Pain from the fall in oil prices is broadening beyond the energy sector and showing itself in an array of Canadian companies, from financial services to heavy equipment, real estate and retail.
On Tuesday, oil prices dropped again on concerns about increasing U.S. supplies, with West Texas intermediate trading below $42 (U.S.) a barrel, a few dollars from August's 6 1/2-year low.
The impact doesn't end with oil companies. On Thursday, Finning International Inc. said it will cut 1,100 jobs in Canada and South America – on top of previous downsizing – and close 11 Western Canadian locations due to weaker sales. Finning, which caters to the mining, construction and energy sectors, said that combined with previous branch closings in British Columbia and Alberta, the company's presence in Western Canada will be reduced by more than 20 per cent by late 2016.
"The adjustments we've made suggest that we expect this to go on for a little longer yet," said Mauk Breukels, Finning vice-president of investor relations.
Exposure to oil and gas investments also caused turbulence in Manulife Financial Corp.'s results. On Thursday, the company announced that its third-quarter profit of $622-million was down 43 per cent from a year earlier, which it said was largely driven by the decline in value attributed to oil and gas investments. This marks the fourth quarter in a row that the company's results have been dealt a blow by these holdings.
Even Canadian Tire Corp. Ltd., which reported a solid rise in third-quarter profit Thursday, said it has seen weakness in its Alberta sales and a pinch in its Mark's clothing division, whose sales of high-margin industrial apparel have been squeezed.
More than a year of low prices is hurting others with even a small interest in the fortunes of Canada's oil and gas industry. Earlier this month, Liquor Stores N.A. Ltd. reported a drop in year-over-year sales for the third quarter, and highlighted softer store results in Northern Alberta oil production hubs such as Fort McMurray and Grande Prairie.
Office tower owners such as Office REIT, Artis REIT and Morguard Corp. have been caught in the downturn and have seen their shares drop as downtown Calgary office workers are laid off and commercial real estate rents plummet.
And as Telus Corp. announced 1,500 job cuts last week, it said it was making the work-force reduction in part to operate more efficiently but also due to "prevailing economic conditions," citing the broader business market in Canada, and Alberta in particular. Chief executive officer Darren Entwistle noted that the company was not putting major emphasis on recruiting new wireless customers in Alberta "when there's not a lot of receptivity to that, given the economic duress being experienced in that province."
While the commodity downturn has put pressure on many businesses, it's a buying opportunity for others. The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board has been increasing its investments in recent months – including its co-purchase of shale assets in northeast Colorado from an Encana Corp. subsidiary in a deal worth $900-million (U.S.) – and is still hunting for deals.
"As a long-term investor, we will be able to reap the benefits of that as the commodity cycle – eventually, at some point, who knows when – reverses," said Mark Wiseman, CEO of the CPPIB.
Energy firms are still working through the oil price slide that began 17 months ago. On Thursday, Encana reported a third-quarter loss of $1.24-billion, mainly due to an after-tax impairment charge that was the result of declining commodity prices.
In an interview, Encana CEO Doug Suttles said the current low price environment will not generate the production needed to fulfill growing world demand. The supply glut will be worked out as companies shelve plans for new projects – predicted the third-generation Texas oilman – and higher crude prices will return in the second half of next year or in 2017.
"I don't think it's imminent, but I don't think it's super far away either," Mr. Suttles said.
With files from reporters Jacqueline Nelson, Christine Dobby and Marina Strauss in Toronto.