to questions about Villas-Boas.

Porto said it has “received no information that the clause will be activated nor the coach’s willingness for it to happen.”

But Porto President Jorge Pinto da Costa said he would be powerless to prevent the 33-year-old Villas-Boas leaving if the price is met to release him from a contract that runs until 2013.

“If someone puts 15 million euros into our bank account and he wants to leave, there’s nothing we can do about it because that’s the contractual undertaking,” Pinto da Costa told Portugal’s Sport TV. “If that doesn’t happen, he won’t leave.”

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Villas-Boas would be replacing Italian Carlo Ancelotti, who was fired last month after his second season at Chelsea ended without a trophy.

And at 33, the Portuguese is the same age as Chelsea players Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba who he worked with at Stamford Bridge under compatriot Jose Mourinho.

Comparisons with Mourinho were reinforced last month when Villas-Boas emulated his compatriot by winning the same European competition that launched the career of the self-styled “Special One.”

Villas-Boas became the youngest coach to win a UEFA club competition when Porto’s unbeaten season ended with a victory in the Europa League final, eight years after Mourinho won the competition in its UEFA Cup incarnation.

After Mourinho, who now coaches Real Madrid, moved from Porto to Chelsea in 2004 he won back-to-back Premier League titles.

Villas-Boas was a scout for Mourinho at Chelsea and followed him in 2008 to Inter Milan.

Villas-Boas, who speaks fluent English, had also worked with Bobby Robson during the English coach’s spell at Porto’s Stadium of the Dragon. He coached the British Virgin Isles at just 21.

Porto ended the past season unbeaten in the domestic championship with 27 wins in 30 matches. In Europe, it recorded 14 wins in 17 games, scoring 44 goals with an attacking style of play favoured by Villas-Boas.

Porto became only the second Portuguese club to finish a league season unbeaten, after Benfica’s 1972-73 team.

“I don’t approach football with only a tactical approach – you can achieve success through various means. What I like is to make my players give their most but I give them lots of room to manoeuvre,” Villas-Boas said on the eve of the Europa League final. “I try to promote their talent and feel free to make the right decisions. I’m no dictator.”

Dutch coach Guus Hiddink was also linked with a return to the Blues, where he won the FA Cup as a caretaker manager in 2009.

Boyd Group acquires Colorado-based collision repair company

WINNIPEG – Boyd Group Income Fund (TSX:BYD.UN) has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Cars Collision Center of Colorado LLC, which owns 28 collision repair shops in the U.S. states of Illinois, Indiana, and Colorado.

The pricetag of the deal, announced Monday, is US$21 million.

The Winnipeg-based auto body repair company said the acquisition is expected to immediately boost earnings, cash flows and distributable cash per unit.

“By our estimates, the acquisition will position Boyd as the largest multi-location collision operator in North America not only in terms of number of locations, but also in terms of annual sales,” president and CEO Brock Bulbuck said in a release before stock markets opened Monday.

“After completing this transaction, Boyd will have a total of 164 collision repair centres across 13 U.S. states and four Canadian provinces. We expect to see substantial benefits from the transaction, including expanded critical mass and presence in one of our key markets, an expanded national footprint which translates into enhanced value to our U.S. insurance company clients, as well as additional synergies.”

The transaction is expected to be completed by July 1.

Cars is a private company that operates 14 locations in Illinois, eight in northern Indiana, and six shops in Colorado. It generated sales of US$65 million in the 12 months ended April 30.

The Boyd Group is the largest operator of collision repair centres in North America, operating under the trade names Boyd Autobody & Glass, Gerber Collision & Glass and True2Form.

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Austrian officials extradite to Germany terror suspect arrested in Vienna

BERLIN – An alleged German terrorist arrested last month in Vienna has been extradited to Germany, where authorities accuse him of belonging to the extremist German Taliban Mujahideen movement.

German federal prosecutors said the 26-year-old, identified only as Yusuf O., was arrested in Vienna on May 31 on a German warrant. He was taken to Germany on Monday and brought before a judge, who ordered that he remain in custody pending further investigation.

The suspect allegedly travelled to the Afghan-Pakistan border region in 2009 and joined the German Taliban Mujahideen by that September, prosecutors say.

“He is believed to have been trained in explosives and guns and have participated in the violent jihad of the German Taliban Mujahideen,” they said in a statement that also alleged he “appeared in propaganda videos of the organization.”

Upon his return to Europe in 2011, O. began recruiting supporters and members for the movement, including another suspect identified as 21-year-old Austrian Maqsood L., who was arrested on May 16 in Berlin.

Austrian Interior Ministry spokesman Rudolf Gollia also said Monday that Yusuf O. was in contact with another Austrian suspect, 25-year-old Thomas al-J., who was arrested in Vienna last week.

Austrian officials say they are investigating al-J. for planning plotting attacks in Germany, including vague plans to target the seat of Germany’s parliament, the Reichstag in Berlin.

Germany’s Interior Ministry said it had knowledge of plans for any such attack.

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Tens of thousands demonstrate Yemen’s capital, demand president’s sons leave country

SANAA, Yemen – Tens of thousands took to the streets of the capital on Monday, demanding that the president’s sons leave Yemen as pressure rose for the wounded leader being treated outside the country to step down.

Ahmed Saleh, 42, is a one-time heir apparent to his father, who was badly wounded in an attack earlier this month. A ruling party official had said last week the president would return home soon from medical treatment in Saudi Arabia despite reports that he was heavily burned.

In his absence, pressure has been mounting at home and abroad for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step aside after nearly 33 years in power.

His son Ahmed Saleh commands the elite Presidential Guard, the country’s best equipped and trained military unit. The force has played a key role in protecting his father’s regime since pro-democracy protests erupted in February.

The protesters on Monday called for Ahmed Saleh to leave, along with his brother Khaled, who is also an army commander. Their demonstration led to the closure of major streets in the capital. Most stores shuttered down, but there were no immediate reports of clashes with security forces.

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More than 100 influential religious clerics and tribal leaders have called for the president’s ouster and elections to choose a new leader, saying he is unfit to return to his post.

Militants, meanwhile, are taking advantage of the internal strife in Yemen to overrun parts of the country.

In the southern port of Aden, government forces early Monday killed one Islamic militant and wounded two others in an exchange of fire near the offices of the local branch of the Central bank at Crater, the city’s ancient historic port district, according to security officials. No casualties were reported.

Militants also seized two towns in the southern province of Abyan late last month and attacked a town in a neighbouring province last week.

Military officials, meanwhile, on Monday raised to 17 the number of militants killed in fighting in Abyan the previous day and said at least five soldiers, including two senior officers, were killed Monday when a mortar hit their position.

The security and military officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Yemen’s political turmoil began with anti-government protests in February. The country is the poorest in the Arab world, suffers numerous internal conflicts and is a potential source of instability for neighbouring Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich parts of the Arabian peninsula.

For the U.S. and Europe, the main concern is the al-Qaida offshoot that has found refuge in Yemen’s mountainous hinterlands and has been behind several nearly successful strikes on U.S. targets.

Royal Bank sells U.S. retail banking operations for US$3.62 billion

TORONTO – Royal Bank (TSX:RY) has agreed to sell its U.S. regional retail banking operations to PNC Financial Services for about US$3.62 billion and will take well over a billion dollars in losses as a result.

Canada’s biggest bank said Monday that it will face a C$1.6-billion loss that will be booked in the third quarter, which ends July 31. The loss includes an estimated $1.3-billion writeoff.

Royal Bank said the purchase will be comprised of cash as well as up to $1 billion in PNC shares.

Chief executive Gord Nixon told analysts on a conference call that Royal Bank weighed several different types of transactions but settled on PNC’s offer because it preferred the balance of cash and shares in the agreement.

“Specifically, the additional capital can be used to fuel organic growth across all of our business segments and invest in other businesses, such as wealth management, where we have been targeting some international asset managers,” Nixon said.

The transaction covers its RBC Bank operations, which will be sold for US$3.45 billion, and its credit card assets, sold for US$165 million.

Royal Bank operates under the RBC Bank banner in the U.S., with more than 400 branches throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Florida and Alabama.

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The banks were formerly part of the Centura and other brands that were acquired by Royal starting a decade ago. However, the Canadian bank’s rapid expansion struck a major hurdle when the U.S. housing bubble burst and hit mortgage markets hard in southern U.S. states where the former Centura bank operated.

“Given the dynamics and highly competitive nature of the U.S. retail market and the increasing challenges as a result of both the economy and regulations, success in our view will require operational scale which can only be achieved by making large capital investments,” Nixon said.

“We believe we can achieve greater shareholder returns by investing the proceeds of this sale into higher return businesses.”

Nixon emphasized that the transaction doesn’t mean Royal Bank is fully exiting the United States, as it plans to continue operating both its U.S. wealth management and capital markets operations.

“In addition, we will maintain our existing cross-border banking platform for current and future clients with a targeted suite of cross-border products and services to meet their needs,” Nixon said in a release before stock markets opened.

Investors appeared to respond relatively favourably to the transaction, sending Royal’s shares up 22 cents to $54.55 in morning trading Monday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

“I think there’s relief that it’s over and it didn’t take a long time” to sell the assets, said Kate Warne, Canadian markets specialist at Edward Jones in St. Louis.

“To a certain extent, buying banks that did a lot of real estate loans at the beginning of the real estate crisis wasn’t a great move and we can at least be relieved that they have gotten out of them.”

CIBC analyst Rob Sedran said in as note that despite Royal Bank booking a loss on the sale, the financial implications are positive.

“The deal should … be viewed favourably since Royal Bank was able, in our view, to extract a very full price. Management can now refocus on growing its core business and the deal will be accretive to both earnings and capital,” he wrote.

Despite the Royal’s troubles in the United States, other Canadian banks – TD Bank and Bank of Montreal – are doing well in the American market.

TD’s former Banknorth and Commerce Bank franchises – renamed as TD Bank N.A – are among the biggest regional banks in the United States, operating throughout New England and the northeastern states. Meanwhile, Bank of Montreal has a growing banking and wealth management franchise from its Harris Bank operations based in the Chicago area.

The sale of the banking assets face the usual closing conditions, including regulatory approvals, and the transaction is expected to close in March 2012.

A Wall Street Journal report on Sunday said that Pittsburgh-based PNC beat out rival regional bank BB&T Corp. for the Royal Bank operations.

PNC chairman and CEO James Rohr said in a statement that the RBC acquisition will give PNC access to “attractive southeast markets in a way that will create value for our shareholders.”

The deal adds about $19 billion of deposits and $16 billion of loans based on RBC Bank (USA) balances as of April 30, Rohr said.