In its unaudited results for the six months ended June 30, 2020, the GraceKennedy (GK) Group is announcing a second straight quarter of growth. The group realised revenues of $56.5 billion, an increase of $5 billion or 9.8 per cent compared to the corresponding period last year, and a 53.2 per cent improvement in profit before tax to $4.5 billion. There was a 34.3 per cent increase in net profit ($3.1 billion), with net profit attributable to stockholders reflecting a double-digit increase of 36.5 per cent over 2019. The group also registered an increase of 85.6 per cent in Profit before other income to $3.1 billion, and an increase in profit from operations of 60.5 per cent to $4.56 billion compared to the same reporting period in 2019. Earnings per stock unit for the period was $2.77. GK Group CFO, Andrew Messado has also announced a dividend payment of 40 cents per stock unit, payable on 24 September 2020, totalling approximately $396 million. According to Group CEO, Don Wehby, the Group’s strong performance in the first half of 2020 is due to increased revenue and improved margin management, as well as increased focus on operational efficiency and cost containment. “These measures will continue for the rest of the year given the magnitude of the spread of COVID-19 and its impact on the economies in which we operate and our consumers,” Wehby said. Don Wehby, GraceKennedy Group CEO Both GK’s local and international food businesses reported noteworthy results for the first half of 2020, with the Jamaican foods distribution company continuing to realize positive results from a strong product mix and improved margins. This growth was influenced by strong demand for Grace Foods’ key products, and an improved supply of raw materials bolstered by the harvesting of the GK Agro Park’s first crop. Grace Foods also improved its operational efficiency, with the commissioning of its first onsite liquified natural gas (LNG) plant at its meat processing factory in Westmoreland. The LNG plant has reduced GK’s dependency on heavy fuel, with associated environmental benefits. Internationally, GraceKennedy Foods (USA) LLC and Grace Foods Canada both recorded strong performances, and Grace Foods UK achieved improved margins associated with the successful implementation of strategic initiatives including improved revenues from its Nurishment brand. The GraceKennedy Financial Group (GKFG) realised growth in revenues and profit compared to the corresponding period of 2019, despite being impacted by additional impairment provisions related to loans receivable under IFRS 9, and credit risk associated with COVID-19. [related node_id='75e6d17b-2357-4c19-9e79-acc28672f02f'] GKFG’s Money Services segment registered an increase in both revenue and pre-tax profit compared to the prior year period, and leveraged opportunities presented by the COVID-19 pandemic to drive the adoption of digital channels. This led to significant growth in transaction volumes from these channels. In line with GK Group’s digital transformation strategy and its response to the pandemic, GKONE Digital, Jamaica’s first cashless financial services store, was opened on Harbour Street in Downtown Kingston in July. The new one-stop-shop provides cashless financial services including banking, insurance, bill payment, remittance, consumer loans, and cambio services all at one location. GK’s Insurance and Banking and Investments segments also reported growth in revenue during the period under review. First Global Bank sustained growth in its loan and deposit portfolios, and in collaboration with GKMS, successfully established several thousand accounts for beneficiaries of the CARE program. “The outlook for the remainder of 2020 is unclear, and we anticipate that the second half of the year could see reduced consumer spending as a result of diminished disposable income. Despite this, GK remains positive and committed to delivering our products and service with quality. We will continue to manage the business prudently in this environment, for the benefit of our stakeholders,” Wehby said. He added, “We remain grateful to our employees, the lifeblood of our business, for their consistent dedication to our customers which has included a particular focus on front-line workers. We also take this opportunity to thank all our stakeholders for their continued support as we navigate these unprecedented times. GK will continue to be both proactive and responsive in dealing with the challenges of COVID-19.”

Eppley Limited's Managing Director Nicholas Scott.

Eppley Limited hasrefinanced its US-dollar preference shares with Managing Director Nicholas Scott stating that the transaction was evidence of investor confidence. “The transaction demonstrates the capital market's continued confidence in Eppley as a result of its long track record of consistently strong returns," Scott said. He added: “It also improves Eppley's mature profile, boosts its liquidity and allows it to take advantage of investment opportunities in its pipeline.” In a notice via the Jamaica Stock Exchange, Eppley said, “As a result of requisite approvals received from holders of the US$ Preference Shares, the maturity date with respect to the US$ Preference Shares is now January 24, 2024 and the agreed dividend rate will be 6 per cent per annum, payable monthly, effective January 23, 2021.” Scott said the preference shares originally had a dividend rate of five per cent with a redemption date of January 23, 2021. Following the transaction, the dividend rate remains five per cent until January 23, 2021 and thereafter will be six per cent until the new redemption date in 2024. “This reflects the longer duration of the preference shares and market conditions,” Scott explained. Eppley provides loans and insurance premium financing. The companyproduced earnings per share of $0.21 in the first quarter of 2020, a 6.5 per cent return for shareholders.At the end of the quarter,net asset value was $4.08 per share. The company cites portfolio diversification as its principal strength, with investments across multiple asset classes “many of which like real estate, infrastructure and secured loans and leases are defensive.”

Toots Hibbert performing on stage.

Reggae music legend Toots Hibbert is generating a lot of attention internationally with the video for his latest single, 'Got to Be Tough', which has racked up over 1.1 million views on the Youtube platform in the past month. "Earlier this week, he appeared on Sirius XM radio alongside Ziggy Marley for one hour as he chose the best Bob Marley songs. Toots got 279 spins on one station which covers California, Oregonand Midwest. Trojan Jamaica is doing a great job, the total streams for Toots this week including YouTube Data total global streams is 3.73M," Cabel Stephenson, manager of Toots Hibbert, said in a release. "The song has been added to the BBC playlist “Got To Be Tough”, and it did well on the 6 Music playlist, hitting over 6,000,000 radio listeners in the UK during the single campaign with over 200 spins across the dial. We are pleased that the campaign is reaching global listeners on all." The single is the lead single from his highly anticipated studio album, 'Got to be Tough', the first one in a decade. The album is set for global release via Trojan Jamaica/BMG Records on 28th August. The 78 year-old charistmaticfrontman of The Maytals, Toots Hibbertis known for singles such as the hugely popular,“54-46 (That’s My Number)", an account of Hibbert’s term in prison on a marijuana charge. Subsequent hits included “Do the Reggay” (thought to be the first explicit use of the term), “Monkey Man,” “Funky Kingston,” “Sweet and Dandy,” and “Pressure Drop.” The veteran singer is still going strong with his latest release from his 'Got to Be Tough' album,his first in over a decade. "We’ve pulled in another 250+ spins this week, with 11 first spins coming from KBAC in Santa Fe, five from WBJB in Lincroft, NJ, three from KSUT in Ignacio, CO and one from KSMU in Springfield, MO. On top of the spins, KBAC and KSUT gave us official adds this week, along with KAXE and WHRV, who had both previously spun the track," an elated Campbell said. Toots Hibbert's 'Got to Be Tough' also popped up on JBE Non-Commercial chart at #78 and the Top 200 at #52. The song also appeared on the BDS Triple A chart again, this week at #56. The Nielsen BDS Triple A, orAdult Alternative Songs,survey has welcomed veterans and new artists alike, generally ranging in sound from adult-friendly alternative to singer/songwriters, blues, folk, reggae and more. "Non-commercial triple A stations are known for more eclectic music discovery asmore freedom exists for non-comms to break from commercial radio's ratings-driven penchant for playing hits with more frequency. Instead, they seek to cultivate musical acts that listeners can hear exclusively on their airwaves," Stephenson said. To underline Stephenson's point, multi-format smashes including Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" and Lorde's "Royals" charted on Triple A before any other airplay rankings. "We're hoping to make Toots' song a monster hit as well," he said.

St Aublyn 'Captain' Kidd mixes his way to the top. (Photos: Contributed)

As a youngster growing up in Seaview Gardens – that many refer to as one of Jamaica’s talent factories – St Aublyn ‘Captain’ Kidd’s first business idea was owning an airport. Kidd had the drive to achieve these goals, but challenges made him rethink his goals, which was when he discovered mixology – which he believes are ‘more realistic dreams’. Though the 33-year-old has never fully abandoned his aspirations, he found his passion pursuing a career in mixology, with growing popularity in corporate and entertainment circles. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Captain St Aublyn Kidd (@captainmixokidd) on Jun 3, 2020 at 3:37pm PDT ‘Companies like Red Stripe/Heineken have contacted me for my services just as often as individuals book me for private events. While I am continuing to work on the lifelong dream of being an entrepreneur, I am also investing in my talent and pursuing my goals as a mixologist,’ Kidd told Loop Lifestyle. ‘As the epicurean culture evolves in Jamaica, I know the culinary scene will expand [too] and provide me with a larger platform to grow locally and internationally.’ Where it all began According to the ‘Captain’, his interest in mixology started while working in food and beverage, where he naturally caught on to cocktail recipes. Books, the internet, seminars, drinking on the job, and taking personal notes from the Swiss-trained food and beverage guru and business owner Sean Gonzales, were the tools Kidd needed to develop his career in mixology. ‘Mr Gonzales was an important mentor in my career in earlier years; I quickly excelled in the company where I trained staff and became the human resources/research and development manager and on-site event supervisor. View this post on Instagram What's the Captain up to Next?? A post shared by Captain St Aublyn Kidd (@captainmixokidd) on Jul 12, 2020 at 11:11am PDT Over time, I studied all the liquors and learned most of the myths and stories about the trade and the tools. ‘In 2010, I won the International Bartending Competition’. Two years later Kidd was granted the opportunity to travel to the United States for the first time to judge the New York leg of the same competition. He confessed that the ability to create great tasting drinks while entertaining and providing excellent customer service are among the most difficult aspects of the job; but points to his love of showmanship and seeing customers’ reactions after tasting his mixes, as motivators. Mixology vs Bartending Known for his eclectic presentation style, the ‘Captain’ noted that there is a difference between bartending and mixology. ‘If you think about the word mixology as an umbrella for ‘the study of cocktails’, then a mixologist is someone devoted to that study. A bartender is someone that works and tends to guests behind a bar. Kidd believes ‘a bartender can be a mixologist, but a mixologist does not necessarily need to be a bartender’. This is a topic of debate in the spirits community because the word mixologist was created to elevate the profession, but, Kidd is of the opinion that ‘it never needed elevating’. He asserted that ‘mixologists create and serve drinks, bartenders serve people.’ What’s next? Kidd’s immediate goal is to elevate mixology in Jamaica and to have more people respect the craft and skills of his profession. ‘I personally want to open a restaurant that is also a school so that I can play my part in growing the profession.’ ‘I see ‘Captain Kidd’ as a global brand doing exclusive events, home bartender training, securing international brand opportunities and also representing non-liquor brands.’ Right now, I aim to do more local partnerships similar to what I have in the pipeline with Red Stripe, to showcase the profession. He’s currently working on a mixology series with Red Stripe to show the versatility of beer.

Illinois' Jamaican-born center Kofi Cockburn (21) looks to shoot as Michigan's Jon Teske (15) defends in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019, in Champaign, Ill. (AP Photo/Holly Hart)

Big Ten Freshman of the Year Kofi Cockburn is returning to Illinois for his sophomore season, after withdrawing his name from NBA draft consideration. The 7-foot, 290-pound Cockburnposted“IM BACK ‼️” with a graphic on Twitter on Saturday. The announcement means the Illini will have their top two players return from a team that was in line to make the NCAA Tournament last season, after all-conference guard Ayo Dosunmu said Friday he plans to return for his junior year rather than turn pro. Cockburn, who's from Jamaica and played at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, averaged 13.3 points and 8.8 rebounds — a record for an Illinois freshman. The Illini have four starters returning from a team that went 21-10 overall and 13-7 in conference play. They were in line for their first NCAA appearance before the season got shut down because because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cockburn was born in Kingston, Jamaica. In 2014, he moved to Queens, New York to be with his mother. He excelled in basketball duringhigh school and was a four-star recruit, reportedly receiving more than 26 scholarship offers prior to his senior year at Oak Hill Academy.

FATHER PATRICK, with former six-time champion jockey Omar Walker, poses in the winner's enclosure after winning the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission Trophy, over five and a half furlongs, at Caymanas Park on Saturday, August 1, 2020. (PHOTO:

Formersix-time champion jockey, Omar Walker, on Saturday piloted Ian Parsard's FATHER PATRICK to back-to-back victories at Caymanas Park bylanding theBetting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC) Trophy over five and a half furlongs. Walker has been aboard FATHER PATRICK, the 3-5 favourite, for his five career victories, including a strong win at six and a half furlongs on July 4. Parsard and Walker, who rode a three-timer, teamed up for a second winner, BLIND FAITH, who caught 99-1 outsider, SUPER AMIA, a furlong and a half out in the sixth event at six and a half furlongs. Walker, who opened the programme with 1-9 favourite, FABULOSITY, at five furlongs round, remained third in the jockeys' standings on 23 winners, eight behind leader Dane Nelson and one adrift of second-place Anthony Thomas. Meanwhile, Wayne DaCosta, whose 13-year reign atop the trainers' ranks was halted last season by Anthony Nunes, broke a lean spell by saddling a two-timer on the 10-race card. DaCosta's SUPER DUPER made all to land the Charles Randle Trophy, the first two-year-old race of the season at three furlongs straight. The bay filly wonat odds of 2-1, the first of two winners for journeyman rider, Phillip Parchment. LOOSE BALL was DaCosta's second winner, upstaging speedsters with apprentice Raddesh Roman for back-to-back upset victories at five furlongs straight. The three-year-old darkbay gelding outfinishedrivals at odds of 12-1, following his shocking 47-1 win at the distance on July 11. Racing continues at Caymanas Park on Thursday.