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G20 should stop the bickering, show courage

These are stories Report on Business is following Tuesday, June 19, 2012.

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Pull together
More than at any time since the depths of the financial crisis, the world's leaders need to pull together today, end their squabbling and divisiveness, and come up with a concrete plan to get the fragile recovery back on track.

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It's not enough to say they're united and pledge to do what's necessary, as a draft of the G20 statement would suggest. The leaders meeting in Mexico must show the fortitude and unity they showed after the collapse of Lehman Bros. if they are truly going to ease the fears that threaten the world at a such a crucial period.

"If yesterday's draft communiqué from the summit of G20 leaders in Mexico was intended to instill confidence it failed to do so, as the markets clearly weren't listening," said senior analyst Michael Hewson of CMC Markets.

"The communiqué stated that Europe would strive to take 'all necessary measures' to hold the euro zone together and break the 'feedback loop' between sovereign states and banks. Given yesterday's blowout in yields pressure is growing once more on the [European Central Bank] to act and force yields back down."

At least in Europe, markets have lost faith after more than two years of a debt crisis that continues to spiral out of control. Some economies are collapsing, and unemployment is at unbearable levels. The number of bailouts is mounting, and the euro zone is at the brink.

Thus, it was unwise of European Commission chief José Manuel Barroso to slam his colleagues, such as Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper, for pressing Europe to solve its problems. One of the issues, of course, is Canada's decision to not pump extra funds into the International Monetary Fund, money that would be used to prop up Europe's ailing nations.

It's true that Mr. Harper and his finance minister, Jim Flaherty, have been aggressive in demanding Europe fix its ills, but the protests, strikes and election results show that Europeans feel the same way. Mr. Barroso should have held his fire, and tried to work behind the scenes. Instead, he fired back, The Globe and Mail's Bill Curry reports from Los Cabos, where the G20 is meeting today.

"Frankly, we are not coming here to receive lessons in terms of democracy and in terms of how to run an economy because the European Union has a model that we may be very proud of," Mr. Barroso said.

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Whether or not he should be proud of that model is beside the point. These leaders have an opportunity to show the world today that they can, indeed, pull together when needed. And Mr. Barroso, in particular, should understand just how much of a pall Europe has cast on other countries.

"Mr. Barroso's comments reflect how much the euro zone crisis is poisoning relations between the major powers, but he should bear in mind that we have all been watching this slow-motion car crash unfold now for almost three years, and we are still no closer to a resolution," said sales trader Yusuf Heusen of IG Index in London.

Strategist Adam Cole of RBC in London questioned the draft version of the statement.

"The document contains a pledge to put in place the policy changes in Europe that will break the feedback loop between sovereigns and banks," he said. "Reports that the communiqué will also include the detail of how this will be done, however, seem to overstate the scope of the statement. According to sources, China is to contribute $43-billion to boosting the IMF funds while Russia, India and Mexico are to boost IMF funds by $10-billion each. Pledges now total $456-billion ($430-billion in April) excluding these contributions. Other contributions may follow."

Like Mr. Cole and Mr. Heusen, many observers wonder what will come out of the G20 but for a warm and fuzzy statement.

"The G20 summit in Mexico is bound to be filled with recommendations for less austerity," said David Rosenberg, chief economist at Gluskin Sheff + Associates. "It is incredible that the G20 is dealing with even more acute issues now than at the last grade meeting in France last November - do these guys actually do much more than talk?"

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Bombardier sees marginal downturn
Bombardier Inc. expects a slight downturn in its annual 2O-year forecast for the global commercial aircraft market but says business jet deliveries will return to sustained growth next year.

The Montreal-based plane and train maker says it's "confident in the strong, long-term potential of the business aircraft industry" and forecasts a total of 24,000 business jet deliveries from 2012 to 2031, The Globe and Mail's Bertrand Marotte reports from Montreal.

On the commercial side, in the 20-to-149-seat segment, the company sees 12,800 deliveries over the next 20 years, a decrease of 300 units or 2.3 per cent compared to last year's forecast, mainly due to a lower GDP forecast and a sharp increase in the anticipated oil price.

Brookfield buys properties
Brookfield Office Properties is spending $829-million for a suite of properties in London's financial district.

Brookfield said today it's buying almost 900,000 square feet - several buildings - from Hammerson PLC.

Among the assets are a 26-story tower at the former site of the London Stock Exchange, which is already 98-per-cent leased. Brookfield will now have a half-interest in the building.

"This acquisition aligns with our strategy of providing front-office accommodations to the world's most prestigious tenants by owning and operating premier properties that are well-located within the most dynamic global markets," said Brookfield's chief investment officer Dennis Friedrich.

Walgreen expands overseas
America's biggest drug store chain is moving overseas in a $6.7-billion (U.S.) cash-and-stock deal for a piece of Alliance Boots.

The Swiss-based target operates more than 3,300 shops in 11 countries, and is huge in Europe.

The deal gives Walgreen a 45-per-cent interest, with an option to buy the rest in about three years.

"We are bringing together the strengths and expertise of each company to create a worldwide healthcare platform for the future that can

provide innovative ways to address global health and wellness challenges," said chief executive officer Gregory Wasson.

World's wealthy take a hit
Economic turmoil is pinching the pocketbooks of the world's wealthy, a little, The Globe and Mail's Tavia Grant reports.

Global wealth among high net worth individuals declined 1.7 per cent last year amid market volatility, Capgemini's World Wealth Report, released today, shows. It fell in all regions except for the Middle East.

The drop is the first since the 2008 global economic crisis, a year when high net worth individual wealth plunged 19.5 per cent, the report said. That said, their total wealth still amounted to $42-trillion last year – the second-highest level since record-keeping began in 2005.

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