ONCAP II Hits Home Run With Sale of Canadian Securities Institute

Canadian Securities Institute Global Education Inc. was recently sold by one of Onex’s private equity funds to Moody’s Analytics for $155 million Cdn.

ONCAP paid $25 million for a 91% stake in the company which was spun off by the securities industry back in 2006. Onex’s share of the company was 40%.

When the sale was made back in 2006, the multiple that ONCAP paid was somewhat frothy. However, closing regional offices, converting all exams to mutiple choice for quick computerized marking, coupled with 200% fee increases to take an industry exam made CSI extremely profitable on what can be considered a monopoly as an education content provider in the securities industry in Canada.

As an industry participant, one can only hope that Moody’s will keep fees reasonable as educational requirements keep increasing and double digit course fee increases seem to be the norm.

Your comments are always appreciated.

Alberta Capital Bonds On Their Way

Albertans are sure to be inundated with marketing on Alberta Capital Bonds in the coming weeks as the Alberta government looks to individuals to raise capital to fund their current deficits. Details of the offering were provided to financial institutions such as ourselves this week. The bonds will go on sale February 16th until March 1.

Unlike Canada Savings Bonds, Alberta Capital Bonds are not redeemable and must be held until maturity except for some very limited circumstances. The bonds will be dated March 15, 2010 and have a 5 year term. Interest can be paid annually or compound annually.

The minimum purchase amount will be $1,000 with a $25,000 maximum regardless of how the bonds are registered. You would not be able to buy $25,000 for yourself, $25,000 for your RRSP account and $25,000 jointly with your spouse. The government will not provide certificates which is also a different format compared to Canada Savings Bonds.

While the bonds are not CDIC insured, they do have the full backing of the Alberta government. They will be eligible for RRSP’s within a Self Directed Plan. The only thing that we don’t know about the bonds is probably the most important number.

What are they going to pay? The highest 5 year GIC is currently 3.30%. Expect the announcement to come in around that level.

If you are interested in higher rates, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We have access to some Alberta Capital Finance Authority which is a government agency accrual notes yielding over 5%.

Your thoughts and comments are always appreciated.

Claymore Gold Bullion Trust – A Great Way to Buy Gold

With India adding 200 tonnes of gold to their reserves, gold has hit an all-time high. It was highly anticipated that China was going to purchase this block of gold. With China publicly expressing its wish to increase its gold reserves over the coming years, one can only imagine that gold might appreciate significantly over time.

So what is the best way to play gold? You can buy gold producers but that takes on the risk of an individual companies performance. Some will outperform bullion while others won’t. For those that want exposure to bullion, consider the Claymore Gold Bullion Trust. The symbol is cgl.un on the TSX.

The units trade at a discount to its Net Asset Value (NAV). Today’s closing price was $10.00 and the NAV is roughly $10.40. Most Gold Trusts trade at premiums. Claymore will convert the units into an exchange traded fund if the units trade at a 2% or more discount to its NAV for 10 consecutive trading days starting at the end of November. Once this happens the discount should disappear.

If you buy gold outright as a retail investor, expect to pay a premium over what is quoted in the press. Couple that with any storage costs associated with buying bullion and you will see that Claymore’s product has merit. Another benefit for Canadian investors is that the units are hedged into Canadian dollars.

Typically, commodities move inversely with the US dollar. As gold goes up, the US dollar goes down potentially negating any upside to Canadian investors. In the interest of full disclosure, I do own some of the units personally.

Your thoughts about gold and where its heading are greatly appreciated.

 

 

Life Settlements in Difficulty in Canada

I have seen some ads in the Calgary Herald advertising life settlements yielding 10%. The ads definitely peaked my interest as this was something different than real estate, commodities, equities or even the bond market.

To have a different asset class paying a 10% yield would be quite attractive. Of course, with the rash of real estate deals going south and ponzi schemes rearing their head, one can only be skeptical.

The underlying concept behind life settlements is that a company offers an individual that is diagnosed with a life threatening illness a lump sum while they are alive in return for the proceeds from a life insurance policy upon death.

The company raises money from individuals paying them the 10% interest rate. They are supposed to pay the individuals from the proceeds of the policies which is difficult to pinpoint as they cannot guarantee when a policyholder will die.

The industry is growing in the US with about $12 Billion in policies sold in 2007 according to an article in this weeks investment executive. In Canada, the purchasing of policies is illegal in most provinces so the ones being offered for sale are from jurisdictions outside of Canada.

The main issue that is now plaguing this sector is similar to other unregulated industries. The individuals selling the policies are not registered to do so and are not offering proper documentation to potential investors outlining the risks.

Two companies in Ontario selling these policies have been shutdown while one in Alberta is currently being investigated.

All one needs to do is visit the Ontario Securities Commission or Alberta Securities Commission websites and do a search on life settlements to get more details on some of the issues.

If you have had any positive or negative experiences in this area, your feedback would be greatly appreciated.

 

 

 

Headline Deflation Number Not Worth Reporting

Media outlets have been reporting that inflation was -0.9% for the last 12 months in Canada. Many people will listen to that one number and not look any further.

The headline number includes food and energy prices with energy prices being the main reason for the decline since a barrel of oil in July 2008 was trading as high as $147 a barrel compared to $70 today.

As a result, gasoline prices dropped 28%. The decline in energy prices was quick and steep and will quickly disappear from the deflationary number being reported.

Core inflation which excludes these items was 1.8% and right in line with the 2% target of the Bank of Canada. There was nothing in this report to indicate a change in Bank of Canada interest rate policy.

Going forward, expect energy prices to contribute to the headline inflation number. Just like my post of a couple of weeks ago disecting the jobless numbers, it is always important to read more than the headline in order to say informed.

Your comments and inquiries are always appreciated.

Jobs Numbers Better Than Headlines Suggest

The latest monthly job numbers in Canada showed a 44,500 decline while the economic consensus was a 15,000 exepected decline. The National Bank Financial Economic & Strategy Group pointed out some figures that suggest some very good takeaways.

Half the job losses were in the food and accomodation area in Quebec. The decline was also among 15 – 24 year olds in the province as harsh weather conditions contributed signficantly to the decline.

Ontario on the other hand created 13,700 jobs, the best number since September 2008. The other very interesting number is that total hours worked in Canada increased for a third consecutive month by a robust 0.3% contradicting the job loss number.

These number suggest that Canada is on track to show 3% GDP growth for the quarterand National Bank expects the employment situation to improve in the next couple of months.

The moral of this post is that it is important to read more than the headline. Your thoughts and comments are always appreciated. Have a good weekend.

The Week Ahead – August 3, 2009

The TSX is poised to show a 5% + increase for the month of July with less than 2 hours to go in the trading day while the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up almost 9% for the month.

On the economic front next week, US ISM Manufacturing  numbers come out on Monday. US Pending Home Sales Month over Month and Year over Year for June will be reported on Tuesday, August 4th and June Factory Orders are being reported on the 5th.

In Canada, June Building Permits Month over Month are being reported on Thursday August 6th. The July Unemployment Rate, Net Change in Unemployment  and the Ivey Purchasing Mangers Index are all being reported on Friday.

It will be a very busy week on the earnings front with too many companies to list. For a complete list, you can click on the following link with the dates and earnings per share estimates.

Earnings Estimates

New Research Podcasts

Have a Great Weekend