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Exclusive-BlackRock raises $673 million for climate-focused infrastructure fund

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November 2, 2021

By Simon Jessop and Ross Kerber

GLASGOW/BOSTON (Reuters) – BlackRock Inc told Reuters it has raised a target-beating $673 million for an infrastructure fund with backing from the French, German and Japanese governments to invest in climate-focused projects such as renewable energy in emerging markets.

The world’s largest money manager hopes the fund, to be announced on Tuesday and dubbed the Climate Finance Partnership, will show how to mobilize private capital in developing countries to tackle climate change, a sticking point at United Nations climate talks cop under way in Glasgow. Investors have been wary of investing in risky projects without more certainty they will get a return.

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State-owned development banks from France, Germany and Japan and philanthropic institutions such as the Grantham Environmental Trust and the Quadrivium Foundation are providing 20% of the fund’s capital and have agreed to take losses before other investors.

While a number of multibillion-dollar renewable energy funds have been raised over the last year to help build out solar, wind and other projects, the vast bulk has been spent in richer countries offering investors lower risk.

in emerging economies, excluding Countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America will need around $1 trillion a year out to 2050 to help them transition to a low-carbon economy, BlackRock said. In 2020, just $150 million was invested China.

BlackRock and the fund’s other backers are trying to muster more support for such emerging markets-focused initiatives at the COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. The new fund could help developed nations meet a target of mobilizing $100 billion a year to help poorer countries tackle climate change.

Among the fund’s 22 backers were French energy company TotalEnergies and institutional investors including AXA and Dai-ichi Life Insurance. The fund comfortably beat its fundraising target of $500 million, BlackRock said.

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“This partnership is proof that governments, philanthropic organizations, and institutional investors can come together to mobilize capital at scale into emerging markets, which are most exposed to the impact of climate change,” BlackRock Chairman and Chief Executive Larry Fink said in a statement. Fink has previously called for linking public and private finance to address climate change.

The fund has a typical 10-year lock-up with a five-year investment period, with the average equity investment likely to be in the $25 million-$75 million range, David Giordano, global head of renewable power at BlackRock Alternative Investors, told Reuters.

“One of the key things that we talked about with our partners back in 2018, when we started down this path, was really coming up with something that was simple but did provide that sense of de-risking the emerging markets,” Giordano said.

Kenya, Morocco and Egypt were all attractive for investment, as were Peru and Vietnam, where the government was “really committed” to the energy transition, Giordano said.

Renewable energy in non-OECD countries is expected to represent 49% of global energy capacity by 2050, Edwin Conway, global head of BlackRock Alternative Investors, said.

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“Now, that’s huge … I think we’re talking about decades, with regard to the opportunities that are ahead,” Conway said.

(Reporting by Simon Jessop in Glasgow and Ross Kerber in Boston; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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‘Flash mob’ thieves target U.S. retail stores on Black Friday

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November 28, 2021

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Black Friday shoppers weren’t the only ones out hunting for bargains on the day after Thanksgiving. Thieves were busy as well.

Police in Los Angeles and cities elsewhere across the country spent much of their holiday weekend patrols looking for suspects in a spate of “flash mob” robberies on Friday, part of a surging U.S. crime trend in which groups of thieves swarm a store, ransack the shelves and flee.

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Authorities also have used the term “smash-and-grab” to describe the trend.

At least two such robberies were reported on Saturday by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. A local television station, KCAL-TV, counted a total of six smash-and-grab heists on the city’s west side alone on Friday.

In one incident, a group of eight men entered a Home Depot outlet at a shopping mall in Lakewood, south of downtown Los Angeles, walked directly to the tool aisle and snatched a bunch of hammers, sledgehammers and crowbars valued at about $400 before making their getaway, the sheriff’s office said.

According to L.A. television station KTTV, the Home Depot robbery on Friday night involved up to 20 suspects who pulled up to the store in as many as 10 cars and donned ski masks before raiding the tool aisle.

“We tried to stop them,” store employee Luis Romo told KTTV. “We closed the front entrance, and they put their sledgehammers up and whoever got in the way, they were going to hurt them.”

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The Los Angeles City News Service said four suspects in that robbery were arrested on Saturday by Beverly Hills police.

In a similar incident Friday afternoon, a group of 10 men or more invaded a store in the city’s Fairfax district and started grabbing merchandise without paying for it, pushing employees out of the way before fleeing the scene, according to LAPD.

Police are investigating possible ties between that incident and a flurry of other robberies and retail thefts on Friday and earlier in the week, including two smash-and-grabs reported on Wednesday, an LAPD spokesperson said.

The rash of retail crime prompted the LAPD to place its officers on a citywide tactical alert on Friday afternoon.

Mass robberies also were reported on Friday at two Best Buy electronics stores in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, one of them involving as many as 30 suspects, while a spree of pre-dawn retail burglaries were under investigation in Chicago.

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In one of the biggest flash-mob robberies reported on the West Coast in recent days, police in the San Francisco suburb of Walnut Creek were seeking about 80 suspects who swarmed and ransacked a department store last Saturday.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Paul Simao)

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U.S. Black Friday shoppers tapered online splurge, as some returned to stores

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November 27, 2021

By Arriana McLymore and Richa Naidu

RALEIGH, North Carolina (Reuters) – U.S. shoppers spent slightly less online during Black Friday this year, with many venturing back to physical stores despite coronavirus fears, tight supplies, and retailers’ efforts to encourage earlier holiday purchases.

For the first time ever, spending online during Black Friday – traditionally one of the biggest shopping days of the year – fell, reversing the growth of recent years, according to data from Adobe Analytics, a wing of Adobe’s business that specializes in data insights and tracks transactions at 80 of the top 100 U.S. retailers.

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Retailers lured shoppers to make holiday purchases online as early as September this year, because the supply-chain logjam has prevented them from quickly replenishing year-end merchandise. Shoppers’ total outlay online during Black Friday was roughly $8.9 billion, less than the $9 billion in 2020, Adobe said. Spending online during Thanksgiving Day was flat at $5.1 billion, Adobe said.

Many retailers closed physical stores on Thanksgiving this year, as they did in 2020, amid a labor shortage and the coronavirus pandemic. Stores reopened the day after Thanksgiving, and shopper visits increased by 47.5% compared to 2020, but fell by 28.3% when compared to 2019, the last pre-pandemic year, according to data from Sensormatic Solutions.

Supply-chain challenges and shipping delays may have prompted shoppers to visit stores in order to increase the chances of securing gifts in time for Christmas. More are making purchases online that they can pick up in-store, which keeps shipping costs down.

Macy’s, Walmart, Target and Kohl’s, for example, gave shoppers the flexibility to shop online, in stores or through hybrid methods, walked away as winners on Black Friday, said Louis Navellier, chairman of investor Navellier & Associates.

Of those purchasing online, slightly more used their smartphones. Canadian e-commerce company Shopify said the number of shoppers on its platform who used smartphones to make purchases increased this year to 72% from 67% last year.

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Retailers’ moves to encourage buying holiday gifts earlier could also lessen the importance of Cyber Monday, the first Monday after Thanksgiving.

(Reporting by Arriana McLymore and Richa Naidu, Aakriti Bhalla and Sabahatjahan Contractor in Bengaluru; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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Canada’s Shopify records Black Friday sales up 21%

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November 27, 2021

(Reuters) – Canadian e-commerce company Shopify Inc recorded worldwide sales of nearly $2.9 billion on Black Friday, an increase of about 21% in comparison to last year, the company said Saturday.

New York, London and Los Angeles were among the top-selling cities, the company said, while apparel and accessories was the top-selling product category.

Shopify also said it funded 23,000+ tonnes of carbon removal to counteract emissions from the delivery of every order placed on its platform on Black Friday.

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(Reporting by Aakriti Bhalla in Bengaluru; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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