The real New Years gets under way
No one pops champagne corks, or straps on a festive party hat when August clicks over into September, but everyone knows that Labor Day weekend marks the genuine start to a new year.
The disruptions of summer give new urgency and focus to business deals. Reports and reviews launched in the first half of the year face deadlines for delivery and discussion. Agendas are set for the coming cooler months ahead and it’s also prime time for resolutions.
Looking forward, here are five of the issues that will shape headlines – and real life – over the next few months.
International focus on Syria and the increasingly edgy standoff between the U.S. and Russia over military action, will pull considerable attention away from the global economy and it’s fragile health.
In the U.S., the debate about how to proceed will most certainly delay Washington’s consideration of such Canadian priorities as the approval of TransCanada’s contentious Keystone oil pipeline.
(That geopolitical reality also adds momentum to an alternate plan from Enbridge, to enhance market access by shipping oil across Canada to the east coast.)
Ongoing trade, environmental and other bilateral issues will also be shoved right off the stove and on to a warming plate.
2.The Great Canadian Spectrum Auction
If there was one subject that made this past summer even hotter, it was the nasty fight between the federal government and Canada’s three largest telecom companies (Bell, Rogers and Telus control 90 per cent of the domestic market) over the entry of foreign players into their sheltered market.
Ottawa insisted that Verizon be allowed to buy two faltering Canadian mobile companies and shake up the status quo to increase competition and benefit consumers. The incumbents thought otherwise.
But now that Verizon Communications has decided to pass on investments in Canada and, instead, to pay$130 billion for a 45 per cent stake in Verizon Wireless that was held by Vodafone, it’s back to business as usual.
By mid-month, companies must register their interest if they want to participate in the spectrum auction in January 14. (Spectrum provides the bandwidth required to conduct mobile communications.)
In a terse statement, the office of Industry Minister James Moore declared “We are moving forward with the spectrum auction as planned.” But without a fourth player in the game, that’s not really true.
Given the amount of political capital invested in Ottawa’s position, there may yet be another shoe to drop before January. Especially if the incumbents show any signs of gloating.
3. Deal Digestion
The eyes of rivals (particularly Apple and Google) and investors will be on Microsoft in the aftermath of its purchase of Nokia’s smartphone business for $7.6 billion.
Integrating the new business will, inevitably, take some time and cause some dislocation. After all, 32,000 Nokia employees are being transferred to Microsoft including almost 5,000 in Finland alone..
But it’s not just the software giant’s push for a foothold in the mobile space that will rivet attention – succession will also be top-of-mind.
CEO Steve Ballmer has announced his plan to retire and the prevailing buzz is that Nokia CEO (and Canadian), Stephen Elop, will be tapped for the job.
4. Blackberry’s jam
It’ll be more of a whisper than a bang when it happens, but the odds are high that Blackberry will be sold at some point through the fall. Like any piece of bruised fruit, the company has been marked down for “quick sale,” and it’s hoping to wrap itself up by the end of November.
Microsoft is out of the putative mix, but among the potential buyers is Chinese smartphone and PC manufacturer, Lenovo. Cue the breast-beating editorials about the death of Canadian-owned innovation.
5. House party
The debate over how to best manage Canada’s housing market is going to continue through the fall. At last check, the tougher the rules and rates for mortgages, the more buyers are rushing into the market in urban centers across the country.
Regulators continue to be concerned about the levels of debt consumers are incurring and economists at TD Bank estimate that there is an average over-valuation of close to 10 per cent on the houses that are changing hands. Strong demand – especially in Toronto and Vancouver – has driven house prices up over eight per cent from this time last year.
Ottawa has toughened mortgage rules four times since 2008 and now it may be the bank regulator that steps in, citing its jurisdiction over the quality of bank assets and loans.
For a country addicted to cheap mortgages, it may be time to focus on the suppliers. they'll learn from our mistakes - or merely be the victims of them.
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