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Twitter responds to Musk’s claims, calls them ‘excuses’

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By Barbara Ortutay in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Twitter denied in a court filing that it had deprived its would-be acquirer, billionaire and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, of necessary information or misrepresented details about its business. Musk originally made those charges to justify his attempt to back out of a $44 billion deal to buy the social platform, which he later claimed was infested with much larger numbers of “spam bots” and fake accounts than Twitter had disclosed.

That fate of that acquisition, which Musk agreed to without taking the time to examine the details of Twitter’s business, now rests with a Delaware court where Twitter sued to force Musk to complete the deal. The case is scheduled to go to trial on October 17.

The court’s decision could ultimately determine the future of a social platform used daily by 238 million people around the globe — a small audience by the standards of Facebook and other major platforms, but one that include political leaders, major entertainers and experts on a variety of subjects. Until January 2021, it was also home to the then-U.S. president, Donald Trump.

In an unexpected twist, Twitter was able to file its response to Musk before Musk’s own counterclaims have surfaced in public. A judge ruled on Wednesday that Musk’s counterclaim will be made public by Friday.

Parts of Musk’s counterclaim, however, was included in Twitter’s response. These include accusing the company of fraud and “delay tactics” and only providing Musk “sanitized, incomplete information” in answer to his questions about spam accounts and other company metrics. While Twitter has claimed that Musk is inventing reasons to get out of buying the company, Musk’s lawyers say that Twitter is the one holding back the deal by “dragging its feet” and providing insufficient data to the billionaire’s requests.

In a reply filed Thursday in Delaware Chancery Court, Twitter calls Musk’s reasoning “a story, imagined in an effort to escape a merger agreement that Musk no longer found attractive.”

“The Counterclaims are a made-for-litigation tale that is contradicted by the evidence and common sense,” Twitter’s response says. “Musk invents representations Twitter never made and then tries to wield, selectively, the extensive confidential data Twitter provided him to conjure a breach of those purported representations.”

At the same time, the response says, Musk also accused Twitter of breaching their agreement by “stonewalling” his information requests.

Representatives for Musk did not immediately return a message for comment Thursday, although Musk briefly talked about Twitter at Tesla’s annual shareholders meeting Thursday.

He told an audience at Tesla’s factory near Austin, Texas, that Twitter fit into the grand vision for his holding company. He said that since he uses Twitter a lot, with more than 100 million followers, he knows what to do with it.

“I do understand the product quite well,” he said. “So I think I’ve got a good sense of where to point the engineering team at Twitter to make it radically better,” he said.

Attorneys for Musk had wanted to file a public version of their answer and counterclaims in Delaware court Wednesday. But Twitter attorneys complained that they needed more time to review and potentially redact Musk’s sealed filing, saying it refers “extensively” to internal Twitter information and data given to Musk.

Musk, the world’s richest man, agreed in April to buy Twitter and take it private, offering $54.20 a share and vowing to loosen the company’s policing of content and to root out fake accounts. Among other things, Musk said he would restore Trump — who was banned from Twitter following the January 6, 2021, riots at the U.S. Capitol — to the platform.

But Musk said in July that he wanted to back out of the deal, prompting Twitter to file a lawsuit to hold him to the “seller-friendly” agreement.

Musk says Twitter has failed to provide him enough information about the number of fake accounts on its service. Twitter argues that Musk, CEO of electric car maker and solar energy company Tesla Inc., is deliberately trying to tank the deal because market conditions have deteriorated and the acquisition no longer serves his interests.

Either Musk or Twitter would be entitled to a $1 billion breakup fee if the other party is found responsible for the agreement failing. Twitter wants more, however, and is seeking a court order of “specific performance” directing Musk to follow through with the deal.

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Associated Press Writer Randall Chase contributed to this story from Dover, Delaware.

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Alberta

WestJet announces new flights to Tokyo, Barcelona, and Edinburgh

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Calgary – WestJet plans to offer flights to Japan starting this spring, marking the airline’s first non-stop flights to Asia from Calgary.

The Calgary-based airline said Monday that it will fly to Tokyo’s Narita International Airport from Calgary this spring.

The non-stop flights will operate three times weekly beginning April 30.

The airline also announced new routes from Calgary to Barcelona and Edinburgh and increased frequency to Dublin, London, Paris and Rome, also starting in the spring.

WestJet chief executive Alexis von Hoensbroech says the new flights are part of the airline’s plan to expand capacity from Calgary by more than 25 per cent by next year, beginning with intercontinental routes.

WestJet also says it is preparing for broader expansion within Canada and North America over the coming months.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2022.

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RBC reports $3.9B Q4 profit as it prepares for a more turbulent year ahead

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By Ian Bickis in Toronto

Royal Bank of Canada is taking measures to prepare for a more uncertain year ahead, but results from the past quarter still show gains in key areas like loans and new client additions.

The bank, which on Tuesday announced it had reached a deal to buy HSBC Bank Canada for $13.5 billion, said Wednesday it was raising its dividend for the last time until the deal is closed, while also announcing a two per cent discount on dividend reinvestments to help boost its balance sheet.

Given the potential slowdown ahead, the bank also set aside $381 million for potentially bad loans, compared with a reversal of $227 million last year, which offset gains elsewhere in the quarter to leave earnings of $3.88 billion just $10 million shy from a year earlier.

The actions on loan provisions and dividend discounts come as elevated housing and energy prices, geopolitical instability, and rising interest rates put pressure on growth, affect asset valuations and adds to market volatility, said RBC chief executive Dave McKay.

“We maintain our cautious stance on the outlook for economic growth,” he said on an analyst call.

“Although higher interest rates are needed to preserve long term economic stability, the lagging impact of monetary policy, combined with strong employment and significant liquidity in the system, has likely delayed what may end up being a brief and moderate recession.”

While rising rates put pressure on the economy, RBC is especially well positioned to benefit from them as the net interest margins on its sizable deposit base grows.

The bank said it saw net income in personal and commercial banking grow five per cent from a year ago to $2.14 billion, mostly due to those higher margins along with average volume growth of 10 per cent in loans, and wealth management also got a boost from higher net interest income and loan volume growth.

The boost from rising interest margins come as a benefit of RBC’s scale, which it continues to push to increase, both through the HSBC Canada acquisition, and more organic growth.

HSBC Canada gives the potential for RBC to add some 800,000 clients if it goes through as expected in late 2023, while this year the bank added 400,000 clients, and expects its client referral deal with the Canadian division of India’s ICICI Bank to direct some 50,000 more customers as immigration levels reach record highs.

The bank is well-positioned to add more clients, and deposits, next year to provide lower-cost funding for its loans, said McKay.

“We believe our largely deposit-funded balance sheet will be a key driver of profitability in a rising rate environment,” he said.

The bank’s capital markets business shows the clearest indications of volatility, with net income of $617 million down 33 per cent from a year earlier, but up 29 per cent from the third quarter.

Revenue totalled $12.57 billion, up from $12.38 billion a year earlier.

The quarter showed strong loan growth and no signs of a credit spike for RBC, said Scotiabank analyst Meny Grauman in a note, but he wondered about what the bank’s move on the discounted dividend reinvestment plan (DRIP) shows for the bank’s capital outlook, given the expected tougher economic conditions next year.

“In that context a defensive move on the DRIP raises questions about downside risks,” said Grauman.

He said the bank’s better-than-expected earnings, which came in at an adjusted $2.78 per diluted share for the quarter compared with a consensus of $2.68, according to Refinitiv, was from higher revenues and smaller loan provisions than expected.

Bank expenses however, which were up 9.5 per cent for the quarter compared with last year on higher staffing costs and some acquisition-related increase, came in higher than expected.

RBC said it will now pay a quarterly dividend of $1.32 per share, an increase of four cents.

For its full financial year, RBC said it earned $15.81 billion or $11.06 per diluted share on $48.99 billion in revenue compared with a record profit of $16.05 billion or $11.06 per diluted share on $49.69 billion in revenue in the same period last year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2022.

Companies in this story: (TSX:RY)

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