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These are stories Report on Business is following Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013.

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Bitcoin 'is a currency'
Despite what others may think, a U.S. judge has found that Bitcoin is real money.

Magistrate Judge Amoz Mazzant was ruling earlier this week on questions related to Securites and Exchange Commission allegations against Trendon Shavers of Texas, who is accused by the regulator of using his Bitcoin Savings & Trust to run a Ponzi scheme.

No allegations against Mr. Shavers have been proven. Mr. Shavers, whose BTCST had previously been known as First Pirate Savings & Trust, is alleged to have taken in the equivalent of almost $4.6-million (U.S.). That's based on the daily average price of the virtual currency in question, some 700,467 "Bitcoin in principal investments," according to Judge Mazzant of the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas.

"The BTCST investors who suffered net losses (compared to investors who received more in withdrawals and purported interest payments than they invested in principal), collectively lost 263,104 Bitcoin in principal, that is $1,834,303 based on the daily average price of Bitcoin when they purchased their BTCST investments, or in excess of $23-million based on currently available Bitcoin exchange rates," the judge wrote.

The question for Judge Mazzant was whether the investments in BTCST constituted securities under U.S. law.

"Shavers argues that the BTCST investments are not securities because Bitcoin is not money, and is not part of anything regulated by the United States," the judge wrote.

"Shavers also contends that his transactions were all Bitcoin transactions and that no money ever exchanged hands. The SEC argues that the BTCST investments are both investment contracts and notes, and, thus, are securities."

Here's a key line from the ruling: "It is clear that Bitcoin can be used as money. It can be used to purchase goods or services, and as Shavers stated, used to pay for individual living expenses. The only limitation of Bitcoin is that is limited to those places that accept it as currency. However, it can also be exchanged for conventional currencies, such as the U.S. dollar, euro, yen and yuan. Therefore, Bitcoin is a currency or form of money, and investors wishing to invest in BTCST provided an investment of money."

Many observers do not consider Bitcoins, whose value has ranged from less than $2 to more than $260 apiece, real money, though some businesses have accepted them.

Tim Hortons unveils new plan
Something to ponder with your morning coffee and croissant: Tim Hortons Inc. plans $900-million in additional debt to fund an expanded stock buyback program of $1-billion.

As it posted stronger second-quarter results today, the coffee-and-doughnut chain, which has been under pressure from activist investors, said the debt would be in the form of bank credit or newly issued bonds.

"We expect our credit metrics to remain investment grade following the recapitalization, thereby preserving our strong balance sheet, cash flows, and access to capital as we pursue our strategic planning work," the chain said.

Tim Hortons also posted a jump in second-quarter profit to $123.7-million or 81 cents a share from $108.1-million or 69 cents a year earlier, The Globe and Mail's Marina Strauss reports.

Revenue climbed 2 per cent to $800.1-million from $785.6-million.

The coffee chain said it's sticking to its earnings-per-share targets for the year, but warned that Canadian and U.S. same-store sales, the key measure in retailing, is expected to come in below its targeted range based on the year so far.

BCE boosts outlook
BCE Inc. is painting a brighter outlook for the year, even as its second-quarter profit dips.

As The Globe and Mail's Rita Trichur reports, the communications giant today posted a second-quarter profit of $571-million or 74 cents a share, down from $732-million or 94 cents a year earlier.

On an adjusted basis, earnings per share slipped to 77 cents from 97 cents, and operating revenues rose 1.5 per cent to $5-billion.

Given its acquisition of Astral Media Inc., BCE now projects revenue gains of 2 per cent to 4 per cent for its Bell unit this year.

"We delivered a solid set of financial results in Q2, backed by continued wireless postpaid strength along with good operational progress in our wireline business and a strong contribution from our media business," said chief financial officer Siim Vanaselja.

Rival Telus Corp., in turn, posted a dip in profit to $286-million or 44 cents a share from $299-million or 46 cents a year earlier. Adjusted profit rose to $354-million or 54 cents from $312-million or 48 cents, and operating revenue climbed to $2.83-billion from $2.67-billion.

"Solid year-to-date results put Telus on track to achieve our revenue and profitability targets set out for 2013, which we reaffirmed today," said chief financial officer John Gossling.

Manulife swings to profit
Manulife Financial Corp. rebounded to a second-quarter profit, though hit by charges tied to market conditions, The Globe and Mail's Jacqueline Nelson reports.

The Canadian insurer today posted a profit of $259-million or 12 cents a share, compared to the loss of $281-million or 17 cents a year earlier.

Still, adjusted profit of 31 cents was a penny shy of what analysts expected.

"Our second-quarter net income is not as strong as we would have liked, due to the impact of a number of market-related items," said chief executive officer Donald Guloien.
"Having said that, it is a significant improvement over the prior year, volatility is being constrained, core earnings are strong, and our outlook is positive."

Earnings flood in
Trying to keep up with all the other Canadian corporate earnings flooding in today? Try this:

Canadian Tire's second-quarter profit rose to $154.9-million or $1.91 a share from $133.7-million or $1.63. Sales ro to $3.56-billion from $3.48-billion.

Cineplex Inc.'s second-quarter profit climbed to $28.5-million or 45 cents a share from $21-million or 34 cents a year earlier, The Globe and Mail's Steve Ladurantaye reports. Revenue rose more than 14 per cent to $301.6-million.

Quebecor Inc. fell to a quarterly loss of $45.1-million or 73 cents a share from a profit of $65.5-million. Revenue rose by less than 1 per cent to $1.09-billion.

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.'s second-quarter profit slipped to $476-million or 44 cents a share from $753-million or 68 cents. Adjusted profit fell to 42 cents from 82 cents.

Groupon soars
Shares of Groupon Inc. surged today after its better second-quarter results and its decision to name co-founder Eric Lefkofsky chief executive officer.

Mr. Lefkofsky had been interim CEO of the online "daily deal" company since early this year.

Groupon's stock has a had a rough ride since its $20 (U.S.) days in 2011. Its 52-week low is $2.60, and its 52-week high $9.43.

Groupon's second-quarter loss narrowed to $7.6-million or a penny a share, compared to $28.4-million or 4 cents a year earlier.

Its gross billings climbed 10 per cent, and notably 30 per cent in North America, while revenue rose 7 per cent to $608.7-million.

Importantly, about half of its North American business is now done via mobile devices, up from 30 per cent a year earlier.

"With two quarters on the job, I'm pleased with the progress we've made in such a short time," Mr. Lefkofsky said.

"We continue to gain traction in mobile, with nearly 50 per cent of North American transactions coming from mobile in June," he added.

"To date, more than 50 million people have downloaded Groupon apps worldwide."

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