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Pernod Sees No Impact Yet From Legal Cannabis But Watching Closely

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LONDON – Pernod Ricard (PERP.PA), the world’s second-largest spirits maker, has not yet seen any impact from the legalization of cannabis in some parts of North America but is monitoring the situation closely, its chief executive said.

Alexandre Ricard told reporters the maker of Absolut vodka and Martell cognac was looking for any impact the legalization of cannabis has on its brands but had seen none so far.

“What are we going to do about it? It’s a little bit early right now to have a clear view as to the real impact cannabis may or may not have,” Ricard told a news conference on Tuesday held to discuss last week’s first-half results.

Eight U.S. states, including California and Nevada, have legalized marijuana, already widely approved for medicinal use, for recreational use and some studies show consumers would buy the drug instead of alcohol if it was freely available.

Rival Constellation Brands (STZ.N) in October bought a near 10 percent stake in Canadian cannabis maker Canopy Growth Corp (WEED.TO) to take advantage of any boom as legalization proliferates.

Analysts at Bryan, Garnier & Co say the global legal cannabis market is set to grow more than 1,000 percent to reach $140 billion by 2027.

Ricard referred to reports that suggested low-end beer sales may be impacted, but added: “Have we noticed so far, at our level, on our brands, a clear impact? No. But we’re monitoring. It’s still very early.”

Regarding Pernod’s stance on mergers and acquisitions, Ricard said the company will carry on doing bolt-on deals, like its recent purchase of a stake in mezcal brand Del Maguey, and divesting non-core assets, like its Mexican brandy business.

Reporting by Martinne Geller;

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Blackrock Upgrades Outlook For Us Stocks On Earnings Momentum

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– The world’s biggest asset manager BlackRock Inc (BLK.N) upgraded its view on U.S. stocks, citing very strong earnings momentum, while cutting European stocks to neutral.

In a note on Monday, BlackRock’s global chief investment strategist Richard Turnill pointed to tax cuts in the United States and government spending plans as driving earnings growth and said the ratio of earnings upgrades to downgrades for U.S. large-capitalization companies was at its highest since records began in 1988.

Turnill said the “swoon” in equity markets in early February made U.S. valuations look more attractive, pushing the company’s three-month view on U.S. stocks to “overweight,” from neutral. It is BlackRock strategists’ first outright positive reading on U.S. stocks since May 2016.

“We believe the coming positive effects of new U.S. tax and spending plans are still underappreciated by markets,” BlackRock’s Turnill said in the note.

“We find earnings growth matters more than valuations over shorter time horizons at this stage of the bull market,” Turnill said, adding:

“Economic strength was already changing the tone of earnings momentum, but U.S. tax cuts and government spending plans lit a fire under the trend.”

Turnill noted that while earnings momentum in Europe was robust, it lagged other regions and said the euro’s strength is a “source of pain.”

The S&P 500 .SPX index is up more than 2 percent this year, while Europe’s STOXX 600 is down nearly 3 percent, in terms of price.

Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt, Kit Rees and Thyagaraju Adinarayan;

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Uber Suspends Service In Morocco After Two Years

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BRUSSELS – Uber said on Monday it would suspend operations in Morocco, two years after they began, as it tries to bring its business into line with local laws.

Uber has already halted services in Norway and Finland as it waits for the regulatory framework to change in those countries, a sign of the less pugnacious approach the company is taking toward local authorities.

The U.S. ride-hailing company has faced bans, restrictions and protests around the world as it disrupts conventional taxi services. But its new chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, has struck a more conciliatory tone after a string of controversies that emerged under the former CEO, Travis Kalanick.

“Since we launched in Morocco over two years ago, there has been a lack of clarity about new platforms like Uber and how they fit into the existing transport model,” Uber said in a statement.

The company has engaged with policymakers to find a solution but “despite consistent dialogue … we have yet to see any constructive progress on the regulations and can safely say we have exhausted all measures.”

Uber will halt its services in Casablanca on Friday. It said services would resume as soon as new rules were in place.

Morocco only recognizes conventional taxis and has no provisions for private hire vehicles.

Uber has had to suspend its service using non-professional drivers in several European cities like Paris and Brussels, but it still operates a licensed service there.

Khosrowshahi, who took over at Uber last year, said in October that “regulating services like Uber is totally appropriate”.

Uber has 19,000 regular riders in Morocco and 300 drivers, who will be provided with financial support over the next two weeks.

“We are committed to supporting the hundreds of drivers that have benefited from the economic opportunities of using the Uber app. We will be working closely with them through this difficult transition,” Uber said.

Reporting by Julia Fioretti,

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Global Mining Deals Jump 15 Percent By Value In 2017 Ey

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LONDON – The value of global mining and metals deals hit a four-year high in 2017, according to accountancy firm EY, as financial distress abated and companies sold off non-core assets.

Mining and metals deals totaled $51 billion last year, up 15 percent from 2016 and dominated by coal and steel transactions, although the volume of transactions fell 6 percent.

“The focus for most of the sector in 2017 was consolidating balance sheet strength and maintaining capital discipline,” EY said in a quarterly report on the sector, published on Monday.

Coal transactions surged 156 percent to $8.5 billion as the world’s move to renewables prompted miners to shift away from thermal coal.

One of the biggest coal deals last year was Rio Tinto’s (RIO.L) sale of its Coal and Allied mines to Australia’s Yancoal (YAL.AX) for $2.7 billion.

Steel deals doubled to $13.3 billion, mainly comprising large Chinese mergers and divestments in Latin America, while gold transactions fell 34 percent to $7.3 billion.

Money raised by mining companies from stock exchange listings rose to $2.8 billion, the highest in six years but paltry compared to the $17 billion raised in 2011 at the height of the commodities boom.

For the coming year EY expects deals to be fueled by the industry’s return to investment-led strategies aimed at building portfolios rather than divestment-oriented deals that dominated in 2017.

“We expect to see more deals in 2018 as investment-led strategies begin to dominate, but the return of transformational consolidation across the industry is unlikely as capital discipline is maintained,” said EY global mining and metals transactions leader Lee Downham.

Prices of commodities such as copper, zinc, coal and iron ore surged for a second straight year in 2017 on a combination of dwindling supply and higher demand.

There will be renewed pressure on miners this year to participate in battery technology and reduce reliance on fossil fuels, EY said, while the drive to focus on business in lower risk jurisdictions should influence deals in precious metals.

Reporting by Zandi Shabalala;

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