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John Chen’s big payday may be worth it if BlackBerry’s still here in 5 years

These are stories Report on Business is following Friday, Nov. 8, 2013.

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The $90-million man
Here's what you've got to keep in mind on the issue of John Chen's eye-popping pay package: BlackBerry Ltd. still has to be standing in five years for the new executive chair to walk away with more than $90-million (U.S.).

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That's not to suggest that anyone is or isn't worth that much, particularly in this era of intense scrutiny of executive pay. And when thousands of jobs are at stake and shareholders are suffering.

It's just to point out that it's not a case of a company on the ropes paying an outlandish sum, at the expense of shareholders, in hopes of a turnaround.

In documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the smartphone maker disclosed that it's paying Mr. Chen a base salary of $1-million and a performance bonus of $2-million.

Here, of course, is the kicker: Mr. Chen, the former chief of Sybase Inc. who will also serve as BlackBerry's interim chief executive officer, is also being given 13 million restricted share units that would be worth about $85-million at current prices.

They'll vest over five years, 25 per cent on his third and fourth anniversaries with BlackBerry, and the rest on his fifth.

All of which means Mr. Chen, who's being brought in after this week's collapse of a tentative deal to sell BlackBerry, has between three and five years to really turn this company around.

That's a very long time amid such fierce competition with BlackBerry's rivals, and in an era of the quick and the dead.

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The hope, of course, is that Mr. Chen will juice BlackBerry as he did Sybase, which, as The Globe and Mail's Tara Perkins and Iain Marlow report, sold in 2010 at six times its value from when he took over.

As The Globe and Mail's Iain Marlow reports today, Fairfax is part of that deal. Also buying in are Mackenzie Financial Corp., Brookfield Asset Management Inc., Markel Corp., Canso Investment Counsel Ltd. and Qatar Holding LLC.

Munk set to retire
Barrick Gold Corp. spelled it out in no uncertain terms Friday: Chairman Peter Munk is poised to retire from the embattled miner.

The gold mining firm has been dogged by corporate governance and compensation issues for some time, and in documents filed with securities regulators Barrick says it is addressing shareholder concerns, The Globe and Mail's Rachelle Younglai reports.

Investors have been concerned that the board of directors is too beholden to Mr. Munk, who built the company into the world's largest gold mining group.

It's not the first time that Barrick has signalled Mr. Munk's departure, but it is the most explicit, though no timeline was given.

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Economy creates jobs
We can thank the public sector for a decent showing on the jobs front.

Over all, 13,200 jobs were created in Canada last month, as the unemployment rate held at 6.9 per cent, but that work all came from the public sector while private employers cut back.

Public sector employment climbed largely in health care and at local city halls, according to Statistics Canada. In the private sector, manufacturing and construction were hit.

Also on the good news side of the ledger, as The Globe and Mail's Tavia Grant reports, is the fact that the gains in the labour market were in full-time work.

Over the course of a year, Canadian employment is now up by 1.2 per cent, or 214,000 jobs.

"Over all, a decent gain in jobs suggesting Canada's labour market is continuing to show modest improvements," said Emanuella Enenajor of CIBC World Markets.

In the United States, not only did employment levels surge in October, even with the government shutdown, but the U.S. Labor Department also revised August and September numbers higher.

The U.S. added 204,000 jobs last month, our Washington correspondent Kevin Carmichael reports, though the unemployment rate ticked up to 7.3 per cent.

With today's numbers, including the revisions, the U.S. has created an average 190,000 jobs a month this year.

Talisman sells part of Montney asset
Canada's Talisman Energy Inc. is selling part of its stake in British Columbia's Montney natural gas field to Malaysia's Progress Energy Canada Ltd.

"The sale of this long-dated position represents a strong return on our Montney investment and brings us closer to achieving the $2-$3-billion asset disposition target we set out in March this year," said Talisman chief executive officer Hal Kvisle.

Talisman, remember, is now in the sights of Carl Icahn, who has taken a 6-per-cent stake in the company.

S&P whacks France
It's not that markets care much any longer when a European country gets downgraded, but, analysts note, the move against France does underscore its problems.

Standard & Poor's downgraded France to AA from AA+, with a stable outlook.

"Market participants had largely priced in such a decision," said Michel Martinez of the economics department at Société Générale.

"The risk now is that it presages a wave of euro sovereign downgrades by S&P," he added in a research note today.

"S&P's decision is another reminder of France's challenges. Further structural reforms are required to improve its competitiveness and France needs to cut public spending."

German, Chinese exports on rise
Germany and China, each the subject of controversy where trade is concerned, may well stir up rumblings again with today's reports of a jump in exports.

In Germany, which slammed by the U.S. last week because of an outsized trade balance, exports climbed 1.7 per cent in September, while imports slipped, according to data released today. Germany's trade balance now sits at a record.

"This is a positive for the German economy, but others may not think so, such as the EU, who earlier this week, criticized Germany for being too export-focused, as well as the U.S., as the Treasury's latest semi-annual currency report pointed at Germany's 'dependence on exports' as slowing down the rest of the euro zone," said senior economist Jennifer Lee of BMO Nesbitt Burns.

China, in turn, always the target of complaints about its low currency, boasted an export jump of 5.6 per cent in October.

"The surge in exports is an unquestionable positive, and follows up on strong numbers in South Korea on the month," said Derek Holt and Dov Zigler of Bank of Nova Scotia.

"We like to pay close attention to the Chinese commodities import data, as they provide a rough gauge of the trajectory of global commodities demand, and the numbers showed a slight dropping off in October, albeit from very strong levels the month before."

Air Canada adjusted profit climbs
Air Canada boasted of its "best quarterly performance" in its history today as its adjusted third-quarter profit surged.

The airline's adjusted profit rose in the quarter to $365-million or $1.29 a share, from $229-million or 82 cents a year earlier, The Globe and Mail's Greg Keenan reports.

Net profit, though, slipped to $299-million or $1.05 a share from $359-million or $1.28, the year-earlier results hit by a one-off expense.

Telus profit up
Telus Corp. is also lauding its third-quarter results today.

The telecom company's profit climbed more than 10 per cent in the quarter to $356-million or 56 cents a share from $323-million or 49 cents a year earlier, The Globe and Mail's Rita Trichur writes.

Operating revenue climbed 3.6 per cent to $2.9-billion.

"Our customers first culture continues to attract new clients as evidenced by our third quarter addition of 106,000 new postpaid wireless customers, 34,000 new TV clients, and 19,000 new high-speed Internet connections," said chief executive officer Darren Entwistle.

Housing starts rise
Canada's construction industry is pushing ahead.

Housing starts in Canada rose in October to an annual pace of 198,282 units, from 195,929 a month earlier, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.

Construction of urban single homes fell 1.7 per cent, and multiple units, such as condos and apartments, 0.9 per cent.

Starts rose in Ontario, but fell elsewhere.

"Canadian homebuilding keeps on ticking, but there's not much here to overly concern policy makers yet," said senior economist Robert Kavcic of BMO Nesbitt Burns.

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About the Author
Report on Business News Editor

Michael Babad is a Report on Business editor and co-author of three business books. He has been with Report on Business for several years, and has also been a reporter and editor at The Toronto Star, The Financial Post and United Press International. His articles have appeared in major newspapers around the world. More


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