Aides to Mike Pence test positive for Covid-19

US vice-president Mike Pence will press ahead with campaigning for Donald Trump’s re-election even after several close aides tested positive for Covid-19 at the weekend.
At least four members of the vice-president’s top team have tested positive for the virus, US media reported on Sunday morning, raising concerns about whether the White House will be grappling with another outbreak of Covid-19 cases with just over one week to go until election day. Mr Pence chairs the White House coronavirus task force.
The reports come as several states contend with rises in Covid-19 cases.

The US reported 82,668 new Covid-19 cases on Saturday, according to the Covid Tracking Project. Several states posted record one-day increases in Covid-19 infections on Friday, including the critical swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
More than 216,000 Americans have died from Covid-19.
Mr Trump, his wife, Melania, and several White House staffers and top Trump campaign advisers tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this month. Most of them, including Mr Trump, campaign manager Bill Stepien and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany have since recovered and returned to work.
But Devin O’Malley, the vice-president’s press secretary, said late on Saturday that Marc Short, the vice-president’s chief of staff, had tested positive for Covid-19 and had started quarantining. The New York Times later reported that at least three more people in the vice-president’s inner circle had tested positive for the virus. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mr O’Malley said the vice-president and his wife, Karen Pence, had both tested negative for Covid-19 on Saturday, “remain in good health” and would continue with planned campaign travel. The vice-president is expected to visit North Carolina, a battleground state where Mr Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden are neck-in-neck in the polls, on Sunday.“While Vice-President Pence is considered a close contact with Mr Short, in consultation with the White House Medical Unit, the vice-president will maintain his schedule in accordance with the CDC guidelines for essential personnel,” Mr O’Malley added.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines “close contact” as being within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes, starting from two days before they start feeling ill. CDC guidance recommends anyone in close contact with an infected person self-isolate for two weeks “even if you test negative for Covid-19 or feel healthy”.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters on Sunday morning that the vice-president had been “cleared by the doctors to travel”.
When asked whether he was worried about Mr Pence getting sick, Mr Meadows replied: “Obviously, I am worried about everybody being affected, not just the VP.”
With just nine days to go until election day, Mr Trump and Mr Pence both have a busy travel schedule as they try to overcome their polling deficit against Mr Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris.
Mr Biden leads Mr Trump in national opinion polls by 8.7 percentage points, according to Financial Times analysis of Real Clear Politics data. He is also polling ahead in several swing states that are key to winning the electoral college.
Mr Biden, the former vice-president, has sought to frame November’s election in part as a referendum on the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Mr Trump on Saturday insisted the US was “rounding the turn” on the pandemic.

Cenovus snares Li Ka-shing’s Husky Energy in $7.8bn deal

Cenovus Energy is to buy rival Canadian oil producer Husky Energy, controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, in a C$10.2bn ($7.8bn) deal as the wave of consolidation sweeping North America’s battered oil and gas sector gathers speed.
The new company will be worth C$23.6bn, Cenovus said, making it Canada’s third-largest oil and gas producer with an output of 750,000 barrels a day concentrated in the bitumen-rich oil sands of northern Alberta, the biggest single source of US crude imports.
The transaction is the latest in a string of North American oil mergers as operators seek to consolidate and cut costs. The largest came last week when ConocoPhillips agreed to buy Concho Resources in a deal worth $9.7bn, marking another big bet on the future of US shale.

Other recent deals include the $7.6bn takeover of US shale group Parsley Energy by Pioneer Natural Resources, Chevron’s $13bn plan to buy Noble Energy and Devon Energy’s $12bn deal to combine with rival WPX Energy.
The plummeting oil price had caused shares in Cenovus to fall by more than 60 per cent since the start of January, and Husky’s by almost 70 per cent.
The deal was conceived as a nil-premium merger, but due to the divergence in share prices, Cenovus has agreed to pay a 21 per cent premium, or 23 per cent including warrants, to Husky shareholders. The transaction values Husky’s shares at about $3.8bn, or $10.2bn including debt.
“We will be a leaner, stronger and more integrated company, exceptionally well-suited to weather the current environment and be a strong Canadian energy leader in the years ahead,” said Alex Pourbaix, Cenovus’s chief executive.
The new company will be 61 per cent owned by Cenovus shareholders, with the reminder held by Husky’s investors. Two entities controlled by Mr Li, which own about 70 per cent of Husky at present, will emerge with more than 27 per cent of the new company’s common stock.
After the withdrawal of several international oil companies from the Alberta oil sands — where the high cost of producing bitumen, constant environmental opposition, and slow progress in building new pipeline infrastructure have deterred investors — the Cenovus deal points to the sector’s further consolidation in the hands of local companies.

Both companies were among oil-sands operators forced to shut some production this year as prices fell. The Alberta government, which offered to collaborate with the Opec cartel in its supply cuts earlier this year, has used a programme of so-called curtailments to restrict supply from operators, including Cenovus and Husky, to prevent production overwhelming local infrastructure.
Canada’s production of bitumen — ultra heavy oil that must be upgraded before refining into fuels — has attracted environmental opposition because of its carbon intensity and its vast ecological footprint in northern Alberta.
Insufficient pipeline capacity to ship growing volumes of oil-sands production to markets beyond North America has periodically forced deep discounts on Canadian exports. The low quality of Alberta’s oil also makes it cheaper. While US oil has traded at about $40 a barrel in recent weeks, the benchmark for Canadian oil has been priced at about $30 a barrel.
The companies said annual synergies created by the deal would amount to $1.2bn, largely achieved within the first year. Free cash flow would be achieved at a price of $36 for a barrel of West Texas Intermediate in 2021.
A new 12-person board will comprise eight directors from Cenovus and the remainder from Husky.