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ROB Insight

Fresh, focused analysis of today's business news
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Entry archive:

U.S. tax laws encourage ‘disgusting’ corporate behaviour


‘Disgusting,” snorted Donald Trump after U.S. drug giant Pfizer said it was merging with Botox maker Allergan and moving its headquarters to Ireland, where taxes are much lower.

The Republican presidential front-runner isn’t alone in his bluster.

Inversions, as these tax-driven corporate deals are known, have become a favourite target of U.S. politicians of all stripes. Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton similarly accused Pfizer, whose drug cabinet includes Viagra and Lipitor, of exploiting tax “loopholes” to avoid paying its fair share.

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Investors have a right to be skeptical of Valeant’s review process


When a public company has problems, quite often its board creates a committee of independent directors to look into whatever allegations it might be facing. It is a frequent response to trouble.

Which brings us to Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., which, you may have heard, has problems, perhaps too many to enumerate. Chief among them, however, is Philidor Rx, the “specialty pharmacy” that counted Valeant as its only customer, dispensing the company’s products to end users at robust prices. Valeant had an option to buy Philidor, which we didn’t know until months after the fact, and Philidor apparently had Valeant employees working for it under assumed names, which Valeant may or may not have known about.

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An unlikely carbon accord: How two sides became one


Will the master forecaster please step forward?

I, for one, will bow to anyone who, 12 months ago, predicted that Murray Edwards, oil patch deal maker, would be on a stage with an Alberta NDP premier and environmentalists, singing the praises of a carbon tax as oil entered its second year in the range of $40 (U.S.) to $50 a barrel.

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Business as usual is fuelling the threat of terrorism


Financial markets tend to shrug off terror attacks, but this time it may be different, and that would be a good thing. We need to think again about how we do business and who we choose as our business partners. We need to do this because, fundamentally, commerce is not about money. It is about culture, and our culture is under attack.

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Many Canadian cable firms unlikely to venture into wireless


While U.S. cable giants are looking to expand into wireless , followers of the Canadian industry don’t expect to see the same trend to emerge here.

Comcast Corp. is said to be poised to take advantage of a contractual term that will allow it to resell airtime from Verizon Communications Inc., which has more than 105 million postpaid wireless customers. North of the border, several cable players already offer wireless services – Rogers Communications Inc. is the biggest provider while Quebecor Inc. and Eastlink have launched regional businesses – but notable exceptions Shaw Communications Inc. and Cogeco Cable Inc. do not have cellular businesses.

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Trudeau shouldn’t dither on pipeline plans


Hopefully, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has taken a moment to thank U.S. President Barack Obama for the thoughtful housewarming gift – his rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Yes, it was an affront to Canada’s oil patch. But the President’s move gives Mr. Trudeau’s fledgling government the ideal setting to craft a sorely needed new policy for energy exports without the tiresome debate over the project and its divisiveness between the two countries.

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Spectre of the Internet barons looms large over media


You can always rely on a James Bond movie to reinforce an urban myth. In the recently launched Spectre, Britain’s security agencies, MI5 and MI6, have been infiltrated by an evil genius bent on world domination using digital surveillance; once again we are reminded that government is out to get us and only a rebellious superhero can save the day.

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Stephen Harper’s post-politics career could be lucrative


Stephen Harper’s exit ranks as one of the most understated farewells in Canadian political history.

Mr. Harper left the stage on election night without acknowledging, even to supporters in Calgary, that he was quitting as Conservative leader. Two weeks later, when he went to Rideau Hall to resign as prime minister, there were no cameras to record his final act. Later that week, he slipped in a back entrance of Parliament to deliver brief departing remarks to a shrunken Tory caucus in private. Rona Ambrose, the interim leader, said Mr. Harper’s speech was “incredibly passionate, emotional and touching,” but like others in the room, she offered no specifics.

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Sneaky statistics cloud UN conference on climate change


Gwyn Morgan is a retired Canadian business leader who has been a director of five global corporations.

Delegates from 190 countries are scheduled to meet in Paris for the annual UN climate-change Conference of the Parties (COP) on Nov. 30. For the 21st time, they will attempt to reach an agreement on reducing global greenhouse-gas emissions. Pre-conference rhetoric is typically apocalyptic and overzealous. The Pope has issued an encyclical calling for urgent action against climate change. International Trade Union Confederation General Secretary Sharan Burrow, possibly inspired by the movie Finding Neverland, has called for expansion of the conference’s goal beyond “zero carbon” to “zero poverty.” But how 50,000 delegates can agree on anything but the possible existence of Peter Pan remains a mystery. Even with the earnest support of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and our premiers.

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Liberal Party needs to rethink its tired response to Canada’s innovation woes


Justin Trudeau did not sweep into power on the strength of the Liberal Party’s innovation platform. What few ideas he offered to stimulate the “knowledge economy” during the election were weak and dated. The incoming prime minister should start over if he wants to shape a better innovation agenda for Canada.

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Bombardier stock price would collapse with federal bailout, analysts warn


Bombardier shareholders who have already seen the value of their investment crumble by two-thirds this year could be in for a further nasty shock if the incoming federal Liberal government tops up Quebec’s $1-billion (U.S.) aid package, analysts warn.

In a note Monday, Canaccord Genuity analyst David Tyerman slashed his one-year stock price forecast on the company’s class B subordinated shares to $1.10 (Canadian) from $1.35 – but cautioned that if prime-minister-designate Justin Trudeau answers the call from Quebec Economy Minister Jacques Daoust to match its aid pledge his stock price target would collapse to just 60 cents.

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Four organic food stocks that are good for your health, bad for your portfolio


Load up on the beet juice and soy milk desserts. This is the week when we get to celebrate, once again, the evolution of the North American palate.

Among the companies reporting over the next few days are several big players in the organic and natural food sector. They include Whole Foods Market Inc. and Vitamin Shoppe Inc. on Wednesday, followed by Hain Celestial Group Inc. and Sprouts Farmers Market Inc. on Thursday.

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Why the EU should reconsider its GMO ban


The world faces a major crisis of humanity’s making and only wise and courageous policy-makers guided by the world’s best scientists can save us from our own self-destructive behaviour.

If this sounds like the lead-up to an argument about climate change and the forthcoming conference in Paris, be reassured. This is instead an argument about why we should not allow others to obstruct the widespread use of genetically modified plants in solving the problem of how to feed humanity’s teeming billions.

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Big Oil’s fluid situation comes at the right time


They held out as long as they could, probably for too long, but this week the captains of oil conceded defeat and signalled their retreat. In a bid to preserve cash to pay its huge dividend, Shell struck a red line through more than $8-billion (U.S.) of investment as it cancelled expensive frontier projects, including offshore drilling in Alaska and the Carmon Creek oil sands project in Alberta.

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