Business briefs – May 31

French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde met with her Brazilian counterpart Monday to promote her candidacy to head the International Monetary Fund and said she backed the institution’s reforms giving developing nations more of a voice in its operations.

Lagarde campaigns for IMF post

BRASILIA, Brazil — French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde met with her Brazilian counterpart Monday to promote her candidacy to head the International Monetary Fund and said she backed the institution’s reforms giving developing nations more of a voice in its operations.

Despite the overture, Brazil’s Finance Minister Guido Mantega said his country would examine all the candidates for the top job before throwing its support behind anyone. The only other declared candidate, Mexico’s central bank Governor Agustin Carstens, plans to visit Brazil later this week.

Lagarde, who would be the IMF’s first female leader, has emerged as the odds-on favourite to replace former Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, of France, who quit May 18 after he was accused of sexually attacking a New York hotel maid. He has denied the allegations.


Husky eyes Hong Kong exchange

CALGARY — Husky Energy Inc. (TSX:HSE) says it’s looking at a secondary stock listing in Hong Kong.

The Calgary-based oil and gas company, which is controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing, said Monday its board has not made any final decisions about the secondary listing.

The company, which is active in gasoline retailing, refining, oilsands production and offshore exploration and production, said it will keep its primary listing on the Toronto Stock Exchange.


Shale gas opponents warn of protests

QUEBEC — Opponents of shale gas development in Quebec have warned that they might engage in civil disobedience to keep the industry from taking off in the province.

One protest leader said people would tie themselves to gas companies’ machinery and block their trucks if exploration activities went ahead.

Several dozen opponents of shale gas are marching through Quebec to warn of its possible environmental impact.

Event spokesman Philippe Duhamel said Monday that the march was just the beginning. He said there would also be training sessions on how to organize sit-ins and occupy exploration sites.

He said protesters actually got the idea from a gas-industry executive who said he would pull out of Quebec at the slightest hint of a work stoppage.

“He thought he was making a threat. We, on the other hand, believe he gave us the recipe (to block the project),” Duhamel said.

“Now it’s up to us to put the ingredients together.”

The 600-kilometre march stopped Monday in front of Quebec’s national assembly.

Quebec appears to be sitting on massive natural-gas deposits, but plans to push ahead with development have already been delayed by a public backlash.

Evidence of soil contamination in exploratory wells, and reports of environmental damage in the United States, helped build public opposition to the industry.

Duhamel said Monday that, if the Charest government doesn’t halt development over the longer term, “the people will have to stop it themselves.”


Airline unions unite against pension changes

TORONTO — Three unions representing Air Canada flight attendants, ground crews, counter personnel and other workers are uniting to fight the airline’s plan to introduce a defined-contribution pension plan for new workers.

The unions say they want Air Canada to stop considering proposed changes that would force new hires onto defined-contribution pension plans.

Defined-benefit pension plans, which Air Canada employees earn, are designed to provide retirees with a predictable income, but they expose the airline to additional costs if the pension fund’s assets aren’t able to pay for the benefits.

With defined-contribution plans, the airline’s contribution is limited to a set negotiated amount and payouts to retirees depend on the performance of the underlying investments.

Air Canada was forced into creditor protection from April 2003 to September 2004, due in part to the cost of dealing with the company’s pension deficit.

Air Canada’s unions agreed to accept numerous concessions worth billions to help the company to survive, but they insisted their defined-benefit pension plans be saved.


A Network stations become CTV Two

TORONTO — The CTV television network is creating a new sister service by converting its “A”-channel stations into the CTV Two network.

CTV’s parent Bell Media says the new network will launch this fall as the company transitions the stations to a high-definition signal.

The media company says it will make the CTV Two schedule public on Thursday.

About 90 per cent of viewers in English Canada will have access to the new network.

Bell says CTV Two will feature a mix of drama, comedy and reality programming as well as spotlighting day-to-day life in local communities in Vancouver, Victoria, Toronto, Barrie, Ottawa, London, Windsor and Atlantic Canada through its news service.

Local CTV Two stations will serve Vancouver, Toronto, Southwestern Ontario, Ottawa and Atlantic Canada. The former A News brand will be changed into CTV News.

Bell Media (TSX:BCE) acquired the A Channel stations in 2006 when it bought CHUM Ltd.


Rogers joins 24-hour news race with CityNews

TORONTO — Canadian television viewers may not be lacking for 24-7 news options but Rogers (TSX:RCI.B) believes there’s room for one more channel, in Toronto at least.

Rogers Media announced Monday that it plans to launch a round-the-clock news station in Toronto in October, CityNews Channel, which will primarily compete with the local spin of CP24, as well as the national and international coverage from CBC News Network, CTV News Channel, Sun News Network and even CNN.

“It is a crowded environment but . . . the local news environment in Toronto is not that crowded and we feel there’s room for two local all-news channels,” said Scott Moore, president of Rogers Broadcasting Ltd.

CityNews will borrow talent and content from other Rogers-owned media outlets — including Maclean’s magazine and the local Citytv station — and will especially lean on the popular local radio station 680 News.

The new TV station will mimic the radio station’s so-called newswheel format, with traffic, weather and news updates presented to viewers at timed intervals.

“It’s very wheel-oriented, it’s very need to know news — what’s the weather going to be like on my way to work, what’s the traffic going to be like on my way to work, what are the national and local stories that I need,” Moore said.

“It’ll be a very identifiable wheel as to when to tune in to get the news you need.”

The channel will also have an interactive element “that will be new to the market,” Moore said.

“It will be something new, you can click through to find more information . . . using your remote. So we’re excited about that,” he said, without explaining any further.

In 2007, the CRTC approved CTV’s (TSX:BCE) takeover of CHUM Limited and, as a condition of the deal, five Citytv stations were sold to Rogers for $375 million.

In early 2010, Rogers made major cuts to Citytv’s news operations, scaling back a number of shows and firing dozens of employees, including well-known on-air personalities.

Earlier this year, it was announced that Citytv was adding a new half-hour suppertime show in Calgary and bringing back weekend newscasts in Toronto.