Business briefs – July 30

Maple Leaf Foods Inc. (TSX:MFI) is showing signs of recovery following last summer’s tainted meat tragedy, reversing year-ago losses with a modest profit in its second quarter despite a 2.5 per cent dip in sales.

Maple Leaf back in the black

TORONTO — Maple Leaf Foods Inc. (TSX:MFI) is showing signs of recovery following last summer’s tainted meat tragedy, reversing year-ago losses with a modest profit in its second quarter despite a 2.5 per cent dip in sales.

The Toronto-based food processing company reported Wednesday net income of $4.9 million or four cents per share for the quarter ended June 30, reversing year-earlier losses of $9.4 million or seven cents per share.

Excluding one-time items, Maple Leaf said it earned 12 cents per share for the quarter compared to a loss of a penny per share at the same time last year.

Quarterly sales declined to $1.3 billion from $1.4 billion the year before, it reported. A strong performance in the company’s bakery and agribusiness divisions were offset by weaker results in the prepared meats sector, which is still getting back on its feet after last year’s nationwide recall of products tainted with Listeria bacteria.

Canadians pay more for goods

TORONTO — The price gap is closing between what Canadians and Americans are paying for the same goods, such as cars, books and lattes, thanks to the rapidly rising loonie and public outcry for parity at the checkout counter, a new report shows.

BMO Capital Markets economist Douglas Porter said the price gap for a select basket of items between the two countries is now 6.8 per cent, down from 18 per cent for the same items a year ago.

The loonie’s 20 per cent rise in the past five months, its strongest such run on record, is behind the narrowing spread, Porter said.

“By far and away, the biggest reason it has changed so much is the exchange rate,” Porter said.

His report, which compares prices of such items as saws, Wii consoles, computers, magazines and non-fat lattes at Starbucks, is based on a current 92-cent U.S. loonie. The Canadian dollar closed at 91.68 cents U.S. on Wednesday.

Nortel tech headed for cells

MONTREAL — Nortel Network’s suitors are interested in its advanced wireless technology because of its high speed and how it will affect the cellphone industry, say analysts.

Nortel has a next-generation technology called LTE, or Long Term Evolution, which will give mobile phone users the same experience or faster than they have at home with high-speed Internet, analysts said Wednesday.

Swedish telecom giant Ericsson and BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (TSX:RIM) both want the fallen tech star’s wireless division, which includes its LTE wireless business.

“You’re going to see LTE networks lighting up through the world next year and especially in 2011,” said Sascha Segan, managing editor of mobile at PCMag Digital Network.

Honda’s profits plunge

TOKYO — Honda bucked expectations of losses in the first quarter, posting a 7.5 billion yen (US$79.8 million) profit and raising forecasts for the full year on optimism auto sales will improve.

The results for the April-June period were better than the flood of red ink some analysts had forecast though profit was still down 96 per cent, battered by slumping car sales and a strong yen, which offset benefits from cost cuts. Honda made a net profit of 173.3 billion yen in the same period of 2008.

The numbers show that Japan’s No. 2 automaker, reputed for ecological small cars including the Insight hybrid and the Accord sedan, is holding up better than its rivals during the global economic slump.

Governments around the world have introduced measures that aim to boost hybrid and other green-car sales as part of broader economic stimulus packages.

Nissan reports loss in fiscal Q1

TOKYO — Nissan has reported a 16.5 billion yen (US$175.5 million) loss for the fiscal first quarter, a reversal from profits the previous year, as sales plunged.

Nissan Motor Co., Japan’s third-biggest automaker, also blamed the strong yen for the April-June loss. The company saw a 35.5 per cent drop in sales on year to 1.5148 trillion yen ($161.15 billion).

The Tokyo-based automaker, which is moving its headquarters to Yokohama next month, kept its forecast for the year through March 2010 unchanged at a 170 billion yen ($1.8 billion) loss.

Nissan’s global sales totalled 723,000 vehicles, down 22.8 per cent from the same period the previous year.