Business briefs – September 3

Former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations Phil Fontaine has been taken on as a special adviser by the Royal Bank (TSX:RY), a move which he believes could open doors for First Nations communities and Canada’s biggest bank.

Fontaine joins Royal Bank as adviser

TORONTO — Former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations Phil Fontaine has been taken on as a special adviser by the Royal Bank (TSX:RY), a move which he believes could open doors for First Nations communities and Canada’s biggest bank.

His first project will be to ensure RBC maximizes the involvement of the aboriginal community in the 2010 Olympic Torch Relay, which the bank sponsors.

Concerns have spread that the relay could face protests by First Nations groups.

Layoffs hinge on orders: Bombardier

MONTREAL — Bombardier (TSX:BBD.B) may have to accelerate planned layoffs this fall in Montreal if it doesn’t win new orders for regional jets.

Bombardier Aerospace president Guy Hachey said commercial aircraft production rates will hinge on the company’s ability to sign orders from four or five promising efforts by the end of October.

“If we are able to pull off a couple of them it will substantially change the outlook of the production rates versus whether we are not able to win any,” he said Wednesday.

Bombardier saw its second-quarter profits fall as its aerospace division delivered fewer planes than it did a year earlier and profit margins shrank.

MDS to focus on medical isotopes

TORONTO — Canadian life sciences company MDS Inc. (TSX:MDS) plans to sell off most of its major divisions, pay back shareholders and focus on its troubled Nordion medical isotope unit.

The moves, announced early Wednesday, essentially reverse the company’s strategy over the last few years to sell its lab division, expand into diverse businesses such as high-end research equipment and focus on the United States and other markets.

Investors welcomed the news, pushing MDS’s sagging stock price nearly a third higher on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

The company has been under pressure from shareholders over its low stock price and has been undergoing a strategic review for months, initiated by Jim MacDonald, a shareholder who was named chairman last November.

Eagle Rock sells assets on the prairies for $21 million

Eagle Rock Exploration Ltd. (TSXV:ERX) says it has struck a deal to sell petroleum and natural gas rights and associated wells and equipment in the Red Coulee area of southern Alberta and the Beverley area of southwest Saskatchewan for $21 million. The transaction is subject to the completion of due diligence, negotiating a formal purchase and sale agreement and obtaining various approvals, the junior Calgary company said Wednesday. The purchase and sale is expected to close Oct. 15.

Eagle Rock is explores and develops oil and gas properties in Western Canada.

XM canada committed to making royalty payment

XM Canada says it still wants to meet its royalty payment obligations to a group representing Canadian songwriters, but believes the economic downturn has made it difficult to pay them on time. The satellite radio provider, which is owned by parent company Canadian Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. (TSX:XSR), issued a brief statement on Wednesday noting that retroactive payments required by the CRTC have dealt XM Radio an extra challenge. “The company is committed to meeting its obligations but notes that its royalties include a significant retroactive tariff to 2005, coming due during a very challenging economic time,” XM Canada said. A second lawsuit was filed on Wednesday by SOCAN, or the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada, alleging that XM Canada has missed payment of copyright royalties. “SOCAN finds XM’s position untenable, particularly in light of the fact that satellite radio service operators knew of their requirement to pay SOCAN royalties well before they began operations in 2005,” vice-president Paul Spurgeon said in a release.

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