Aurora Cannabis invests $10M in marijuana retailer High Tide

Aurora Cannabis Inc. has signed a deal to invest $10 million in High Tide Inc., a privately held company with cannabis and cannabis accessory retail stores.

Under the agreement, Aurora will hold debentures that will bear an annual interest rate of 8.5 per cent.

The debentures will also be convertible into shares of High Tide at a price of 75 cents per share.

High Tide has four cannabis retail stores in Alberta under the Canna Cabana banner, and a majority stake in KushBar Inc.

It also has plans to open more stores in Alberta as well as expand into Ontario and B.C.

In addition to the retail side, High Tide has two wholesale businesses — Famous Brandz and RGR Canada — and 19 Smoker’s Corner retail locations.

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Shoppers are going wild for Poundland’s range of rude Christmas cards

At this time of year, we’re typically encouraged to spread a little festive cheer and be merry and bright.

But one store seems to be encouraging its customers to do the opposite this Christmas – thanks to their rather bizarre range of holiday cards.

The team over at Poundland already hit the headlines this month for their naughty elf advert that poked fun at John Lewis.

And now they’re back at the funny business by selling ‘banter’ cards printed with rude messages.

Dubbed the ‘Banta Claus’ range, the cards feature phrases such as "Have a crap Christmas", "Merry Christmas you absolute p****", "Nothing for you dips***" and "Happy Christmas Bell***".

Another design features caricatures of Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un wearing Christmas jumpers and reads: "Best wishes at this wonderful time of year."

The amusing cards cost £1 each and come with a parental advisory warning.

People on social media are going wild for the quirky designs.

One person wrote: "All my Christmas cards are going to come from Poundland."

Another commented: "Poundland Christmas cards are WILD."

A third added: "Poundland comedy Christmas cards are the best ones I’ve seen this year."

As well as launching this hilarious card range, Poundland are also set to introduce a new version of their popular Toblerone dupe, the Twin Peaks bar.           

Heading to stores this Friday will be a fruit and nut version of the chocolate snack.

The discount retailer will also continue to sell their milk and white versions of the bar as well.

When Twin Peaks launched last year, they sold out in record time, with shoppers in a frenzy to get their hands on the sweet treat – even going as far as to buy them on eBay for £15 once they were no longer available in store.

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Dragon Caan backs Irish recruiters

Recruitment firm Darwin Hawkins has launched in Dublin.

Founders Niall O’Kelly and Mark Baker have partnered with James Caan’s Recruitment Entrepreneur.

As part of the investment, Recruitment Entrepreneur will provide the company with operational infrastructure, accountancy, payroll and marketing support. It will also provide financial backing for the business to scale up over the next three years.

Mr Caan said he would be mentoring Mr O’Kelly and Mr Baker throughout, “focusing on how to both scale and internationalise the business with particular attention to attracting the right talent for the company”.

“This is a great time to invest in Ireland. Post-Brexit we expect to see an economic boom, particularly in the financial services, technology and fintech sectors,” he added.

This is Mr Caan’s third investment in Ireland in recent months, alongside Hayward Hawk in Belfast and 360 Search in Dublin.

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DFA issues travel alert for Irish people in France as manhunt for Strasbourg suspect continues

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has urged Irish people to “exercise caution” while visiting France this week, after a shooting at a Christmas market in Strasbourg left at least three people dead and 12 injured.

The warning comes as French authorities released a warning poster for visitors, describing the suspect as a “dangerous individual” who the public should not engage with.

Officials confirmed that the death toll rose to three today after a wounded victim died, the Paris Prosecutor’s office said.

“The Embassy is monitoring the security incident in Strasbourg. Heightened security measures are in place in the area,” the DFA said in a statement.

“In 2015 and 2016, a number of terrorist incidents took place in Paris resulting in widespread casualties.

“Irish citizens in France are reminded to exercise a high degree of caution, to be vigilant in public places and to follow the instructions of local authorities at all times.”

The DFA also encouraged Irish citizens to carry their passport with them at all times and to be wary of protests, with more than 50 people injured in anti-government protesters in Paris at the weekend.

“Protests continuing throughout France may lead to travel disruptions in some areas due to road and motorway blockages. Recent demonstrations have led to outbreaks of violence and damage to property.

“We recommend you avoid any protests if possible, stay informed of what is happening around you by monitoring local media, and follow the advice of local authorities.

“Irish citizens in France are reminded that they should be in possession of a valid form of photographic identification such as a passport or passport card at all times.”

Hundreds of security forces have combed eastern France for a 29-year-old man suspected of opening fire near Strasbourg’s famous Christmas market.

Tuesday night’s attack at the Christmas market in Strasbourg killed two people, left a third brain-dead and injured 12, and was a stark reminder to a nation wounded by previous assaults that terrorism remains a threat, even as anti-government protests roil the country.

The suspect was named as Cherif Chekatt (29), of average build, 1.80m in height with a possible beard and a mark on his forehead.

Members of the public have continued to pay tribute and attend vigils for victims of the attack.

Local French police in have opened an information line at 0 811 000 667.

  • Read more: Suspect in Strasbourg Christmas market shooting still at large

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'Worse than the recession': Bonmarche's grim trading update

Shares in the cut-price womenswear chain tumbled by as much as 50% as it issued its second profit alert in less than three months, forecasting that it could slump to a full-year loss.

The retailer said sales during Black Friday week, when it had hoped to see pent-up demand unleashed as shoppers took advantage of discounts, had instead been “extremely poor”.

It now expects to report full-year results that show somewhere between zero profit and a £4m loss.

Chief executive Helen Connolly said: “The current trading conditions are unprecedented in our experience and are significantly worse even than during the recession of 2008-9.

“I hope that in the fullness of time, our cut to the forecast may prove to have been overdone, but in the current market, this seems the appropriate stance to adopt.”

The warning comes after other retailers including Superdry and Dixons Carphone have also pointed to uncertainty weighing on UK consumers. Last week, the owner of fashion chain Primark warned of “challenging” sales during November.

Sports Direct and House of Fraser boss Mike Ashley recently told MPs that the high street faced extinction without radical action to save it.

Bonmarche, which has more than 300 stores across the UK, said its Black Friday performance suggested that “consumer behaviour is not following last year’s pattern, nor the pattern of any year we have experienced previously”.

It added: “We believe that uncertainty surrounding Brexit is a significant factor affecting demand and, therefore, that it may not strengthen until the current period of heightened uncertainty ends.

“As we have no visibility of when matters will be resolved, we have taken what we believe to be a cautious approach to our forecast and assumed that sales will not see any significant improvement before the end of March 2019.”

Bonmarché pencilled in a 12% fall in like-for-like sales for the current third quarter to the end of December and a 1% fall for the fourth quarter.

The retailer had previously issued a profit warning in September blamed on weak high street conditions as well as warm weather delaying demand for autumn ranges.

It said at that time that it expected underlying full-year profits of £5.5m.

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Japan Post to invest $2.6 billion in U.S. insurer Aflac: source

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan Post Holdings Co (6178.T), is planning to invest about $2.6 billion in Aflac Inc (AFL.N), aiming to become the largest shareholder in the U.S. insurer, a person familiar with the matter said.

Japan Post, a conglomerate that spans postal delivery, banking and insurance services, plans to initially acquire a 7 to 8 percent stake in Aflac for about 300 billion yen ($2.6 billion), said the person.

Under the deal Japan Post can increase its stake to a maximum 20 percent in four years time, the person said. Aflac’s current largest shareholder is Vanguard Group Inc with a 8.77 percent stake, according to data from Refinitiv Eikon.

Aflac said in a statement it was engaged in discussions with Japan Post regarding a potential minority investment in Aflac but the discussions did not involve Aflac or any of its subsidiaries becoming a member of Japan Post Group.

Aflac did not elaborate further. A spokesman at Japan Post declined to comment.

The transaction, which is expected to be announced this month, will follow the agreement made in 2013 between Japan Post and Aflac which allows Aflac to sell its cancer insurance at Japan Post’s offices across Japan.

The news was earlier reported by the Nikkei business daily.

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Nixon Smith: Body found in search for missing British man who was mugged in Spain

Nixon Smith, from Stourbridge in the West Midlands, was due to fly home from Madrid on 19 November but did not catch his connecting flight back to Birmingham.

On Wednesday evening, West Mercia Police confirmed a body had been found.

A statement said: “A body has been found in Spain in relation to a search for a missing man.

“An appeal was issued by West Mercia Police in relation to 23-year-old Nixon James Smith from North Worcestershire.

“Sadly, officers were informed a body has been found. Mr Smith’s next of kin has been informed. Thank you to everyone who shared the earlier appeal.”

Mr Smith was last seen at Madrid airport at 10.32pm, the time of his flight, after arriving earlier on a separate plane from Malaga.

His emergency passport was not used on the second leg of his journey from Madrid to Birmingham.

The University of London graduate had no possessions as he had been mugged two days earlier.

His parents Diane and Dave Smith, who last spoke to their son on 17 November, had issued a plea for information on his whereabouts.

Diane previously said: “I’m worried sick about him as he’s in a very vulnerable state with no money, no phone and only the clothes on his back.”

Mr Smith had been travelling across Spain since October, having gone there to experience organic farming, she told the Daily Mirror.

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Rep. Meadows out of running for White House chief of staff: officials

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump told Republican U.S. Representative Mark Meadows that he wants him to stay in Congress rather than take the White House chief of staff job, White House officials said on Wednesday.

Meadows had been among 10 or 12 people that Trump is considering for the post that retired General John Kelly is leaving early in 2019.

Former Trump campaign adviser David Bossie, who is now the president of conservative nonprofit Citizens United, is still believed to be in the running.

The search to fill the top administrative post in the West Wing comes as Democrats prepare to take control of the House of Representatives in January and begin investigating Trump’s businesses and some of his most contentious policies.

Bossie wrote an opinion piece for Fox News published on Wednesday with the headline: “An unhinged pack of liberal Democrats wants to impeach Trump. Republicans must fight back.”

Trump and Meadows, a North Carolina lawmaker who heads the conservative House Freedom Caucus, had a phone conversation to discuss the job, one White House official said.

“Congressman Mark Meadows is a great friend to President Trump and is doing an incredible job in Congress. The president told him we need him in Congress so he can continue the great work he is doing there,” the official said.

Meadows said in a tweeted statement that he was committed to staying in Congress.

“I know the president has a long list of tremendous candidates for his next chief of staff, and whomever it is will have my total support going forward,” he said.

Trump told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday that he was having no trouble recruiting people for one of the most powerful jobs in Washington. Some potential candidates like Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have offered polite no-thank-yous.

“I have so many people, I cannot interview them all,” Trump told Reuters.

NO CLEAR REPLACEMENT

Kelly, Trump’s second chief of staff, after Reince Priebus, had tried to bring more discipline to the chaotic Trump White House and frequently found himself at odds with the president.

Trump said last Saturday that Kelly would be departing the job. But he was left without a clear replacement after Nick Ayers, currently chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, declined the job and said on Sunday he was returning to Georgia with his family at the end of the year.

Beyond Bossie, Trump is also considering former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, sources said.

Bossie is a close ally of Corey Lewandowski, a confidant of Trump, and Bossie and Lewandowski were together at a rally in Louisiana on Wednesday.

A source, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said Lewandowski told the crowd at the rally that Bossie would soon be joining the administration. But Lewandowski later told Reuters he had not said that.

Bossie could not be immediately reached for comment.

In his opinion piece, Bossie warned Republicans in the House to prepare for “hand-to-hand combat, the likes of which they’ve never seen.”

“After eight long years in the political wilderness, these House Democrats are about to take things straight into the gutter,” he wrote. “They have no choice; their radical base wants impeachment at any cost, as do some of their biggest donors.”

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French govt urges 'yellow vests' not to protest after Strasbourg attack

PARIS (AFP) – The French government on Thursday (Dec 13) urged “yellow vest” protesters to refrain from holding another round of demonstrations this weekend, citing the strain on security forces on high alert after the terror attack at a Christmas market in Strasbourg.

“For now we have not banned the demonstrations” which some protesters have called to be held on Saturday (Dec 15), government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told CNews television.

But he called on the protesters to be “reasonable” after President Emmanuel Macron offered a range of financial relief on Monday, including a minimum wage boost and a tax cut for low-income pensioners.

“Our security forces have been deployed extensively these past few weeks,” Mr Griveaux said, while insisting that “it’s not up to us to say if the movement should be called off or not”.

In the wake of the Strasbourg attack, “it would be better if everyone could go about their business calmly on Saturday, before the year-end celebrations with their families, instead of demonstrating and putting our security forces to work once again”, he said.

The “yellow vest” protests began on Nov 17 over fuel tax increases but quickly evolved into a widespread revolt over declining living standards as well as Mr Macron’s perceived indifference to the problems of ordinary citizens.

Even before Monday’s concessions, the government had scrapped a fuel tax hike slated for January, a core demand of the protesters, who mainly live in rural areas and smaller towns and rely heavily on their cars.

Along with road barricades in many parts of the country, protesters have converged on Paris every Saturday since Nov 17, sparking clashes with police and intense vandalism which have shocked the country.

Last Saturday, nearly 90,000 police were mobilised across the country for the protests, with 8,000 officers and a dozen armoured vehicles deployed in the capital where scores of stores, museums and monuments were closed.

But protesters still smashed windows, looted stores and burned dozens of cars in many parts of the city.

While some of the movement’s representatives have said they are open to halting the protests to negotiate with the government, others have said its concessions are not enough, and have vowed to protest again in Paris this weekend.

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