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Business Briefing

How the financial crisis fed the obesity 'epidemic' Add to ...

These are stories Report on Business is following Tuesday, May 27, 2014.

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Obesity on rise
The financial crisis helped drive up obesity rates in many of the world’s richest countries, says a new study with troubling, if tempered, findings for Canada.

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The study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development says “most people” in OECD countries are overweight or obese. This threatens severe “social and economic consequences,” the group said today, as more people risk chronic ailments such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

“In 2008, the world economy entered one of the most severe crises ever,” the study said.

“Many families, especially in the hardest hit countries, have been forced to cut their food expenditures, and tighter food budgets have provided incentives for consumers to switch to lower-priced and less healthy foods. “

Over the past five years, the OECD said, obesity has been on the rise in most countries, though at a slower pace.

One particularly troubling average statistic is that one in five children is overweight, and far higher in nations such as Greece, Italy, Slovenia and the United States.

Also troubling is that obesity is “an inequality issue, especially in women,” according to the group of rich countries.

“The economic crisis has made families spend less on food, but poor households have also switched to junk foods with high calories,” the OECD said.

“But in countries with very high levels of obesity, such as Mexico and the U.S., people with more education are now as likely to be obese as those with less education,” according to a statement released with the study, which will be presented tomorrow at the European Congress on Obesity in Sofia, Bulgaria.

The OECD found that rates of obesity are “high” in Canada compared to most OECD nations, though there has been no substantial increase in the past 15 years and, importantly, the pace of increase has been among the slowest in the group.

“Two out of three men are overweight and one in four people are obese in Canada, but the rate of increase has been one of the slowest in the OECD,” it said.

“Overweight and obesity are more common in men, but larger social disparities exist in women (vis-à-vis socioeconomic status),” it added in its section on Canada.

“Women with less education are almost 1.6 times as likely as more educated women to be obese. Similarly, men with less education are almost 1.5 times as likely as the more educated to be obese.”

The group released its report today with a warning to national governments that they must fight the epidemic.

“The economic crisis may have contributed to a further growth in obesity, but most governments need to do more to stop this rising tide” said OECD health expert Michele Cecchini.

Scotiabank gains
Bank of Nova Scotia today posted record core earnings for the second time in a year, extending a strong run of profits from Canadian banks that continues to defy expectations, The Globe and Mail’s Tim Kiladze reports.
 

Much like its rival banks that have already reported this earnings season, Canada’s third-largest lender mostly benefited from solid domestic banking operations and a hot wealth management arm. The bank also reported strong securities gains and better capital markets earnings, meaning its profit was widespread.

Scotiabank earned $1.8-billion last quarter, or $1.39 per share, up 14 per cent from the same period in 2013. After adjusting for one-time items, the bank earned $1.40 per share, beating analyst estimates of $1.31 per share.

Pilgrim's bids for Hillshire
Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. is trying to break up a proposed merger of Hillshire Brands Co. and Pinnacle Foods Inc. launching its own multibillion-dollar bid for the former.

Pilgrim’s Pride, a chicken company, today unveiled a $45-a-share cash offer for Hillshire, describing the bid as a “substantially superior alternative” to Hillshire’s deal with Pinnacle.

“We are coming forward now because the opportunity for your shareholders to obtain the compelling value represented by our proposal will no longer exist if the proposed acquisition of Pinnacle is consummated,” Pilgrim’s chief executive officer William Lovette said in a letter to his Hillshire counterpart, Sean Connolly.

“Our offer is therefore conditioned on the termination of this transaction (and our proposed purchase price is not subject to reduction for any related termination fees),” he added in the letter released publicly.

Take that, Turks and Caicos
Canada ranks among the world’s top destinations for expat professionals, and Vancouver among the top cities.

In a new survey released today by the global recruiting firm Hydrogen, Canada again held the No. 5 spot for relocation countries, behind the United States, Britain, Australia and Switzerland.

(Where else can you find the world’s best-known mayor, a 92-cent dollar, and house prices deemed to be among the most inflated globally? And where Merriam-Webster just learned the word poutine?)

Rounding out the top 15 behind Canada were Germany, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, France, Spain, Honk Kong, China, Norway, Belgium and Netherlands.

(So if we actually ever do annex the Turks and Caicos Islands, they could be ahead of Germany, too.)

Where cities are concerned, Vancouver was No. 8, behind London, New York, Sydney, San Francisco, Singapore, Zurich and Paris, and ahead of Hong Kong and Melbourne.

(Where else can you find a house that you really can’t afford, but with such a great view?)

Hydrogen’s report, based on the findings of ESCP Europe from survey answers among more than 2,400 professionals in almost 100 countries, found that Britain is “fast closing the gap” with the top-ranked United States.

(You’ve got to remember here, of course, that they stole the world’s sexiest central banker from us.)

The Hydrogen report shows a rapidly changing world in the post-crisis era, as many countries still struggle for footing. Far more people are willing to work abroad, it said, and they find “no barriers” to that.

“The current economic climate has proved less of an obstacle and more of an opportunity to gaining international experience,” Alev Kilic of ESCP Europe, who supervised the research, said in the report.

“As companies speed up expansion into new geographies and markets, the demand for qualified and experienced professions is intensifying. Companies are increasingly taking a global outlook and they need people with international experience to spearhead market expansion.”

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