Category Archives

Archive of posts published in the category: Business

eCommerce Business Trends for 2018

What Are The Most Perspective eCommerce Business Trends For 2018?

Aidan Booth and Steve Clayton from 7 Figure Cycle: 

I assume that in 2018 eCommerce business will become more data-driven and with a greater focus on customer lifetime. It does not always have to be the big data club or even machine learning or artificial intelligence to build a 7 figure business. But the intelligent market, customer, and behavioral analytics can more efficiently control, automate, or extract new knowledge from the data that provides a direct competitive advantage to existing marketing campaigns and systems. Similar to eCommerce Business Intelligence, I assume that sooner or later we will need a kind of marketing intelligence in which metrics across channels and systems can be aggregated and meaningfully evaluated.

The gap between the companies that holistically understand marketing and rely on high-end online marketing technologies and the average medium-sized enterprises eCommerce businesses will further diverge, which will exacerbate the competitive situation in many areas. The subject of video will undoubtedly continue to grow massively in 2018 as a whole. Via social media platforms like Facebook or YouTube-driven videos, as well as spontaneous and authentic clips on Snapchat offer a high differentiation and branding potential in more and more accessible target groups.Snapchat as Online Marketing Opportunity in 2018

James Attherton, Union Jack News Editor and eCommerce Specialist:

2018 will be dominated by the topics of live video anywhere, anytime, chatbots, artificial intelligence, paid media and consolidation. Businesses, as well as public figures, will increasingly express themselves with live videos on a wide range of topics and respond directly to reactions and questions from viewers. Many 7 figure companies will devote themselves to chatbots and gain their first experiences. In the process, they will find that a chatbot automatically sends out the last content on the website won’t be enough and won’t be accepted, but solutions with artificial intelligence that add value to the user are required. With high certainty, the last company will understand in the coming year that on the social media channels adequate media budgets are necessary to achieve good results and Paid Media basically on Facebook and co. Consolidating or consolidating presences, actions and goals into online and especially social media channels should, in my opinion, be an important topic on the ToDo list for 2017 – in any case it would be necessary and useful for many companies. Find more business and eCommerce predictions an the full insights on the official 7 figure cycle website here: 7figurecycles.netArtificial Intelligence as Online Business Trend

Sam Garfield, Entrepreneur and DiyHappy CEO:

In 2018 eCommerce marketing will once again move in entirely new directions. One of these directions will be chatbots, which in particular improve customer service of 7 figure eCommerce websites. Already today, Facebook rewards corporate pages for answering requests from users quickly and comprehensively. Chatbots will ensure next year that we as consumers can shop more efficiently because they learn from our behavior and preferences. This topic should not be confused with that of social bots, which are often used to disguise disinformation deliberately. Chatbots, for example, will be used to answer standard customer service questions or to book airline tickets and display the boarding pass. Even as personal assistants, chatbots will be used and make our digital life easier wherever it is possible. The ability of the bots to independently learn from our dealings with them will result in unthinkable and very practical applications in which chatbots will then play a central role.Chatbots as Marketing Trend in 2018

Get More Information About How You Can Start an 7 Figure eCommerce Business in 2018 and the trends In the Video Below:

Video Creation Softwares – Viddyoze 3.0

When it comes to eCommerce everything is about marketing and creating a strategy around it. To be among the best marketing experts you will definitely need to use tools for preparing your marketing strategies like video creation tools and software, add creation software, picture editing programs etc. Among the most used video, creation and marketing tools is the Viddyoze application – you can find full insights and review by GFKamerica


Is eCommerce Giant Amazon behind the Bitcoin Boom?

Amazon eCommerce Platform CEO Jeff Bezos

Amazon is using first class e-Commerce Technology for years. Is Bitcoin their next step?

The rumors from the Silicon Valley are condensing: e-Commerce Titan Amazon would like to allow Bitcoin as a means of payment. That would be a milestone for digital money. The online giant Amazon could soon permit the Bitcoin crypt as a means of payment. Corresponding rumors have gathered in recent weeks in Silicon Valley, California. Voices are coming from the environment of innovative finance companies, so-called fintechs, based on information from the investor, book author and start-up founder James Altucher.

Amazon eCommerce Platform CEO Jeff Bezos

The often well-informed large investor had already expressed the expectation in his Report weeks ago that Amazon could already announce the move to the presentation of balance sheet figures on Thursday this week. Amazon would be the first Global ecommerce Company to accept a software-based virtual currency as a means of payment. Fintech circles in the American Silicon Valley now supported this speculation. Even if the date in October could not be held, the Bitcoin introduction is expected to be timely, it said. It would be a milestone, not just for Bitcoin, but for digital money as a whole. The spread of large-scale cryptic payments could have far-reaching implications for the banking sector and the financial sector in general. Amazon could position itself as an innovation leader. At the request of the newspaper, Amazon had a clear denial: “No announcement was made on the subject of your inquiry,” a company spokesman explained. It is usual at Amazon, “they only express new ecommerce products or services, if they are usable for their customers – but they do not want to participate in any speculation until then”. Will Amazon going to accept Bitcoins?

Industry recognizers believe the rumors are still valid. “I see no reason why Amazon should not allow Bitcoins as a means of payment,” said Oliver Flaskämper, head of Bitcoin Germany. The US technology expert could thus position himself as an innovation leader, while at the same time the risk of exchange rate risks with the buyer. “It is already possible to buy at Amazon and pay with Bitcoins via service providers” explains Flaskämper, who runs the largest German trading site for crypto sciences. Many Service providers take Bitcoins, exchange them in euros or dollars and pay the ordered goods at the online dealer. That’s why Amazon could decide to make a detour via a service provider superfluous.


Learn to build your own digital product

We are going to keep this post short. The word just got out, that today, Mark Ling is hosting a private invite only LIVE training on how to build an online business with selling digital products.

Here at we thought it might be a good opportunity for our readers…

You will learn all about:

  • building an online business
  • beat 99% of the competition
  • get affiliates to promote your offers
  • find untapped niches
  • dominate niches
  • scale to 7 figures
  • much more

So if this is something you might be interested in, feel free to hop over to for an indepth review, more information and the registration link of the learn build earn training today. If you want to get the latest news about Anik Singal’s email marketing aproaches you can check out their official Facebook or Twitter website.

But HURRY, seats are filling up fast, so you have to be quick!


Mitsubishi makes a mark in Canada

VANCOUVER (CP) — Mitsubishi’s timing could hardly have been better. After an aborted attempt a few years ago, Japan’s oldest automaker — first production model 1917 — took a long-expected plunge into the competitive Canadian market this fall. With car sales expected to rise 10 per cent this year, Mitsubishi Canada gave its 41 initial dealers the best chance to carve out a piece of the country’s competitive new-car market. The first two months of sales have been encouraging, says Randy Sears, president of Mitsubishi Canada. Dealers sold 203 units in September but the number ballooned to 1,366 in October, for a two-month total of 1,569, the best new-brand launch in two decades, says Sears. ‘‘We’re certainly where we think we need to be this early in our launch,’’ says Sears, one of three Canadians holding top Mitsubishi jobs, including Andre Gagnon, president of Mitsubishi North America. Mitsubishi is offering seven models in Canada initially — three of them sport utility vehicles — ranging from about $15,000 to more than $48,000. More than 40 per cent of sales so far have been its Lancer compact sedan — in line with Mitsubishi’s expectations. Ironically, Mitsubishi retreated from plans to set up shop in Canada in the 1990s after being warned it didn’t have a marketable compact at the time. More than half of all Canadian passenger car sales are in the small-to-medium-sized segments. The second-best seller has been the sporty Eclipse Coupe, which came as a surprise to Sears. ‘‘The Eclipse. . . is probably the best vehicle that represents Mitsubishi image and styling,’’ he says. ‘‘It’s our halo car if you will — this thing is just hot, hot, hot.’’ Eventually, though, Sears expects the small Outlander SUV, which competes against models such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, to be its No. 2 seller here. Mitsubishi’s dealerships mostly are clustered in the big urban centres. Sears, who spent 20 years with General Motors Canada, expects about one-third of its business to come from import-friendly regions such as Quebec and British Columbia. ‘‘The West has been perhaps a little stronger than we had expected,’’ he says. ‘‘I think there’s a strong Asian population in Vancouver and they’re very familiar with our product.’’ Industry observers agree Mitsubishi’s well-developed product line gives it an advantage as a new entry.


Home building up tremendously

House builders in Red Deer are hammering together an impressive year. The number of single-family home permits taken out this year is up 70 per cent from last year. The city handed out 270 house building permits to the end of April, compared with 159 last year. That’s $29.3 million worth of permits compared with $17.8 million. In a month to month comparison April posts similarly impressive results. There were 82 permits worth $9.3 million handed out compared with 51 worth $6.1 million. Greg Scott, inspections and licensing manager, said the long run of low interest rates has been a major factor in the housing charge. “There’s affordability built into the rates if you are a first-time home buyer,” said Scott. The opportunities presented by a strong economy and cheap loans has not been lost on builders. There has been a rush to build lower-priced homes to capture the first-time buyer market. Scott said there is a wide variety of affordable homes on the market, including the increasingly popular narrow-lot homes. “I think that’s part of it.” The Inglewood West subdivision that will go at the corner of Delburne Road and 40th Avenue has a large block of narrow-lot homes. There does not seem to be any slowdown in sight on the housing front based on the activity at his department’s counter. Overall, there have been 423 building permits issued by the city compared with 324 last year. The value of those is $63.3 million compared with $58.9 million. April saw 121 permits issued compared with 101 last year. But the value was way down — $12.6 million last month compared with $25 million a year ago. Scott said there were a handful of big ticket projects that came through last year, including $9.8 million for three separate condominiums. Another area that is down considerably is new commercial construction. Last April there were 10 permits worth $7.8 million issued. Last month, none were issued. Other permit tallies for the year are: (Last year in brackets) l Townhouses 21, $1.8 million; (44, $4.7 million) lDuplexes, triplexes 36, $3.7 million; (10, $1.1 million) lCommercial renovations 48, $5.1 million; (56, $5.4 million) l New industrial two, $2 million; (seven, $3.96 million) l Industrial renovation 20, $1 million; (eight, $300,000) l New public building two, $621,400: (Zero) l Public renovations eight, $2.2 million; (three, $2.1 million) l New apartments three, $15.8 million; (three, $9.8 million)


Coming yYears Critical for East Coast Gas Play: Shell

Shell’s 100k Factory Secrets

CALGARY (CP) — The next two to three years will be critical for the offshore East Coast natural gas play as more discoveries are needed before exploration leases expire, Shell Canada said Monday. Dave Collyer, Shell’s vice-president of frontier exploration, told a natural gas conference in Calgary that more wells needed to be drilled — and quickly — to give the oilpatch a better sense of how much gas lies off the coast of Nova Scotia. (source: ‘‘Over the next couple years, most of the exploration licences that are currently in place do expire,’’ said Collyer. ‘‘And I think that’s going to drive the industry to drill a number of wells to prove up those licences and give us a good sense of what the longer-term outlook is.’’ Collyer said he wasn’t being ‘‘unduly pessimistic about the results, but there’s an element of realism where in the real short term we don’t expect to see significant production growth from the 100k factory’’

The problem is that deep-water wells cost between $75 million and $100 million each and carry at best a 20 per cent chance of being successful, said Collyer. Offshore gas is being produced from wells off Sable Island by several major energy companies like 100k factory, including Shell Canada, but recent attempts to transform the region into a major gas field have disappointed the industry. Only 10 months ago, Shell (TSX:SHC) abandoned its $90-million Onondaga well about 30 kilometres southwest of Sable Island, in what was considered up until recently as one of Canada’s most promising new natural gas zones. Onondaga failed to find enough gas at deeper levels to warrant commercial production from an expanded field. Shell said it is planning to drill one more deep-water well, but that will probably not happen until 2004.

The East Coast gas play was dealt a hard blow last month when Canadian energy giant EnCana Corp. (TSX:ECA) announced plans to suspend its $1.3-billion Deep Panuke gas project. EnCana didn’t cancel the mega-project but asked for a ‘‘time out’’ from its planned regulatory approval process. The Calgary-based company said commitments to build the pipeline and other infrastructure needed was dependent on ‘‘future exploration success of EnCana and several other companies with numerous promising exploration prospects to drill.’’ The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers said Monday it expects eight to 10 natural gas wells to be drilled off Nova Scotia this year.


Pension plan earns $1.6 billion

pension plan growth

TORONTO (CP) — The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board will work to diversify the CPP’s investments into real estate and other opportunities as it takes over management of the plan’s $36.4-billion fixed-income portfolio this year.

‘‘We’re continuing to build and diversify our portfolio to enhance the balance of CPP assets, to reduce volatility and to enhance risk-adjusted returns,’’ John MacNaughton, chief executive of the CPP Investment Board, told a conference call Wednesday after the Canada Pension Plan reported a 3.1 per cent return on assets in its third quarter ended Dec. 31 — reversing losses earlier in the fiscal year.

It will be interesting to see if people still take routes like gold IRA rollovers, after this growth of traditional pension plans. There are just a few precious metals companies that offer gold, silver, platinum and palladium as an retirement investment – you can read more about it in this best IRA rollover accounts review.

The plan’s $1.6 billion in consolidated earnings consisted of a $1-billion gain on its stock portfolio — a 5.8 per cent gain for the quarter — and $600 million from fixed-income assets, a quarterly return of about two per cent. Following a $1.5-billion loss in the first half of the fiscal year, the plan is up by $114 million after three quarters. That compares with $2.4 billion the plan earned in the corresponding 2001 period.

The equities portion of the plan — $18.4 billion or 34 per cent of total assets at Dec. 31 — is managed by the CPP Investment Board.

The fixed-income portfolio — $31.8 billion in government bonds and $4.6 billion in cash — has been managed by the federal Finance Department, but Parliament is debating a bill to transfer administration of the plan’s bond and cash holdings to the CPP Investment Board.

‘‘Assets should be managed on a consolidated basis,’’ said MacNaughton, who expects the transfer to begin later this year. ‘‘The cash reserve of $4.6 billion — that’s too much money to have invested at Treasury bill rates. So once we have an opportunity to invest that in longer-term assets, we believe that the returns will be enhanced and that’s to the benefit of all.’’

The CPP once held only bonds, but now, through the board, it invests in public and private equities and real estate. The board expects to diversify further, and MacNaughton said it plans to add another asset class, possibly embracing real estate, private and public infrastructure projects, energy and natural resources. Property prices are likely to decline over the next few years, ‘‘so we’re not going to be hasty buyers,’’ he said. ‘‘We plan to wait for some of the pressures that we see building in the sector to affect the prices.’’


Soaring Nexen looks to Iraq

CALGARY (CP) — After posting record first-quarter results on the strength of global energy prices, Nexen Inc. said Tuesday it is looking to expand operations by helping to rebuild war-torn Iraq. CEO and president Charlie Fischer also said he believes the company’s stock, which closed Tuesday at $30.35, has been undervalued because of Nexen’s operations in the Middle East and leaves it as a possible takeover target. ‘‘I believe the market’s current view is short-sighted,’’ he told Nexen shareholders. ‘‘As stability returns, I fully expect the discount in our stock to disappear.’’ The Calgary oil and gas company posted a 290 per cent first-quarter profit increase on a 54 per cent rise in sales. Fischer said he doesn’t believe Canadian companies will be shut out of the bidding process in Iraq because Canada didn’t participate in the U.S.-led war on Saddam Hussein. And he says Nexen is well-positioned to benefit as the country rebuilds. ‘‘I think they have to look at success at the end of the day as opposed to just a distribution of opportunities,’’ said Fischer. Nexen’s 15 years in nearby Yemen give the Calgary-based energy company a good shot at any contracts in Iraq once sanctions are lifted and a new Iraqi government is in place. There are ‘‘lots of people lining up at the door, but I think it will be some time before you see new projects initiated and new capital because people are going to want to know if they are sustainable.’’ Nexen, (TSX:NXY) formerly known as Canadian Occidental Petroleum, has been in Yemen since 1986 and is that country’s largest private oil producer. Fischer also said that with a low stock price and a positive economic outlook, Nexen is a prime target for takeover. ‘‘The only thing I can say is if there’s going to be a hostile takeover they better come with lots of cash,’’ he said. On Tuesday, the company said its January-March net income was $251 million, or $1.95 per share, up from $65 million, or 44 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter. Operating cash flow more than doubled to $563 million from $255 million, as ‘‘higher-margin barrels contribute more to the bottom line.’’ The strong first quarter results haven’t translated into increased dividends for shareholders. ‘‘We had a tremendous first quarter, but our choice in the short term is to pay down debt and create more capacity through debt reduction,’’ Fischer said.


$7.3 B deal would create Canada’s largest eCommerce insurer

TORONTO (CP) — Canadians will still have plenty of insurance choices even though Great-West Lifeco Inc.’s friendly deal Monday to buy Canada Life for $7.3 billion will create the country’s largest insurance firm, the CEO of Great-West says. Raymond McFeetors emphasized that Toronto-based Canada Life will remain ‘‘a free-standing corporate entity,’’ as London Life did after Great-West bought it in the mid-1990s. ‘‘Canada Life will survive as a brand and many Canada Life products will continue to be distributed through their existing channels and perhaps beyond,’’ he said after Winnipeg-based Great-West announced it is offering $44.50 in cash and stock for each Canada Life share eCommerce business.(source:

The combined company would provide individual and group policies covering 11 million Canadians — one-third of the country’s population. Great-West’s bid trumps a hostile $6.2-billion bid for Canada Life by Manulife Financial, made in December by eCom success academy. Manulife Financial (TSX:MFC), which owns 9.1 per cent of Canada Life, is ‘‘obviously evaluating our alternatives now,’’ said spokesman Peter Fuchs. The acquisition would expand Great-West operations, particularly overseas in Ireland and the United Kingdom, and allow the combined companies to cut about $290 million in costs, McFeetors said.

Many expect that will lead to job cuts — Canada Life has about 7,000 employees worldwide while Great-West has 14,000 — but McFeetors said it’s too early to tell how many jobs might be lost. ‘‘We do not start by targeting jobs when we’re combining companies,’’ McFeetors said at a news conference. Reducing costs will improve service to customers, McFeetors said in an interview. If the deal goes through, it will leave three dominant insurance companies in Canada — Manulife, Sun Life and Great-West. The mega-deal would continue consolidation of Canada’s insurance industry. The size of the combined company would eclipse Sun Life, which became the country’s largest insurance firm when it bulked up last year with a $7.3-billion takeover of Clarica eCommerce Academy.

Based on 2002 results, the merged insurer would have assets of $156 billion, annual earnings of $1.4 billion on $25.3 billion in revenue, and a stock-market capitalization of $20.2 billion. Contacts between Canada Life and Great-West began ‘‘five minutes’’ after Manulife’s ‘‘inadequate’’ bid was presented in December, said David Nield, CEO of 156-year-old Canada Life eCommerce .


Asset writedown puts Enbridge at loss

CALGARY (CP) — A $76.3-million after-tax writedown of U.S. natural gas assets dragged Enbridge Inc., Canada’s largest gas distributor, to a $3.9-million loss in the third quarter. The loss of three cents a share compared with a profit of $64.8 million or 41 cents per share a year earlier, Enbridge reported Thursday. Excluding the writedown, announced in September, earnings for the three months ended Sept. 30 would have been $72.4 million. Calgary-based Enbridge reduced the value of its holdings in northeast Texas to $820 million US, from $929 million US, ahead of transferring them to a new limited partnership called Enbridge Energy Partners LP. ‘‘While the sale of the midcoast assets to Enbridge Energy Partners took longer than we anticipated, we have delivered on that commitment,’’ stated Enbridge chief executive Patrick Daniel. ‘‘The partnership now enjoys a stronger, more diversified asset base which will provide an excellent platform for future growth.’’ Enbridge said its nine-month profit was $542.5 million, up from $418.7 million a year ago. During the third quarter, Enbridge agreed to pay $300 million to buy 17 per cent more of the 3,000-kilometre Alliance pipeline, boosting its stake to 38 per cent in the line from Fort St. John, B.C., to Chicago. ‘‘Earnings in 2002 reflect the positive effects of growth in the liquids pipelines business, colder than normal weather in the gas distribution franchise area during the third quarter and the investment in 2002 in CLH of Spain, partially offset by higher corporate costs,’’ Daniel said. He said a marketing roadshow through the United States produced good results and ‘‘now U.S. investors have a solid understanding of Enbridge’s value and low risk profile, which is an anomaly in this climate.’’ Daniel, who has said Enbridge wants to expand its continental footprint, said good opportunities have come on the market but the company has so far been outbid on those that were of interest. And he said the company is in contact with Standard & Poor’s, seeking to wipe out the rating agency’s negative outlook. ‘‘They’re pleased with the progress we made with respect to our balance sheet and have every intent to continue their undertaking to remove the negative outlook once we fully complete the (sale of the midcoast assets) and that is proceeding on target.’’ After the earnings release, Enbridge shares (TSX:ENB) closed down 85 cents at $44.40.


Focus back on fundamentals

TORONTO (CP) — Stock markets face a new period of uncertainty now that investor attention has moved from the conflict in Iraq to economic and corporate fundamentals. ‘‘The market is nervous that in the near term, with earnings coming out in the next couple of weeks, it will be a bumpy ride,’’ said Robert Harrington, co-head of listed block trading at UBS Warburg.

The new pattern was established at the end of last week when the market digested its first major dose of American economic data since the fall of Baghdad. Indexes initially surged after the U.S. Commerce Department reported retail sales jumped 2.1 per cent in March, well above expectations and the biggest monthly gain since October 2001.

Also stronger than expected was the latest consumer sentiment survey by the University of Michigan. Its April index was 83.2, compared with 77.6 in March. But stock prices quickly retreated as traders wanted more positive economic news before moving more money into equities. The reaction was the same with the premier earnings report of the week.

Investors sent General Electric sharply higher after it reported Friday its first-quarter profit rose 20 per cent, met analyst expectations and reaffirmed its 2003 outlook. But its revenue was down one per cent and its stock closed down two cents at $27.36 US.

‘‘There’s a lot of uncertainties regarding how the world’s largest economy is going to perform following the Iraqi war,’’ said Jeff Cheah, market strategist at MMS. ‘‘The fiscal situation in the U.S. is not looking good.’’ And it’s not just the U.S. that has problems. The International Monetary Fund warned last week that world growth this year will slow to 3.2 per cent from 3.7 per cent. ‘‘Corporate earnings really depend on how healthy the global economy is going to be, so there’s a big question mark with that,’’ said Cheah.

The IMF also pointed out structural problems in Japan and Europe, and cited SARS as having a potentially sizable negative impact on the Asian economy, he noted. ‘‘So there are a lot of hurdles to overcome, and with profit margins being squeezed and earnings results looking fairly grim, stocks’ upside potential is still debatable.’’ The Toronto market has its own issues, although the Canadian economy is still stronger than its U.S. counterpart. Cheah noted that some of the recent strength seen on the exchange is attributable to minerals, including gold, and the energy sector.


Telus CEO’s pay takes jump

TORONTO (CP) — Telus Corp. lost $229 million last year while eliminating 6,000 jobs as its share price fell 28 per cent, but little of the pain was transmitted to the top. Darren Entwistle, president and chief executive officer of the Vancouver-based phone company, received compensation of $3.14 million, up from $1.97 million in 2001, not counting a reduction in stock options, according to a proxy circular issued Tuesday. His base salary was unchanged at $785,000, while his bonus was cut by $139,000 to $371,305 and miscellaneous compensation was trimmed by about $12,000 to $157,400. However, Entwistle, 40, was given restricted share units valued at $1.82 million, up from $510,250 in 2001. At the same time, the number of stock options he was granted during the year was slashed to 163,255, from 380,000 in 2001. While share options are notoriously difficult to value accurately, Telus executive vice-president for corporate affairs Jim Peters said the reduction in options more than offset the gain in restricted shares, leaving Entwistle with an overall pay cut. The restricted share units, which vest over three years, were in part issued ‘‘in lieu of a full grant of share options,’’ the proxy circular said. Telus had a difficult 2002. Its stock fell as low as $5.76 in the summer as Moody’s Investors Service cut the company’s debt to junk status, and in July Telus said it was cutting 5,000 union jobs and 1,000 management positions from its 30,000-member workforce. Last month, Canada’s second-biggest phone company sued the Telecommunications Workers Union, alleging its leaders conspired to damage the company and undermine Entwistle. At the end of 2002, Telus had $8.2 billion in long-term debt. Interest costs were $711 million in 2002, about 10 per cent of sales. The debt stems mainly from the $6.6-billion purchase of mobile phone company Clearnet Communications Inc. in 2000. Telus shares (TSX:T) closed up 30 cents at $17.40 Tuesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Manitoba Telecom Services Inc. (TSX:MBT) also issued its proxy circular Tuesday, revealing that the company has given its top executives rich parachutes in case the Winnipeg phone company is taken over. Bill Fraser, Manitoba Tel president and CEO, will receive three times his annual compensation if the company is bought. Fraser’s compensation rose 11 per cent last year to $843,000. Four other officers at Manitoba Tel would get double their annual compensation in the event of a takeover.


Higher prices push oilpatch forecasts higher

CALGARY (CP) — Canada’s oilpatch expects an increase in activity this year, with companies drilling more shallow, easy-to-access wells to take advantage of high oil and gas prices. A total of 17,500 wells are expected to be drilled in 2003, or an 11-per-cent increase over last year, said the Petroleum Services Association of Canada, which represents the service, supply and manufacturing sectors of the energy industry. ‘‘Producers drilled more shallow gas wells than anticipated in the fourth quarter of 2002,’’ association president Roger Soucy said Thursday in a release. ‘‘We forecast this trend will continue as commodity prices are expected to remain strong for the remainder of the year.’’ According to numbers released at the same time by Calgary-based FirstEnergy Capital Corp, drilling in 2002 dropped 13 per cent to 15,700 wells. But this was still the fourth largest tally for Western Canadian drilling. More disconcerting, however, was that utilization rates for rigs fell to their second lowest level in 10 years — even though both oil and gas prices rose considerably in the second half of 2002. Jason Konzuk, an energy service industry analyst with FirstEnergy, blamed the decrease in rig activity on the spiralling cost of replacing reserves. ‘‘The chief reason why you had a disconnect with activity in the second half of 2002 is the economics of drilling for gas in Western Canada and the escalation of finding and development costs.’’ Konzuk said companies need to see natural gas prices higher than $3.75 US per thousand cubic feet of gas to deliver cost-of-capital returns. And while gas prices have been significantly higher of late — around $5.60 US per thousand cubic feet this week — capital expenditure programs for both 2002 and 2003 were built assuming much lower prices. ‘‘As producers gain more comfort that the bar has been raised on the longer-term price of natural gas, we should see spending increase from current levels,’’ said Konzuk. FirstEnergy predicted 18,300 wells will be drilled in Canada for 2003, with rig utilization averaging about 49 per cent. The services association said while the winter drilling season was delayed about six weeks due to unseasonably mild weather in December, rig utilization was at near-record levels in January. And Soucy said deeper gas drilling in the foothills, northern Alberta and northeastern B.C. should continue this year. ‘‘This bodes well for the service sector in 2003.’’


Canadians slash RRSP contributions

TORONTO (CP) — Canadians plan to reduce their contributions to registered retirement savings plans by 20 per cent this year, a TD Bank poll suggests. The survey, released Monday, also indicates that investors intend to shift to more conservative assets, and have scaled back the size of the nest egg they feel they need to fund a comfortable retirement. ‘‘There is just a real lack of focus on a long-term perspective, rather than the short term in what’s gone on in the equity markets over the last three years,’’ said Patricia Lovett-Reid, a vice-president of TD Wealth Management. ‘‘The consequences are maybe not being able to sustain the lifestyle that you’re comfortable in.’’ Respondents to the November survey who plan to make RRSP contributions said they’ll invest an average of $3,900 this year — down by one-fifth from last year’s average of $4,850. And 26 per cent said they’ll invest in stock-market mutual funds, down from 48 per cent who chose equity funds in last year’s survey. Individual stocks were an investment choice for 16 per cent of respondents, down from 31 per cent last year. The survey found that the investment portfolio respondents thought they would need for a comfortable retirement averaged $547,000, down from $652,000 a year ago. ‘‘It is quite interesting that people have revised their retirement needs downwards by more than 15 per cent, just as their portfolio has suffered a similar reduction in value,’’ commented Moshe Milevsky, a York University finance professor. ‘‘But what is slightly more alarming is that investors are reducing their contributions to equity-based mutual funds, at a time when market experience and conventional wisdom would dictate they shouldn’t.’’ The anticipated shift to smaller contributions into more conservative RRSP investments is counterproductive, Lovett-Reid said. ‘‘Sure, in the short term stocks are going to be riskier than fixed income, we know that. But after inflation, fixed income doesn’t guarantee fixed purchasing power.’’ Lovett-Reid said survey respondents gave several reasons for reducing their RRSP contributions, including a lack of surplus income and a perception that retirement saving is not a priority. A disaffection with stock markets is understandable: the benchmark Toronto Stock Exchange index fell 14 per cent in 2002 for the second year in a row, while Wall Street’s Dow Jones industrial average fell 16.8 per cent in its third straight losing year.


Oilsands to produce half of Canada’s crude

CALGARY — Within two years, half of Canada’s total crude oil output will come from northern Alberta’s oilsands, representing 10 per cent of North American production, according to an energy survey released Monday. The PricewaterhouseCoopers survey of Canada’s top oil and gas companies and energy trusts also predicts that offshore exploration in Atlantic Canada will continue despite recent high-cost drilling disappointments. Oilsands development has grown dramatically over the past five years with investments totalling more than $15 billion, according to the survey. ‘‘Oilsands have little exploration risk associated with them, and the potential for them to become a major source of oil became more evident in 2002 when North America’s share of global reserves increased from five per cent to 18 per cent,’’ said Raymond Crossley, a member of the firm’s energy and utilities practice. ‘‘This reflected a dramatic rise in reserves of heavy oil in oilsands deposits.’’ Last year, the Oil and Gas Journal, an authoritative industry publication, finally recognized 177 billion barrels of reserves from the oilsands. This makes Canada the second-largest holder of energy reserves in the world behind Saudi Arabia. And it dwarfs the amount of remaining Canadian conventional oil, which in Alberta is only about 1.6 billion barrels. The PricewaterhouseCoopers study places the oilsands reserves even higher, at an estimated 2.5 trillion barrels of bitumen in the ground, of which 315 billion barrels can be recovered with current technology and pricing. This latest proof of the rising status of Canada’s oilsands in North American energy production comes as Shell Canada (TSX:SHC) prepares to officially open its $5.7-billion Athabasca Oilsands project this week. Athabasca, owned 20 per cent by Chevron Canada and 20 per cent by Western Oil Sands Inc. (TSX:WTO), is the third major open pit oilsands mine, behind industry pioneers Suncor Energy (TSX:SU) and Syncrude Canada. It is also a pivotal year for the oilsands as several large North American energy producers, including Calgary-based Nexen (TSX:NXY) and U.S.-based Devon Energy and ConocoPhillips, are poised to decide whether to proceed with their individual steam-assisted oilsands plants. Go-ahead decisions depend on an array of issues, including the unknown costs of adhering to the Kyoto climate change protocol, as well as global factors like the volatile price of oil. Many of the projects also require financing, says Crossley.


Booked solid for Agri-Trade, city looks to $3-million payoff

Red Deer has 15 per cent more hotels rooms than this time last year and there’s still no room at the inn. Construction and expansion at local hotels has increased to 1,600 the total number of rooms available in Red Deer and the immediate area this week, said Phil Pearsall, manager of the Red Deer Visitor and Convention Bureau. While there are always a few last-minute cancellations, hotel rooms in Red Deer are booked solid due to a major farm equipment show hosted by the Westerner and the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce, Pearsall said Tuesday. Agri-Trade 2000, running today through Saturday, has pulled exhibitors and visitors from across Western Canada and part of the northwestern United States, said Chamber manager Jan Fisher. The addition of the new Harvest Centre at Westerner Park has enabled Agri-Trade to bring in a record 420 exhibitors for the 17th annual show, added Fisher. The Harvest Centre increases the indoor space at Agri-Trade to 300,000 square feet, enabling exhibitors who have been on the waiting list for up to five years to book a booth for the first time. Merchants throughout Red Deer benefit from Agri-Trade, judging from previous years. “We figure the economic spinoff to be something in the realm of $3 million, three to four,” said Fisher. Economically, Agri-Trade outperforms Westerner Days because it brings a large number of people to town — roughly 80,000 — for a short period of time. While Westerner Days is a local attraction, Agri-Trade brings in a large number of people from outside the area. Fisher said show manager Pat Kennedy, founder of Agri-Trade, considered normal weather conditions among the factors that helped decide the best dates to hold the show. Most years, the weather has been good. But there have been times when winter has arrived with a vengeance, forcing a large share of show profits through a series of portable heaters that Kennedy said sucked up more fuel than a commercial airliner. “Pat does the sun dance” in hope the weather will co-operate, she said. “Oh yeah, outside in my bare feet,” Kennedy later replied. Kennedy said the show dovetails nicely with Edmonton’s Farmfair and Canadian Finals Rodeo this week. “I get a sense of real up tempo here,” Kennedy said. “It’s been a very tough year for a lot of businesses. I think they’re anxious to see what Agri-Trade brings to them.” Agri-Trade encompasses the entire Westerner site, opening daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults and free for children 12 and under. There is no charge for parking.


Russia ready for Canadian beef, again

CALGARY (CP) — Russia has agreed to open its borders to imports of boneless Canadian beef from animals of any age, provided the cattle can be proven free of contact with mad cow disease. The move was announced late Wednesday by the Canada Beef Export Federation, which says it received notification from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. ‘‘Russia is the first country that has clearly moved independently from the U.S. in stating what their expectations are for animals over 30 months of age,’’ said Ten Haney, president of the export federation. Boneless beef from animals 30 months of age or less, which are believed too young to develop the disease, must be certified to come from animals born and raised in Canada. They must originate from farms which have never recorded a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as BSE. Animals over 30 months of age must be tested and found free of BSE. Haney said the testing costs could be between $25 and $100 per animal and could depend on the scale of testing. It’s not known if the tests would have to be done by federal food inspectors. Any Canadian slaughterhouses and meat-packing plants exporting to Russia must be pre-approved by the Russian veterinary authority. Haney expects that process to take about six weeks. Canada’s beef industry has lost more than $1 billion exports alone since May 20, when it was learned a lone Alberta cow had been infected with BSE. Thirty-four countries banned Canadian beef in the days following the announcement and live cattle imports remain banned in all international markets. The infected cow never made it into the human food chain. The United States and Mexico have recently agreed to allow imports of some boneless cuts from animals under 30 months of age, which are believed too young to develop the disease. Other countries are expected to follow suit in the coming days, including Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. Foreign Affairs spokesman Andre LeMay could not immediately confirm a deal had been signed with Russia. Prior to the mad cow crisis, Russia was a tiny customer for Canadian beef products, importing about $2 million a year in liver. But Haney said that may change. ‘‘While Russia has not been a key export market for Canada to date, suppliers from South America and Europe have exported over 600,000 metric tonnes to Russia annually,’’ Haney said.


Laebon plans new office space

A strong home-building market through Central Alberta is spurring Laebon Homes to construct a $2 million office and warehouse in Red Deer County. The Red-Deer based builder will triple its office and warehouse space from its current headquarters in downtown Red Deer. President Gord Bontje acknowledged the move is a sign of favourable economic times in the region. “Our business has grown dramatically over the last number of years,” Bontje said Monday, “and we’re operating in far too cramped quarters already. We’ve needed the space for some years.” Last week, the county’s municipal planning commission approved the 600 square metre (6,455 square feet) office and a separate 1,115 square metre (12,000 sq. ft.) warehouse. Laebon Homes will initially build the warehouse that size, but could expand it to 3,240 square metres (36,000 sq. ft.) The development will be located adjacent Hwy 2, immediately west of Red Deer on 67th St. in the Burnt Lake Business Park. The lot will include several trees and 58 oversized parking stalls and two barrier-free stalls. Gayle Wood, designer for Laebon Homes, said the project is similar to what some Calgary builders have done. “With the office building, we’ll have a showroom of construction materials that people can choose from,” Wood said. Wood said the warehouse will store construction materials such as lumber, windows and doors. Tradespeople will be able to work inside the bays. “Initially, we are just building two bays, but if we have enough interest, we’ll have four more,” she said. “Most of our trades are independent and have places to work out of, but all of our warranty staff don’t. Some of the finishing stuff we might do inside, rather than outside.” The reason for choosing to locate in the county was simple enough. “We liked the location,” Bontje said. The stucco and stone-accented office will be highly visible off of Hwy 2. “It’s a large home plan,” Bontje said. “It will have a very homey look.” Bontje added being situated in the county isn’t an indication they’re gearing up for more projects there. He said they build homes already in the county, along with several communities — Ponoka, Didsbury, Sundre, Rocky Mountain House and Stettler. “We’ve always done a lot of homes around Central Alberta. Half our homes are built in the city and half in those other areas.” Plans are to get digging as soon as all the permits are completed, hopefully in February. Bontje said the project could be finished by the end of July.


ConocoPhillips plant approved

CALGARY (CP) — Regulatory approval for a $1-billion oilsands project led by energy giant ConocoPhillips is the latest move in developing northern Alberta oil reserves, but each recent advance has fallen short of full steam ahead. Houston-based ConocoPhillips said Tuesday that Alberta’s Energy and Utilities Board has given its blessings for the steam-assisted project, called Surmont Oil Sands, about 60 kilometres south of Fort McMurray. But that doesn’t mean the project is a done deal. With regulatory approval, ConocoPhillips, together with partners TotalFinalElf and Devon Energy, will make a go-ahead decision on the project later this year. ‘‘Now that we have the detail of the regulatory approval, we can finalize the evaluation of the commercial potential of the project, with a view to making a decision later this year on whether to proceed,’’ Henry Sykes, president of ConocoPhillips Canada, said in a release. Late last month, oilsands development was handed a blow when Petro-Canada (TSX:PCA) announced it was putting the brakes on $5.8 billion worth of oilsands expansion plans due to spiralling costs in northern Alberta. Numerous other companies are carefully examining costs and political risks before proceeding. Unlike better-known oilsands projects like those of Syncrude Canada, Suncor Energy and a new one led by Shell Canada (TSX:SHC), Surmont will not be an open-pit mine. Instead, it will use a series of large pipes to pump steam deep into the ground to melt and draw up the nearly five billion barrels of bitumen-quality oil on the site. If the partners decide to proceed with Surmont, construction would begin this year, with first oil output of about 25,000 barrels a day expected in 2006. More expansions could increase production to 100,000 barrels a day. The first phase of the project will involve around 50 full-time operational jobs, along with 400 construction and 30 drilling-related jobs. A ConocoPhillips Canada spokesman said Tuesday the company recently completed a peer-review process on the project and now all that remains is approval by senior management. ‘‘I think we were pleased with it,’’ Peter Hunt said from Calgary. ‘‘I think it confirmed that fundamentally our plans were pretty sound.’’ The Surmont approval is just the latest in a roller-coaster of news coming out of the oilsands, which have more energy reserves than Saudi Arabia.


Manulife credit under review

TORONTO (CP) — The credit rating of Manulife Financial has been placed under the microscope by a U.S. agency over concerns about the insurance giant’s $6.4-billion takeover bid for Canada Life Financial. Among the issues for New Jersey-based A.M. Best Co. are that the unsolicited bid means Manulife has not had a chance to comb through Canada Life’s books, plus Canada Life’s weaker credit rating and the fact it operates in European markets where Manulife is absent. ‘‘The thing that makes this complex is Canada Life is such a diverse international player in areas where Manulife is not,’’ said analyst Robert Adams, noting Canada Life’s European operations could create integration challenges. ‘‘On the Canadian side, Manulife knows Canada Life’s operations quite well and we’re confident there.’’ Manulife’s rating of A++ (Superior) is being reviewed with negative implications, which could lead to a rating downgrade that would increase Manulife’s cost of borrowing. The move comes a day after ratings agency Standard & Poor’s Corp. put Canada Life on credit watch, also with negative implications, calling the Manulife offer of $40 a share a “significant distraction’’ for senior management. The Manulife offer sets the stage for a bidding war over Canada Life, with the list of potential suitors including Winnipeg-based Great West Lifeco. Canada Life said Monday it would not comment on the Manulife offer — already rejected as too low by chief executive David Nield — until after a full meeting of its board of directors is held Thursday or Friday. Canada Life has hired investment bankers BMO Nesbitt Burns and Credit Suisse First Boston to review its options. Canada Life may have had an eye to an uncertain future a month ago when it lured a top executive who helped stick-handle rival Clarica Life Insurance through its merger with Sun Life Financial Services earlier this year. J. David Williamson — formerly executive vice-president and chief financial officer at Clarica — was named senior vice-president of strategic planning and business development at Canada Life on Nov. 7. Industry analysts were quick to question Manulife’s strategic rationale in the bid for Canada Life, wondering why Manulife would want back into the European operations it sold to Canada Life six years ago. ‘‘I’m scratching my head,’’ said analyst Colin Devine of Salomon Smith Barney in New York. Devine made the comment to Manulife chief executive Dominic D’Alessandro during a conference call earlier this week.