Business Notes

May 15 2000

Business Notes

May 15 2000

Business Notes

Air Canada's boss under siege

Angry MPs tried to clip the wings of Air Canada CEO Robert Milton at hearings into Bill C-26, which will regulate air travel in the wake of Air Canada’s merger with Canadian Airlines. Val Meredith, the Canadian Alliance transport critic, called Milton a “bully” as MPs cited public complaints about pricing, service and schedules. B.C.

Liberal MP Lou Sekora told Macleans that travellers’ letters and Milton’s performance before the standing committee on transport convinced him Air Canada is already displaying “arrogance” as the country’s dominant carrier. “He thinks

he can slash and burn, without any concern for passengers or the communities that depend on air travel,” said Sekora. “We should put a little leash on him.”

Milton argued that Air Canada got no credit for rescuing Canadian and restructuring it without taxpayers’ money. Earlier, he brushed off claims by British Airways that he wants to charge too much for feeder flights. He also talked tough with creditors who balked at being offered as little as 12 cents on the dollar. Milton told them to “make my day”—reject the offer and let Canadian go bankrupt, making it far cheaper.

Ontario’s economic boom pays off

Ontario’s Conservative government delivered a good-news budget under which every taxpayer will receive a rebate cheque for up to $200 later this year. The Tories continued to cut taxes, bringing down provincial levies on incomes, capital gains, small businesses and corporations (to be halved within six years). And thanks to soaring growth of 5.7 per cent, fuelled by the auto industry and the roaring U.S. economy, the province was still able to inject $1.4 billion into the troubled health-care system and show a slight surplus.

Financial Outlook

Fear is a powerful force. And in the banking world, the threat of rising inflation is costing everyone money. As inflation worries push up the cost of

borrowing money on the bond markets, the big banks are passing on those increases in the form of higher mortgage rates. In the past year, rates have changed 18 times, for an overall rise of 23 per cent for the popular five-year term. The cost of a one-year closed mortgage went up even more steeply, by 30 per cent.

With the latest increases at the end of April, the five-year rate reached 8.55 per cent, up from 6.95 per cent a year ago. This means that on a $100,000 loan, monthly payments have risen to $808—taking an extra $ 105 out of the homeowner’s bank account.

Adberta Energy looks south

Alberta Energy Co. Ltd. is spending more than $ 1 billion to get into a major U.S. natural gas field. The Calgarybased company will purchase McMurray Oil Co. of Caspar, Wyo., as well as a local pipeline company. Analysts are bullish on the outlook for natural gas producers and said the region’s Rocky Mountain gas fields are one of the hottest new areas for exploration.

Merging Europe’s exchanges

The London Stock Exchange, long one of Europe’s most dominant, will merge with its German counterpart, Frankfurt’s Deutsche Boerse. The deal also involves the ever-expanding Nasdaq Stock Market, which plans to join with the German exchange’s technology division, the Neuer Markt. The merged entity, to be called iX for International Exchanges, will be located in London, and will allow investors to buy stocks listed in Asia, Europe or the United States.

Backing investors’ rights

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that a broker must compensate a client who sued after the dealer lost much of the man’s nest egg through inappropriate investments. Montreal-based Prudential Bache Commodities must pay 73-year-old Armand Laflamme, a father of nine, a total of $2.3 million, including 12 years of interest.

BCE, Nortel go it alone

BCE Inc. of Montreal and Nortel Networks Corp. of Brampton, Ont., began trading as completely separate companies following the announcement of a spinoff earlier this year. BCE’s stock declined by 2.8 per cent over the next three days, while Nortel’s split two-for-one, then rose by 3.2 per cent.

Vanity stamps

Canada Post said it has been swamped by people who want to put photos of their choice on postage stamps. Under a new program, the post office converts photos to stickers and provides a stamp-like frame, although it retains the right to refuse photos. The cost is $24.95 for 25 46-cent stamps.