These are stories Report on Business is following Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014.
How tough are the new iPhones?
You can drop them, dunk them and slide them. And while they're not unbreakable, those millions of new iPhones are the hardiest yet, according to an American company that insures devices.
SquareTrade put Apple Inc.'s new iPhone 6 and the bigger iPhone 6 Plus through their paces and found they each won the top score in their categories on the insurer's "breakability index."
The company says it goes beyond traditional gadget reviews by testing devices "in everyday danger situations brought on by our lifestyles and habits."
Which means the tests involve dropping the phones, dunking them for a short time in water, and sliding them across surfaces.
The iPhone 6 won a SquareTrade score of 4, and the 6 Plus came in at 5, in tests where a lower score means it's tougher.
"The iPhone 6's breakability score of 4 sets a new high mark with a slightly better performance than even Google/Motorola's Moto X and the HTC One," SquareTrade said in a statement.
"The much larger iPhone 6 Plus scored a 5, more than a full point better than the Samsung Galaxy S5, making it the most durable phone with a screen larger than five inches."
That's not to say they're perfect, just that they're the toughest out there.
"Both new iPhones performed very well in most tests, but the iPhone 6 Plus lost some points because some users may have a hard time gripping the phone due to its large but slim form," the insurer said, noting that iPhone users have now spent more than $10-billion (U.S.) in the United States on repairs and replacements since their introduction.
"The screens on both new iPhones held up very to breakability testing, giving credence to Apple's promise of ion-strengthened glass."
Apple said yesterday it set a fresh record with the sale of more than 10 million iPhone 6 and 6 Plus devices within three days of the launch.
Up next is the new offering from BlackBerry Ltd., which is expected tomorrow to unveil its Passport device with a launch in Toronto, Dubai and London.
The Passport, says chief executive officer John Chen, will boast a 4.5-inch square screen and be priced lower than the new iPhone.
- Omar El Akkad: BlackBerry's Passport launch a test of restructuring efforts
- Apple sells record 10 million new iPhones in fist three days
It's far from clear today how, or even if, the American crackdown on tax-inversion deals could affect Burger King's takeover of Tim Hortons.
But analysts believe Burger King's move was the one that spurred President Barack Obama to act.
The U.S. Treasury Department unveiled new measures late yesterday to slow the pace of such deals, by which American companies cut their taxes by moving elsewhere.
"We've recently seen a few large corporations announce plans to exploit this loophole, undercutting businesses that act responsibly and leaving the middle class to pay the bill," the president said in a statement.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, in turn, told reporters that the new measures should slow the pace of such deals, and that he's still looking at other possible changes. The new rules will, among other things, restrict a company's tax-free access to cash outside U.S. borders.
The takeover of Tim Hortons Inc. by Burger King Worldwide Inc. has fast become a Canada-U.S. flashpoint.
Canadian Finance Minister Joe Oliver met on the weekend with Mr. Lew, and later told reporters that Burger King was not seeking a tax dodge when it struck its deal to acquire Tim Hortons and shift its headquarters to Canada.
Analysts are trying to sort out what it all means as of today.
"There is some evidence to suggest that large companies had been given the nod these rules might be coming into effect, with Walgreens recently choosing not to invert in its deal with Alliance Boots to avoid regulatory scrutiny," said analyst Jasper Lawler of CMC Markets in London.
"The final tipping point for lawmakers on whether to introduce the changes to the tax code was likely the prospective deal between Burger King and Tim Hortons, which would have seen the iconic American fast-food restaurant become Canadian."
As The Globe and Mail's Jacqueline Nelson has reported, Burger King and Tim Hortons, at least of as last week, didn't expect new rules to scuttle their deal.
"We are moving forward as planned," a Tim Hortons spokesman said. "This deal has always been driven by long-term growth, not by tax benefits."
The move is having an impact in the markets today, largely where pharmaceutical stocks are concerned.
"Tougher tax laws introduced by the U.S. to prevent companies from dodging high taxation levels by locating their headquarters overseas has hurt AstraZeneca and Shire Pharmaceutical," noted market analyst David Madden of IG.
- Boyd Erman: Tim Hortsons says new U.S. inversion rules won't stop sale
- U.S. Treasury moves against corporate tax-avoidance 'inversion' deals
- Barrie McKenna: Burger King’s takeover of Tim Hortons ‘not a tax dodge’: Oliver
- Jacqueline Nelson: Tim Hortons merger unaffected by U.S. tax law move, filings show
Agriculture concerns in talks
Norwegian and American agriculture companies are in merger talks that could give their Canadian rivals food for thought.
Norway's Yara International ASA said in a statement today it's in discussions with Chicago-based CF Industries Holdings Inc. about a "potential merger of equals," stressing the talks "are at an early stage" and there's no assurance of any deal.
CF said much the same thing.
As Reuters reports, a marriage of the two could rival Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan, with a combined market capitalization of more than $27-billion (U.S.).
Yara is the biggest nitrate fertilizer company in the world.
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