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ROB Insight

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

Jamie Dimon’s potshots at proxy firms, ‘lazy’ investors misguided


For many years, JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon has been a media darling. If you’ve ever interviewed him – and I have – it’s easy to see why. Most CEOs, it’s fair to say, are the business-world equivalent of the “Nuke LaLoosh” character in Bull Durham: Coached to say nothing of interest, ever, in response to a reporter’s question.

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Alberta Energy Minister’s CV not the oil patch’s real issue


Pop quiz: Name Alberta’s past four energy ministers.

Now, list their respective deep experience in global energy before being appointed to the crucial portfolio by their Progressive Conservative bosses.

Only true obsessives about energy or politics, and those with a serious need of outside interests, would score 100 per cent on those questions. But they highlight the flawed logic ricocheting around downtown Calgary following Premier Rachel Notley’s choice for minister of energy in her fledgling NDP cabinet.

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The art of the CEO apology


A new skill has just dropped into the job description of the perfect CEO. It’s not good enough to be a great leader, manager or business strategist; deft social skills are now essential and the one that has moved to top of the list is how to say “sorry.”

We should consider the cautionary tale of Thomas Cook, the venerable Victorian travel company that chose to soldier on rather than apologize for the death of two children from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a badly maintained boiler at a hotel in Greece.

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Improved carbon pricing could make socially-conscious investing easier


Interest in “socially responsible” investing is growing quickly, and it’s often driven by concerns over climate change. The movement to divest from fossil-fuel companies is sweeping university campuses, foundations and institutional investors, with the latest high-profile announcement coming from a leading British newspaper. The calculus needed to drive such investment decisions is difficult – but it would be simplified considerably if carbon pricing were as common as income taxes.

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B.C. First Nation will accept LNG project – on their terms


What a brave new natural resource world it is that has such players in it.

What else but the Bard’s Tempest could be brought to mind by the storm of consternation and controversy surrounding the decision by one B.C. First Nation to turn down more than $1-billion for their agreement to a liquefied natural gas project on their territory?

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Dear millennials: some of the boomers are struggling too


Andrew Jackson is an adjunct research professor in the Institute of Political Economy at Carleton University and senior policy adviser to the Broadbent Institute

There has been a great deal of recent media commentary on inter-generational unfairness, much of which misleadingly argues that affluent older Canadians are benefiting from current economic and social arrangements at the expense of youth.

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Why investors should avoid the Bombardier IPO train


It’s hard to find much to cheer for in Bombardier Inc.’s attempts to turn around its dreary fortunes. This is a company that is now engaged in its second ill-timed turnaround attempt in 12 years, having recapitalized by selling stock at rock bottom levels (as it did in 2003) and assessing its stable of chronically underperforming assets for something valuable to sell.

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Services exports: Canada’s quiet growth engine


Many Canadians and much of the world continue to view Canadian trade through the rear-view mirror, focusing on exports of natural resources and advanced manufactured goods, such as autos and airplanes. These traditional export sectors have struggled recently. However, there is an important but underappreciated bright spot in Canada’s trade picture. Canadian companies have been quietly and steadily increasing their international sales of services.

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Fareed Zakaria: China and Russia set the tone for global stability


Bestselling author, columnist and CNN host Fareed Zakaria has used his access to the world’s movers, shakers and policy thinkers to help him burrow beneath the surface of geopolitical developments patrolled by less ambitious pundits.

Mr. Zakaria’s hope is that Americans will become less parochial and more open to the ideas and solutions that come from other parts of the world. But when he outlines his thoughts on some of the biggest global risks, his listeners could be forgiven for ignoring his essential optimism and sticking to their isolationist tendencies.

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Independent agency needed to manage Ontario’s cap and trade


A few weeks ago, Ontario’s Premier announced her government’s intention to introduce a cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Although many have applauded this announcement, there are still many critics – and they are only now beginning to gather their forces. Kathleen Wynne should recognize that the political road ahead will be anything but smooth.

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McDonald’s stock slide should be food for thought for all investors


You have to feel a twinge of sympathy for Steve Easterbrook, the British executive who has been handed the daunting task of turning McDonald’s Corp. back into a growth stock. On Monday, a mere nine weeks into his tenure as CEO, he announced a clutch of new strategies – and the market reacted as if it had bit into a day-old Egg McMuffin.

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Strong U.S. dollar will help corporate America in the future


If Caterpillar Inc. chief executive Doug Oberhelman wasn’t paid some $17-million (U.S.) in 2014, you’d feel sorry for him. His company is taking it from all sides and there apparently is nowhere to hide.

“We are seeing a very competitive marketplace right now,” Mr. Oberhelman told analysts on a conference call after the release of the company’s first-quarter results. “I will tell you, with a yen that’s off over 50 per cent in three years, euro, Brazilian currency, pound currency off 20 per cent to 30 per cent in the last year; you know all of our competitors aren’t in the U.S. So it really is a competitive environment out there …”

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A weak British government spells uncertainty for business investment


This week features two of the most dramatic elections in years, both of which could have far-ranging economic consequences. The first is in Alberta, where the once impregnable provincial Conservatives will find out Tuesday if a disgruntled electorate lets them retain their faltering grip on power.

But it’s the British election on Thursday that is capturing the world’s attention.

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Income splitting is a welcome path to tax fairness


Andy Pedersen is a pretty unusual guy.

Mr. Pedersen works in the communications division of a trade union. He got my attention because he wants his family to be treated unfairly by the taxman and he thinks Ottawa can spend his money better than he can himself. Clearly an original thinker.

Okay, he might not have characterized his thinking in quite the way I have, at least on the first point. Mr. Pedersen discovered he had the option of refusing the income splitting the recent budget introduced for working couples. He got in the media spotlight by posting his intention on Facebook to turn this tax break down, despite it being worth $1,500 to the Pedersens.

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Land grab likely to continue in big cities


If we wonder whether the value of our homes has been pumped up in a bubble of cheap money, no such worry is troubling global real estate investors who have amassed almost half a trillion dollars of new capital to sink into land and buildings. Some of it is heading for Canada’s big cities and, likewise, Canadian pension funds are scouring the world for acreage that produces income. Even as the prices climb, new buildings reach for the sky, oblivious of any concern that interest rates might turn sour.

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