Skip to main content
top business stories

These are stories Report on Business is following Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012.

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

NTSB looks to iPhone
Another major U.S. group wants to dump the BlackBerry for the iPhone.

What's interesting in the decision by the National Transportation Safety Board, which employs some 400 people, is that it's not because of the cachet of the iPhone, it's because of what it says is the unreliable nature of the Research In Motion Ltd. device.

RIM says that government groups have relied on the "reliability and security" of its BlackBerry for more than 10 years, and that it boasts more than 1 million government users in North America, according to a statement in The Wall Street Journal.

Indeed, the BlackBerry and its network are deemed reliable.

The NTSB, which is among several BlackBerry users making the switch, reportedly both government and corporate, as RIM struggles amid sharply declining market share.

The move comes at a particularly bad time for RIM given the positive buzz its new BlackBerry 10 is getting as it prepares to launch the new devices in just over two months.

RIM's subscriber base has been growing and now tops 80 million. And just yesterday, an influential U.S. analyst boosted his target on RIM shares, citing the better-than-expected support for the new system.

In a notice of intent posted earlier this month on the Federal Business Opportunities website, the NTSB said it plans to "sole source" Verizon Wireless for the iPhone 5 deal.

"These Apple devices will replace the NTSB's existing BlackBerry devices, which have been failing both at inopportune times and at an unacceptable rate," the agency said.

"The NTSB requires effective, reliable and stable communication capabilities to carry-out its primary investigative mission and to ensure employee safety in remote locations."

Still no deal
There are 34 days 'til Christmas, and I'll go out on a limb here and suggest the issues of Greece's "debt sustainability" still won't be resolved by then.

As our European correspondent Eric Reguly reports, European finance ministers met for 12 hours, into the early hours of today, and still came to no decisions.

"It would surely have been hoping for too much to expect some form of agreement from last night's euro group meeting and so it has proved as the obstacles to an agreement continue to prove politically difficult," said senior analyst Michael Hewson of CMC Markets in London.

So – no surprise here – they'll meet again next week.

There are divisions within the group, and with the International Monetary Fund, that are holding up the next instalment of the Athens bailout money, some €31.5-billion.

The IMF openly disagrees with the euro zone ministers on their decision to give Greece an extra two years to meet its fiscal targets.

"It now looks as if we will have to wait that little bit longer with EU ministers agreeing to reconvene next Monday to work through further technical details, as policymakers strive to close the gap between the IMF's position of debt restructuring and sustainability, and Germany and others position of no to the politically toxic option of debt forgiveness," Mr. Hewson said in a research note.

"And once again markets wait as political theatre takes precedence over economic reality as we still await a decision on the next steps in this long drawn out saga surrounding Greece."

Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel repeated her oft-heard line that she wants Greece to stay in the euro.

End of the Twinkie?
The Twinkie is now in play.

The judge overseeing Hostess Brands Inc.'s Chapter 11 proceedings has approved the iconic company's plans to liquidate and sell its assets, at a cost of 18,500 jobs.

His decision followed a failed attempt at mediation between the 82-year-old Hostess and its bakers union, which in turn followed a warning by the company to shut down if a strike wasn't called off.

"This estate will suffer substantial diminuition if this wind-down plan is not quickly implemented," said Judge Robert Drain, according to The New York Times. "It appears to me that the debtors have taken the right course."

At today's hearing, the company's lawyers noted that there has been a "flood" of interest from potential buyers. Its brands include Twinkies, Ho Hos, Ding Dongs and Wonder Bread, among others.

Affected are 33 bakeries, more than 550 distribution operations and 570 stores in the U.S.

House prices dip
Canadian home prices dipped in October for the second month in a row, according to a fresh reading today, while annual price gains eased to 3.43 per cent.

Prices slipped 0.25 per cent from September, according to the Teranet-National Bank house price index, following a monthly decline of 0.4 per cent in September, The Globe and Mail's Tara Perkins reports.

On a year-over-year basis, price gains slipped from 4.1 per cent in September.

Compared to a year earlier, prices were up in all the cities tracked – from a low of 2.5 per cent in Ottawa to a high of 8.9 per cent in Halifax – except for Vancouver and Victoria.

Prices in those two centres slipped by 1 per cent and 1.7 per cent, respectively.

"Recent monthly changes in the Composite House Price Index are consistent with a sequence of declines in (seasonally adjusted) existing home sales, and the resulting loosening of market conditions," said senior economist Marc Pinsonneault of National Bank Financial.

Canadians flock to U.S. malls
Canadians are flocking across the border in record numbers, a surge that is bound to heighten concerns among domestic retailers and airlines, The Globe and Mail's Tavia Grant reports.

Overnight travel to the United States, which includes travel by car or plane, hit 1.95 million in September, the highest number since Statistics Canada began record-keeping in 1972.

Several factors are luring Canadians south, including the strength of the Canadian dollar.

Personal Finance

Business ticker

Report an error

Editorial code of conduct

Tickers mentioned in this story