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Samsung tablet 'not as cool' as Apple iPad, British judge rules Add to ...

These are stories Report on Business is following Monday, July 9, 2012.

Follow Michael Babad and the Globe’s top business stories on Twitter.

Apple v. Samsung
You've got to wonder just how much of a victory this one was for Samsung Electronics.

Samsung and Apple Inc. have been battling it out over patents on their tablets, and Samsung won the latest round today when a British judge found its Galaxy did not infringe on the iPad design.

It's the reason why that's so unique, and important.

"The informed user's overall impression of each of the Samsung Galaxy Tablets is the following," High Court Judge Colin Birss found, according to reports of the ruling.

"From the front they belong to the family which includes the Apple design; but the Samsung products are very thin, almost insubstantial members of that family with unusual details on the back. They do not have the same understated and extreme simplicity which is possessed by the Apple design. They are not as cool. The overall impression produced is different."

In the courtroom, it's a loss for Apple and a win for Samsung. But what does it signify?

"A British judge has now made official what most iPad users already know and feel - Apple is cooler than Samsung," said Queen's University film and media studies professor Sidneyeve Matrix. "While the ruling is a victory for Samsung’s legal team, it’s a bit of a loss for the Samsung marketing department."

Many Canadians unaware of changes
Canada's finance minister is moving aggressively to cool down the mortgage market, but it appears many Canadians aren't paying attention.

Which may be one of the reasons consumers are carrying record debt burdens. The changes were announced with great fanfare, and both Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney have been pleading with Canadians to prepare for the inevitable rise in interest rates.

A survey by Bank of Montreal indicates that 49 per cent aren't familiar with the new rules that take effect today, among them the reduction of the maximum amortization for a government-insured mortgage to 25 years from 30 years.

Just 45 per cent of those polled know that the new rule is 25 years, and 26 per cent still think it's 30 years or longer.

It's interesting that 66 per cent of the 1,000 people surveyed in late June and early July believe that they're up to date on the latest of several moves by Mr. Flaherty, who is worried about the hot housing market in some cities, and the fact that the rate of debt to disposable income in Canada is at 152 per cent.

The BMO survey also showed that 14 per cent of potential home buyers see it less likely that they'll buy a new house in the next five years, while 41 per cent of those who still expect to purchase a property in that time period say it's now more likely that they'll spend less.

And 45 per cent say it's now more likely that they'll opt for a smaller mortgage.

Thomson Reuters strikes deal for FXall
Thomson Reuters Corp. is spending about $625-million (U.S.) in a friendly deal for FX Alliance Inc..

The global media and information giant is offering $22 a share for Fxall, which runs electronic foreign exchange operations for companies and money managers.

"Thomson Reuters and FXall have established leading positions in complementary aspects of electronic FX trading," said Abel Clark of Thomson Reuters. "This combination will enable us to provide our customers with integrated management of trades though the entire lifecycle, delivering the benefits of a more streamlined trading process and more efficient execution."

QLT cuts deep
QLT Inc.'s new board of directors is wasting little time overhauling the biotechnology company.

The new board, on the job for just over a month, announced today it's cutting 146 employees, reducing its work force to just 68, and to focus its operations in one area.

QLT said it has hired Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to study the possibility of selling or spinning off its Punctal Plug Delivering System, and whether it should sell its Visudyne business.

As well, chief executive officer Robert Butchofsky is leaving QLT though he "graciously agreed" to stay until the end of the month.

QLT added that it expects a restructuring charge of between $15-million and $19-million, and that it will return $100-million in capital to shareholds, though it hasn't yet decided how.

"To understand why the board is taking this new direction, it is critical to understand why it was elected and how QLT’s previous strategic plan could have put the company in a precarious financial position," the company said in a statement.

"Our board was elected by concerned and frustrated shareholders, disquieted that the company’s spending and headcount seemed to be inappropriate given the nature of its assets, size and focus. These shareholders were concerned that resources were being misallocated and frustrated because their concerns appeared to be ignored repeatedly. After our detailed and very comprehensive assessment of the company’s affairs, the new board determined that its shareholders’ concerns were justified. In this regard, we believe that it is critical that a change in QLT’s direction be implemented to prevent further erosion of QLT’s value and assets."

Businesses still confident
Canadian businesses remain confident in their sales prospects even in the face of growing uncertainty, with hiring intentions at the highest level in more than a year, according to a quarterly Bank of Canada poll of executives from across the country.

According to the central bank’s latest Business Outlook Survey, 47 per cent of companies polled said they expect sales growth to accelerate over the next year, while 32 per cent said it would slow, The Globe and Mail's Jeremy Torobin reports today.

The so-called balance of opinion of 15 is smaller than the previous survey’s reading of 35 -- which was the best result on that question since early 2010. However, economists and policy makers will undoubtedly be relieved to see the balance not slipping further back toward negative territory, given the survey was taken from May 22 to June 14, amid some of the worst flare-ups in the European crisis and as the U.S. recovery was starting to look increasingly fragile.

"Overall, still a quite bullish set of figures in terms of growth despite some ugly global news and weaker equity markets this year," said chief economist Avery Shenfeld of CIBC World Markets. "A separate survey of lending officers showed little change from the prior quarter, with only a very a slight bias towards easing of lending conditions. Business lending has been picking up, with this survey also reporting some increase in demand. "

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