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

Canada’s upside-down dairy system has a supply management problem

BARRIE McKENNA

“When is milk not milk?” New Democratic Party Leader Tom Mulcair cryptically asked MPs in the House of Commons recently.

The answer to the question is at the heart of a simmering Canada-U.S. feud over an obscure cheese-making ingredient.

The House of Commons is slated to vote Tuesday on an NDP motion, calling on the federal government to do something about a flood of imports of so-called diafiltered milk, including making sure dairies make cheese with a minimum of Canadian milk.

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Zuckerberg needs a reminder about who owns what

CARL MORTISHED

It’s not a traditional corporate governance model because Facebook is not a traditional company. So said Mark Zuckerberg, its founder and chief executive, as he announced plans to tweak the capital structure to ensure that he will retain absolute control of Facebook, even if he owns a minority of the stock.

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Minority shareholders likely to oppose Bombardier's share issue plan

DAVID MILSTEAD

Bombardier Inc.’s turnaround attempt may require the issuance of more shares to new investors – but the company also says it needs stock for its employee-compensation plans. Too much stock, according to a prominent proxy adviser and at least two major Canadian pension funds.

The opposition suggests that while the stock plans will likely pass at Friday’s AGM – the Bombardier family controls 53 per cent of the shareholder votes – minority shareholders may cast a significant number of votes against the proposals.

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Barrick finally rights the ship on executive pay

DAVID MILSTEAD

Going two-for-four is a fine day at Rogers Centre for Joey Bats and his Blue Jays teammates. As far as say-on-pay votes go, however, it’s another matter entirely.

That’s the scorecard for Barrick Gold with this week’s win on its shareholder vote on advisory compensation at the annual general meeting.

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What iPhone's first-ever sales decline says about Apple's future

SHANE DINGMAN

Sales of Apple Inc.’s iPhone fell 16 per cent in the past year, the first such sales drop in the popular smartphone’s nine-year history, as consumers replaced their devices less often.

In a fiscal second quarter that chief executive officer Tim Cook described as “challenging,” Apple’s iPhone sales slipped below 51.2 million units – down from 61.2 million the year before – but still above gloomier analyst expectations of 50 million devices sold. Revenue of $50.56-billion (U.S.) in the quarter was below analyst expectations, which had predicted it would fall as low as $52-billion, from $58-billion this time last year.

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Ring of Fire development a political winner, but not quite so for mining companies

BARRIE McKENNA

Good lobbyists know that advancing an agenda works best when the stars align.

That’s the moment when what you want is in sync with what the government wants.

Take the Ring of Fire – a mineral-rich, but untapped swath of northwestern Ontario.

The problem (beyond the immediate inconvenience of depressed commodities prices) is that the area is essentially cut off from the world. There are no roads, rail links or power supply to get at the vast deposits of nickel, chromite, copper and platinum buried in the belt, located 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay.

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Laurent Dassault will not return to Power Corp. board

DAVID MILSTEAD

After two years of shareholder revolt, Laurent Dassault could have looked forward to a smooth re-election to the board of Power Corp. of Canada this year. Instead, he will not return.

Mr. Dassault – the company’s longest-serving board member aside from founding family members André and Paul Desmarais – will not stand for re-election at Power Corp.’s annual meeting in May, the company has disclosed in its proxy circular sent to shareholders.

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Shareholder drives effort for BCE executive compensation overhaul

DAVID MILSTEAD

There’s been a fair amount of effort – with arguably mixed results – to get companies to improve the ways they go about awarding their executives’ pay. As an example, the compensation committees of boards of directors are now often composed of independent directors who are not corporate insiders. Situations where CEOs sit on each other’s comp committees, raising the appearance of back-scratching conflict, have disappeared at the largest companies.

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What’s next for the stock market? Look to the FANGs

IAN McGUGAN

Four earnings reports over the next two weeks will have a lot to say about what lies ahead for North American stock markets.

Netflix Inc., the king of streaming entertainment, unveils the latest update on its own financial drama on Monday. Alphabet Inc., parent of search colossus Google, delivers its results on Thursday. Social-media kingpin Facebook Inc. and uber-retailer Amazon.com Inc. reveal their numbers the following week.

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Quebecor to conduct say-on-pay vote to appease shareholders

DAVID MILSTEAD

Quebecor Inc. is taking not one, but two steps forward in corporate governance matters this spring: Michel Lavigne, whose presence on the Quebecor board irked governance advocates and a number of shareholders, has decided not to stand for re-election. And Quebecor also says it will conduct its first-ever say-on-pay vote at its May 12 shareholders’ meeting.

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Trump’s right about one thing. The U.S. has to fix its corporate inversion problem

BARRIE McKENNA

Donald Trump’s positions on most issues range from reckless to idiotic to unconstitutional.

But the Republican presidential frontrunner is right about one thing – the U.S. corporate tax regime is a mess and companies need incentives to bring their profits back to the United States.

U.S. President Barack Obama, on the other hand, has it distinctly wrong. This week, he moved to outlaw so-called corporate inversions, in which a U.S. company merges with a foreign one for the sole purpose of assuming the target company’s lower tax rate. He called inversions an “insidious” tax loophole.

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It’s a hard truth, but ethical investment often collides with reality

CARL MORTISHED

What is the cost of being good? Knowing we did the right thing, the unselfish thing, should be its own reward and we ought not to measure the downside. That is what we tell our children when they reach for the biggest slice of cake, and so it ought to be in matters of investment. Or so many believe.

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Strict tax compliance has its innocent victims

BARRIE McKENNA

The leak of the so-called “Panama Papers” is once again exposing the scourge of offshore tax havens.

Canada may be losing billions of dollars a year in tax revenue as companies, wealthy individuals and their accountants exploit gaps in the international tax system. The sum globally may reach nearly a quarter trillion.

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