Business briefs – July 23

West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd. (TSX:WFT) says it will keep cutting costs and production as it enters the fourth year of what its chairman calls “the most severe depression in the wood products industry since the 1930s.”

West Fraser in ‘cutback mode’

VANCOUVER — West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd. (TSX:WFT) says it will keep cutting costs and production as it enters the fourth year of what its chairman calls “the most severe depression in the wood products industry since the 1930s.”

West Fraser’s Hank Ketcham said Wednesday that, despite signs of hope for an economic recovery, the company will be in cutback mode as long as U.S. housing starts remain at historically low levels and pulp and paper markets are weak.

“The lengths and depths of this depression are unprecedented,” Ketcham, who is also company’s president and CEO, said. “Our strategy to navigate through these very tough times is to reduce costs, control production and preserve cash.”

Vancouver-based West Fraser, whose holdings include Sundre Forest Products and West Fraser LVL near Rocky Mountain House, has also been hit hard by the strong Canadian dollar, as well as reduced pulp prices from the drop in newspaper consumption across North America.

Suncor reports loss on low oil prices

Suncor Energy Inc. (TSX:SU), days away from becoming Canada’s biggest energy company, said low oil prices were the main factor behind its $51 million second-quarter loss.

“Obviously, we wish we would have made more money in the second quarter, but…if you think about us positioning ourselves for the future, we feel very good about that,” Suncor chief executive officer Rick George told an analyst conference call Wednesday.

Suncor announced late Tuesday that the Competition Bureau approved its planned merger with Petro-Canada (TSX:PCA). With that key hurdle cleared, the company expects the transaction to be a done deal on Aug. 1.

APEC extends trade pledge

A group of Pacific Rim countries, including Canada, Japan, China and the United States, extended by a year an agreement to raise no new barriers to trade and investment.

Trade officials from 21 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation, known as APEC, said Wednesday that the non-binding commitment, which was first made in February 2008 and now runs through 2010, was designed to thwart possible protectionist measures from undermining economic growth and regional integration.

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