These are stories Report on Business is following Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013.
Trying to work
I’d be amazed if anyone in Toronto is getting any work done today.
And further afield, for that matter, given the I-have-smoked-crack-cocaine-probably-in-one-of-my-drunken-stupors story flying around the world and overloading Twitter.
Which got me thinking about all the things one could have disclosed today in hopes of getting under the radar.
Here are just a few in the today-would-have-been-a-good-day-for category:
1. Mike Duffy to ask for a big loan.
2. BlackBerry to unveil a takeover by Lenovo and hope the prime minister doesn’t notice.
3. BMO to offer a five-year mortgage at 2.5 per cent and hope the finance minister doesn’t notice.
4. Bill Clinton to disclose that “okay, maybe I actually did have sexual relations with that woman.”
5. Peter Munk to announce that Barrick Gold is paying John Thornton more than $17-million. (Oh, wait, he did announce that.)
6. Nasdaq to tell Mark Zuckerberg that “it was just a glitch.”
7. Tiger Woods to admit he strayed from Elin’s bed.
8. Bernie Madoff to fess up that he maybe did take a bit of money off the top.
9. Jamie Dimon to agree that you can find whales onshore, too. Like in London, maybe.
10. Ben Bernanke to announce he’s ‘tapering’ in December.
11. Justin Bieber to say “Hey, I thought it was legal in Brazil.”
(I did, by the way, ask a London trader if this was playing over there, to which he responded: “Sorry, Michael, not really our usual cup of tea!”)
- Elizabeth Church, Kaleigh Rogers and Jill Mahoney: 'Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine,' says Mayor Rob Ford
Encana in overhaul
Encana Corp. is sharpening both its focus and its knife.
The Canadian energy giant today unveiled a massive overhaul that will narrow its focus to five North American resource plays, while it spins off its royalty-producing assets into a separate concern.
It’s also slashing its quarterly dividend to 7 cents from 20 cents, and will cut loose 20 per cent of its work force.
As The Globe and Mail’s Bertrand Marotte reports, the Calgary-based company plans to pump about three-quarters of its capital next year into five plays: Montney, Duvernay, DJ Basin, San Juan Basic and Tuscaloosa Marine Shale.
It plans to hold a sizeable stake in the spun-off group.
“One of Encana’s competitive advantages is our team’s ability to develop large, complex resource plays where we can implement our full resource play hub process that is proven to drive down costs and create higher returns,” said chief executive officer Doug Suttles.
“The five high-quality liquids-rich plays we’ve chosen to focus on offer the scale and running room we need to realize that advantage.”
B.C., Alberta strike deal
The premiers of British Columbia and Alberta have a reached a framework for an agreement to satisfy B.C.’s five conditions for supporting oil pipeline development in the province, The Globe and Mail’s Ian Bailey and Gary Mason report.
As a result, B.C. is signing on to Alberta Premier Alison Redford’s national energy strategy.
BlackBerry inches up
Shares of BlackBerry Ltd. climbed today as analysts try to put a new value on the company in the wake of its failed takeover.
John Chen, the former chief of Sybase Inc. who was parachuted in yesterday to rescue the smartphone maker, said he believes “we’re going to build tremendous value for shareholders.”
But some analysts see this playing out differently.
To recap, Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. had signed a letter of intent to lead a consortium that would buy BlackBerry for $4.7-billion (U.S.), or $9 a share.
Other parties were also interested, including what had been shaping up as a group that would be made up of U.S. private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, BlackBerry co-founders Mike Lazaridis and Doug Fregin, and chip maker Qualcomm Inc.
In the end, there was a lot of talk and little action as BlackBerry announced yesterday it was taking down the “for sale” sign and opting instead for $1-billion in fresh funds through the sale of convertible notes to a group that includes Fairfax. There’s an option for an added $250-million.
That led to a plunge in its stock of more than 16 per cent to $6.50. Today, BlackBerry shares rose 2.7 per cent to $6.67 on Nasdaq.
Analysts, of course, slashed their targets for BlackBerry stock, but in a wide range.
One of the bleakest assessments came from National Bank analyst Kris Thompson, who cut his price target on the stock to $3 from $9, arguing that debenture holders will be ahead of shareholders to the tune of about $2 a share.
The convertible debentures would, if converted, account for some 16 per cent of BlackBerry stock.
CanaccordGenuity’s Michael Walkley trimmed his price target to $6 from $7 based on the “sum of the parts,” projecting a breakup of the company when the music stops.
Gus Papageorgiou of Bank of Nova Scotia trimmed his price target to $8 from $10.60 in the absence of a sale.
“The net cash per share is $4.90,” he said.
“Distressed technology companies can trade just above their cash value.”
Having said that, he also believes that the success of BlackBerry’s BBM chat service represents a big opportunity for the company, in time possibly worth $300-million a year in mobile advertising revenue.
That could spell good news for the stock, though it’s not in the works at this point.
CIBC World Markets analyst Todd Coupland, who cut his price target to $5 from $12, said BlackBerry’s balance sheet is now “in good shape,” but the company’s “time to turnaround will be long, with success uncertain.”
Competitive issues remain, he said, though the financial concerns are settled for now.
Could BlackBerry still be sold intact? Of course, but some analysts don’t see that as the end game.
“Other potential bidders have been inside the tent; nobody liked what they saw,” said National Bank’s Mr. Thompson. “Why should we?”
Canaccord’s Mr. Walkley also sees it playing out differently.
“While BlackBerry is remaining a standalone public company, this potential influx of $1.25-billion in cash is intended to help buy time for new management to continue its pursuit of other potential acquirers,” he said.
“However, given BlackBerry hired bankers well over a year ago to pursue strategic alternatives without finding a successful purchaser, we believe the company will eventually likely be sold in pieces rather than its entirety to one buyer.”
- Complete coverage of BlackBerry
- Sean Silcoff, Jacquie McNish and Boyd Erman: BlackBerry financing aims for a new lease on life
- Steven Chase and Boyd Erman: Lenovo pursued BlackBerry bid, but Ottawa rejected idea
- Boyd Erman in Streetwise (for subscribers): BlackBerry's odds of survival just got better
- David Parkinson in ROB Insight (for subscribers): Heins's failure a black mark for BlackBerry's board
- Sean Silcoff: Meet BlackBerry’s John Chen, turnaround artist
- Iain Marlow: The legacy of Thorsten Heins
- Tim Shufelt: Investors wary of BlackBerry-invested Fairfax
- Video: Jacqueline Nelson and Hanna Sung on Blackberry's dramatic shift in direction
- Google's Android grabs 81% of smartphone market as BlackBerry, Apple slip
- Sean Silcoff, Jacquie McNish and Steve Ladurantaye: An exclusive report on the fall of BlackBerry
- Boyd Erman in Streetwise (for subscribers): BlackBerry's noisy auction: The unspoken truth
- How BlackBerry lost World War Z
Europe's outlook still bleak
David Madden may have described it best today: “According to the EU economic forecast, the euro zone has a future as bright as Guy Fawkes did: Growth will be sluggish and unemployment will remain stubbornly high.”
The London-based IG analyst was referring to new projections from the European Commission, which cut its forecasts for growth in the troubled region.
As our European correspondent Eric Reguly writes, the EC now expects the 17-nation euro zone will see economic growth of just 1.1 per cent next year.
The monetary union has been slammed by a debt crisis that resulted in sovereign bailouts and troubles in the banking system.
Unemployment is at intolerable levels in countries such as Greece and Spain, where young people, in particular, can’t find work.
“There are increasing signs that the European economy has reached a turning point,” said EC economics commissioner Olli Rehn.
“But it is too early to declare victory: Unemployment remains at unacceptably high levels.”
Streetwise (for subscribers)
ROB Insight (for subscribers)