MONTREAL — Quebecor Inc. says it is taking advantage of low interest rates to buy back a substantial interest in its operating arm from the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec in a transaction valued at $1.5 billion.Under the deal, which involves the buyback of some 30.5 million shares, the Caisse’s interest in Quebecor Media Inc. is being reduced to 24.6% from 45.3%.Quebecor Inc. will increase its holdings in QMI to more than 75% from less than 55%.[np-related /]Under the deal, Quebecor Inc. will buy back some 20.3 million shares of QMI held by the Caisse for an aggregate purchase price of $1 billion, payable in cash.It intends to access financial markets to pay for the shares.Quebecor will buy back an additional 10.2 million shares by issuing to the Caisse $500 million in subordinated convertible debentures, which are convertible into Quebecor Inc. class B subordinate shares.“Our intention was to take advantage of the window of opportunity created by the favourable conditions on the debt markets to increase our interest in Quebecor Media,” president and CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau said in a statement.“We believe in the company’s future. Repurchasing a portion of the Caisse’s investment, while we continue our partnership, will allow us to benefit from the company’s expected growth over the next few years.”Caisse president and CEO Michael Sabia said the Caisse is also “convinced of Quebecor Media’s potential to create value.”“For this reason, we are retaining a substantial stake in the company. In our view, the conditions are right to rebalance our portfolio by divesting a part of the major position we held in the media and telecom sector.”Quebecor Media, the company behind Sun Media Corp, Videotron and others, is today one of Quebec’s top five private employers. It has more than 12,000 employees in the province and an annual payroll in excess of $600 million.
“The constant attacks on women, the rape, enslavement and slaughter of innocents; the recruitment of thousands upon thousands of child soldiers; the deliberate displacement of vast numbers of people in such a harsh and poverty-stricken country – these are abhorrent practices that must be halted,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, whose Office (OHCHR) compiled the report along with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).The country, which only gained independence in 2009 after breaking away from Sudan, its northern neighbour, was thrown into turmoil when conflict erupted between President Salva Kiir and his former Vice-President Riek Machar in December 2013, killing thousands, displacing over 2.4 million people, 650,000 of whom fled abroad, and impacting the food security of 4.6 million.“Very few places in areas of conflict have been safe, as the parties have intentionally attacked traditional safe havens, such as places of worship, hospitals and, from time to time, United Nations bases,” the report said. “These attacks reveal a shocking disregard for civilian life, with an increasing number of armed groups and communities being involved in the violence.”From the middle of 2015, a new pattern emerged, particularly in the central and southern counties of Unity state, with entire villages being burned down, food crops destroyed and livestock looted, amid indications that this may have been a deliberate strategy by the Government or army to deprive civilians of any source of livelihood and force their displacement, it added.It documented at least 280 cases of conflict-related sexual violence, including gang-rape, sexual slavery and forced abortion, as well as a sharp increase in child recruitment, with at least 13,000 to 15,000 child soldiers, recruited mainly, but not solely, by opposition forces, as of December 2015.“Despite the severity of the human rights and humanitarian law violations perpetrated by both sides to the conflict, there are no tangible accountability mechanisms beyond the rhetoric of the main belligerents,” the report stressed. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative UNMISS chief Ellen Margrethe Løj underscored that accountability must be a fundamental element in the ongoing peace process seeking to end the strife. “It is time to end the cycle of impunity that has allowed these violations to occur and embrace a brighter future of sustainable peace for all South Sudanese,” she said.Mr. Zeid added: “Accountability and justice sound like empty words in such a bleak landscape, but they are essential if South Sudan is to come out of this terrible period. The current regional and international peace efforts offer some hope that this perpetual cycle of bloodshed and misery can be brought to an end, and I urge all sides to negotiate in good faith.”