Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mark Carney killed income trusts, creating the dllemma of "dead money" (his term)



Corporate Canada doing too little to drive growth: Carney

The Globe and Mail
Published  Wednesday, Aug. 22 2012, 11:14 AM EDT

Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney suggested that Canada’s publicly traded companies are failing to take advantage of ultra-low interest rates, sitting on a huge pile of “dead money” that should be returned to shareholders if managers are unwilling to find more productive uses for it.   
Speaking to reporters in Toronto Wednesday, Mr. Carney acknowledged that companies are wary about the global economy’s prospects as a result of the European debt crisis. However, he said Canadian executives are underestimating the resolve of the Bank of Canada and other authorities to guard against a financial crisis. He suggested corporate Canada isn’t doing its fair share to drive economic growth.

“This is dead money,” Mr. Carney said of corporate cash, because interest rates are so low. “The level of caution could be viewed as excessive,” Mr. Carney added later. Referring to corporate managers, he said, “Their job is to put money to work and if they can’t think of what to do with it, they should give it back to their shareholders.”
The comments followed a speech to the Canadian Auto Workers union, which estimates that Canadian non-financial companies are sitting on more than $500-billion in cash.  
It is rare for a central banker to launch such a direct assault on some of the country’s biggest companies – and most influential chief executives. However, the remarks reflect Mr. Carney’s broad worry that Canada is doing too little to become a competitive force in the global economy.
 In his remarks to the auto workers, Mr. Carney repeated that Canadians are spending money on houses that should be used for more “productive” purposes, and that the country trades too little with the fast- growing emerging markets.
“We cannot grow indefinitely by relying on Canadian households increasing their borrowing relative to income,” Mr. Carney said in his speech.
Mr. Carney’s hosts on Wednesday will cheer his criticism of corporate executives.
However, the central bank chief dismissed the union’s contention that the Canadian dollar’s strength is hurting exports. On the contrary, Bank of Canada research suggests that the dollar’s appreciation accounts for only about 20 per cent of Canada’s export decline.
The biggest reason Canada is running a trade deficit is because it is “overexposed” to the United States, where gross domestic product will be $1-trillion smaller in 2015 than pre-crisis estimates, Mr. Carney said.
“We cannot devalue ourselves to prosperity,” Mr. Carney said in the text of his speech, a direct rebuttal of the CAW’s position that Ottawa should intervene in foreign exchange markets to weaken the currency.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Income trust investors to Jim Flaherty: What goes around....

Of the myriad things that Jim Flaherty didn't understand about income trusts before he took his rash action to destroy this form of investment, was that businesses formed as income trusts distribute all of their free cash flow (after capital investment) to their investors. This fundamental requirement of income trusts serves to circulate money through the economy at a faster rate and in a way that is beneficial for all, investors and retirees seeking income, businesses seeking low cost capital, the economy at large and the Government as the collector of tax revenue.

Now we have the same rash Jim Flaherty bemoaning the fact that the same CEO's who lobbied him to kill the income trust model are hoarding their cash to the detriment of all. As the saying goes: What goes around, comes around.

Jim Flaherty to business leaders: Loosen your fists

Toronto Star
August 21, 2012

FRED CHARTRAND/THE CANADIAN PRESS Finance Minister Jim Flaherty speaks at a news conference in Ottawa last week prior to his annual summer policy retreat with business leaders and economists. (Aug. 15, 2012 )
By Carol Goar Editorial Board

To Jim Flaherty’s frustration, there is a massive wad of idle cash in the Canadian economy. The finance minister would like to get the money in circulation, creating jobs, improving productivity, boosting consumer confidence and helping the country to compete against the world’s emerging economic giants.
But the $525-billion stash is out of his reach. It’s in private hands. Since the financial meltdown of 2008-2009, Big Business has socked away most of its earnings. According to the Gandalf Group, which tracks corporate cash reserves, the accumulation has now surpassed half a trillion dollars.
To put that amount in perspective, it would almost wipe out Canada’s $602-billion debt. It would cover the nation’s public health bill for the next 3 1/2 years. It would provide enough impetus to propel the economy out of its sputtering recovery.
“There’s a lot of capital sitting out there that needs to get engaged,” Flaherty told reporters heading into a closed-door meeting with the country’s most influential business leaders last week. “We need private action.”
If he delivered that message, it would signal a shift in his government’s relations with business.
Until now, Flaherty has met a select group of bankers, chief executives and market-friendly economists at a private conclave every summer. What would typically happen is that they would rattle off their shopping lists — further tax cuts, more free trade deals, more foreign workers, more strictures on unions — and he would listen, incorporating some of their requests into his fiscal plan.
The finance minister now wants a two-way dialogue. He thinks he should deliver advice, not just receive it.
The public will have to guess whether he followed through on his intention at the Wakefield Inn and Spa last Thursday. Neither Flaherty nor his hand-picked interlocutors are likely to tell Canadians what happened at the meeting.
One thing is clear, however. Moral suasion won’t be enough to pry open corporate fists. The Conservatives have tried repeatedly to get Corporate Canada to act in the national interest. Their words have had no perceptible impact:
 • Business leaders ignored pleas from Flaherty and his colleagues to invest in innovation. Despite tax incentives and credible evidence that everyone would benefit, Canada continues to have one of the lowest levels of industrial research and development in the western world.
 • They turned a deaf ear to Flaherty’s exhortations to take advantage of record low interest rates and Canada’s strong dollar to upgrade their plants and invest in state-of-the-art equipment while Europe and the United States are mired in debt.
 • They shrugged off Ottawa’s entreaties to hire and train Canadian job-seekers, insisting they needed a greater influx of foreign workers to address labour shortages.
In short, they have contributed little to the health of the Canadian economy, especially since the recession.
They could afford to thumb their noses at the government as long as there were no consequences. Flaherty made it easy. Regardless of their behaviour, he gave them tax cuts, praised them for generating economic growth, followed their recommendations and watched passively as they squirreled away billions.
If he wants a different outcome, he’ll have to take a different approach.
He could tax cash reserves when they exceed a corporation’s foreseeable needs. That would make it more expensive to hoard money than put it to productive use.
He could make corporate tax cuts conditional on creating jobs or investing in new products and processes.
At a minimum, he could make this a public issue. Most Canadians have no idea how much money corporations are hoarding. They don’t understand why they can’t find work, why the forecasts remain bleak or what’s blocking economic growth.
A half-trillion-dollar buildup of inert cash can slow things to a crawl.
Carol Goar's column appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Canada's original eco-terrorist?

According to a news report yesterday, a recent survey reveals that half of Canadians live in fear of an attack by eco-terrorists.

Obviously this survey was prompted by Stephen Harper's constant use of the term "eco-terrorist", when describing those who oppose the Northerm gateway pipeline.

How ironic, since what these Canadians don't realize is that Canada has already been the subject to an attack by eco-terrorists, back in October of 2006, on Halloween of all days, by none other than Stephen Harper himself.

You see, Stephen Harper, is Canada's original "eco-terrorist",  as in "ecomomic terrorist", destroying $35 billion in Canadians hard earned retirement savings with the single stroke of the pen (or was it simply a shrug of his shoulders) when he taxed income trusts, and yet not a single shred of evidence to justify such an action.

All this after being elected on his explicit election promise to "never tax income trusts". 

Eco- terrorist indeed! None other than Stephen Harper himself

Thursday, August 9, 2012

More layoffs attributable to Flaherty's income trust tax

E.D. Smith remained a Canadian owned and controlled company (income trust) for less than a year after Flaherty's income trust tax, a tax which destroyed its value and restricted its access to capital, making it ripe for takeover by US TreeHouse Foods, which is exactly what happened.

Now we learn that 180 Canadians will lose their jobs as TreeHouse Foods shifts production from Winona Ontario to TreeHouse operations in Pennsylvania.

Seaforth Creamery Closure Will Put 180 Out of Work

Posted by: i on Stratford Staff  Tags:   Posted date:  August 8, 2012 

The Seaforth Creamery will close in early 2013 putting 180 people out of work.
Treehouse Foods is the parent company of E.D. Smith which owns the Seaforth plant. Spokesperson Ron Bottrell says the decision was based on economics and an aging facility and the operations will be moved to other plants that make like products.
There is a plant in Winona, Ontario, and one in northeast Pennsylvania.  The closing would be the second of it’s Ontario plants to shut its doors within the last four years. The company’s Cambridge facility closed in July of 2009. At that time employees from that plant were moved to Seaforth.
Bottrell says there will be employee support programs set up in the coming months.
The Seaforth Creamery produces salad dressings and marinades.

Treehouse Foods Company Release:
OAK BROOK, Ill., Aug. 8, 2012 /PRNewswire
Production at the Company’s Seaforth, Ontario, Canada salad dressing facility is expected to cease in the second quarter of 2013, with full plant closure expected in the third quarter of 2013.  Total costs to close the Seaforth facility are expected to be approximately $17.3 million or $0.33 per fully diluted share, of which approximately $6.4 million, or $0.12 per fully diluted share is expected to be in cash.  Components of the charges include non-cash asset write-offs of approximately $10.9 million, severance of approximately $4.0 million, and other closure costs of approximately $2.4 million.  The Seaforth Plant has approximately 180 employees.  Production will be moved to other manufacturing facilities within the Company’s existing network.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

As predicted, yet another energy income trust gets taken over by foreigners


Progress Energy gets $5.5B takeover offer

Prince Rupert, B.C., chosen as location for proposed LNG terminal

Posted: Jun 28, 2012

Calgary-based Progress Energy Resources Corp. has received a friendly $5.5 billion takeover offer from Malaysia's state-owned oil and gas company, Petronas.

The offer — $20.45 a share — is 77 per cent above the $11.55 closing price of Progress shares Wednesday on the TSX. The shares soared Thursday, jumping $8.50 to close at $20.05.

 The two companies are already partners in an ambitious project to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) by ship from British Columbia. They set up a joint venture last year to develop Progress' Montney shale assets in the foothills of northeast B.C.
The companies have also announced that they've selected Prince Rupert, B.C., for the location of a proposed LNG terminal.
The board of Progress is unanimously recommending that shareholders accept the Petronas offer.
"Our relationship with Petronas has been very productive and they have clearly demonstrated a commitment to the local communities, both economically and environmentally," Progress Energy CEO Michael Culbert said, referring to a commitment by Petronas to retain the entire Progress workforce.
Culbert says Petronas has the financial resources needed to allow Progress to access the international LNG market.
"Petronas offers the size and scale that will enable our company to continue to grow and not be limited by the same cash flow challenges faced by many producers in the North American natural gas market today," he said in a statement.
The deal will require government approval under the Investment Canada Act and Competition Act.

Gas prices higher in Asia

Natural gas prices in many Asian markets are much higher than the sub-$3 per million BTU level seen in North America, which explains why several companies are actively exploring the LNG export option for their gas.
In May, Royal Dutch Shell gave a tentative go-ahead for a liquefied natural gas project in Kitimat, B.C., alongside three Asian Partners. The Anglo-Dutch energy giant says it will have a 40-per-cent stake in the project, called LNG Canada. PetroChina, Mitsubishi Corp. and Korea Gas Corp. will each hold a 20-per-cent interest.
Encana Corp. and two U.S. partners plan to start up their Kitimat LNG plant in 2015.
BC LNG, owned by the Haisla First Nation and Houston-based LNG Partners, expects to ship its first LNG in 2014 and Talisman Energy, Nexen and Imperial Oil are exploring their LNG options.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Income trusts overcame this and many other problems


Who’s sitting on all the cash? Corporate Canada

We’ve all heard about Corporate America’s still-growing mountain of cash. But in relative terms, Corporate Canada is sitting on Mount Everest.

Indeed, Canada’s corporate stash is so big that if even a small fraction of it were deployed, it could significantly enrich investors and jump-start the country’s economy all at the same time, argues Capital Economics.

Paying dividends“Corporate businesses are flush with cash, which they still seem hesitant to deploy, presumably due to the uncertain economic outlook,” said David Madani, Canadian economist for the London-based research firm. “This obviously leaves scope for firms to increase dividends, which could boost personal income and consumption significantly.”

In a recent research note, Mr. Madani said Canada’s non-financial-sector corporate cash balances stood at $526-billion at the beginning of 2012 – up 42 per cent since the recession ended in mid-2009. Since the Canadian economy is roughly one-tenth the size of our U.S. neighbour, this Canadian cash pile, in relative terms, dwarfs the roughly $1.3-trillion (U.S.) in cash held by U.S. corporations.

Dividends have gradually been climbing as a percentage of Canadians’ income over the past decade; as dividends have climbed and Canadians have focused more attention on investing, and income investing in particular. Dividends now represent 5.3 per cent of personal disposable income. As a result, dividend increases have become a more significant source for personal-income gains.

If Canadian companies were to spend just 5 per cent of their cash hoard on dividends, that would dramatically increase total annual corporate payouts, to more than $80-billion (Canadian) from the current $56-billion. Mr. Madani calculated that this would boost personal disposable income by 2.5 per cent. Even if they were to spend only half that amount on dividend increases – 2.5 per cent of their massive cash pile – personal disposable income would still gain more than 1 per cent. That kind of disposable income gain would significantly accelerate consumer spending and investing.

Corporate misersOf course, there are other ways corporations could use extra cash to fuel growth, rather than pay their shareholders – but they haven’t been doing that, either. “Firms have been unusually reluctant to use [profits] to fund fixed capital expenditures,” Mr. Madani wrote. As a result, he said, the gap between undistributed profits and capital spending has widened dramatically. “If firms aren’t going to spend the funds, then transferring the money to shareholders would at least get the money circulating back into the economy again,” he said.