Business Notes

September 13 1999

Business Notes

September 13 1999

Business Notes

Selling a hockey palace

It is keeping the Canadiens, but brewer Molson Inc. says it is prepared to part with the spanking new hockey arena that bears its name. Tired of Montreal's high property taxes, Molson says it is willing to sell all or part of the 21,273seat Molson Centre as well as its halfshare in a concert promotion firm.

More bank money

The final two of the Big Six banks reported—no surprise—healthy thirdquarter profits. Scotiabank enjoyed an 11-per-cent surge, to $397 million or 75 cents a share, from a year ago. The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce reported a whopping 61-percent increase, to $394 million, over a dismal third quarter in 1998. In all, the six banks posted $2.15 billion in profits for the three months ending July 31.

Sprint going local

With profit margins being squeezed for that long-distance feeling, Sprint Canada Inc. is stepping up its interest in local phone service. In February, it entered the Calgary market; last month, Vancouver; and last week, it took on Ma Bell where it lives in Toronto, suburban Mississauga and Markham—with an added pitch to homeowners and small business users who speak Cantonese.

Fee for flying

Operators of Toronto’s Pearson airport, Canada’s busiest, are getting set to introduce a $10 “improvement fee” to help pay for a proposed $4.4-billion redevelopment. To be added to the ticket price, the levy is not expected to be introduced for at least a year.

New home for Nova

Just a year after it stepped from the shadow of its pipeline-owning parent, Nova Chemicals Corp. is moving its executive headquarters from Calgary to Pittsburgh. In a decision that caught the Alberta government, industry leaders and even Nova’s honorary chairman Bob Blair by surprise, Nova will keep its official head office in Calgary but move its CEO and all its top executives to Pittsburgh to be closer to its major customers.

Reshaping the retail chains

Customers continue to flock in, but consumer spending alone doesn’t seem enough to stop the upheaval taking place among the world’s large retailers. The big news last week: a $24.6-billion merger of two French chains—Carrefour and Promodes— in what is seen as the first of several defensive alignments to ward off the anticipated invasion of discount king Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Arkansas-based Wal-Mart bought two German retailers and a British supermarket chain and appears poised to storm the European market. Carrefour-Promodes— formerly two supermarket chains that sell everything from Camembert to car batteries—is now the world’s secondlargest retailer. But size isn’t everything.

In the United States, Sears Roebuck’s sales rose a dismal 0.1 per cent in August compared with the previous year—well below the industry norm. The news sent shares tumbling and forced an executive shakeup. In Canada, department store sales jumped a healthy 8.8 per cent in July from the previous year, Statistics Canada reported. But that was still too little too late for the 130-year-old Eaton’s chain whose liquidation sales may continue, a judge ruled.

The world s top five retailers by sales: billions Wal-Mart $209.7 Carrefbur-Promodes $74.3 Metro AG $74 Sears Roebuck $52.4 Kmart $50.8

Microsoft’s e-mail on worldwide display

Online privacy took a huge leap into the unknown when hackers showed a way to bust open the accounts of 40 million people, including 2.5 million Canadians, who use Microsoft’s free Hotmail service. How big was the breach? Well, among the samples posted on a Web site was e-mail from Microsoft president Steve Ballmer. Microsoft shut down Hotmail for several hours to fix the bug. The giant software maker says no customers complained about e-mail tampering, but experts say it is only a matter of time before small operations are compromised.

Financial outlook

If Finance Minister Paul Martin truly wants to spark a debate on productivity this fall, he now has some added fuel, courtesy of the Interna-


Canadian workers are falling behind Americans I in annual hours worked

tional Labour Organization. In its annual report, the UN organization notes that American workers are pulling away from their Canadian counterparts—and the rest of the world—in hours worked and productivity. Americans work on average 234 hours a year more than Canadians, and their load has been increasing while the Canadian average has actually fallen by 5.2 hours since the start of the decade. The Canadian average is closer to the European economies, while the United States, Japan, Australia and New Zealand are putting their shoulders to the wheel.