Saturday, April 19th5.7°C
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Post Holdings to acquire Michael Foods for $2.45 billion to expand range of food products

ST. LOUIS - Cereal maker Post Holdings Inc. is buying fellow packaged food maker Michael Foods Inc. in a $2.45 billion deal that will expand Post's range of products.

Privately held Michael Foods makes a variety of egg, potato and dairy products. Its brands include Papetti's, Crystal Farms and Simply Potatoes. It is based in Minnetonka, Minnesota.

St. Louis-based Post says Michael will keep operating independently under current management.

Post also makes nutrition drinks and a variety of store brand products including pasta and peanut butter.

Post plans to fund the acquisition with debt and cash on hand. It also plans to raise up to $500 million with a stock sale.

Michael Foods is owned by an investor group that includes GS Capital Partners, Thomas H. Lee Partners and members of the company's management.

The Canadian Press




Mattel reports 1st quarter loss on weak sales of Barbie, weakness internationally

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - Toy maker Mattel says weak sales of Barbie and markdowns to clear out excess inventory left over from a sluggish holiday season led to an unexpected first-quarter loss.

Its shares fell almost 5 per cent in premarket trading.

Toy makers are facing a weak environment globally due to the uncertain economy and popularity of electronic gadgets. The first quarter is the seasonally smallest for toy makers, coming after the key holiday quarter which can account for up to 40 per cent of revenue.

In addition, Mattel Inc. has been struggling with weakness in core brands like Barbie, which had a 14 per cent drop in sales, and Fisher-Price, down 6 per cent.

"Revenues were consistent with our expectations as we worked through inventories in a challenging global retail environment," said CEO Bryan G. Stockton.

The largest U.S. toy maker says its net loss for the three months ended March 31 totalled $11.2 million, or 3 cents per share. That compares with net income of $38.5 million, or 11 cents per share last year. Analysts expected earnings of 7 cents per share.

The company which makes Disney Princess dolls and Hot Wheels cars says revenue fell 5 per cent to $946.2 million from $995.6 million. Analysts expected $947.6 million. Revenue fell 2 per cent in North America and 7 per cent internationally.

Separately the company declared a second-quarter dividend of 38 cents, payable on June 13 to shareholders of record on May 23.

Its shares dropped $1.81, or 4.8 per cent, to $36.07 in premarket trading about two hours before the market opening.

The Canadian Press


UnitedHealth's 1st-quarter profit tumbles 8 per cent, insurer cites overhaul costs

UnitedHealth Group's first-quarter net income slid 8 per cent as funding cuts to a key product and costs imposed by the health care overhaul dented the health insurer's performance.

The Minnetonka, Minn., company said Thursday the overhaul and government budget cuts added about 35 cents per share in costs during the quarter. The federal law aims to provide coverage for millions of uninsured people, but it also trims funding for Medicare Advantage plans, changes how insurers can write their coverage and adds an industry-wide tax, which is not deductible.

UnitedHealth shares fell deeper than the broader market in late-morning trading after it announced first-quarter results, but the overhaul hit didn't surprise many investors. UnitedHealth said in December it expects the federal law to reduce its after-tax operating earnings by $1.1 billion in 2014.

What may have rattled Wall Street a bit was the insurer's report that it saw intense price competition in several markets, including New York, where it has a lot of business. The insurer said some competitors there are pricing their coverage below the costs they will incur to attract customers, and that could hurt enrolment more than UnitedHealth anticipated.

The insurer also said a spike in hepatitis C drug use, driven by the expensive new treatment Sovaldi, added $100 million to medical costs in the quarter. Regulators approved Sovaldi, from Gilead Sciences Inc., last December. The drug is seen as a breakthrough treatment, but its $1,000-a-pill price tag has drawn some skepticism from care providers as well as insurers.

"We're working diligently to ensure this medication is applied under critically appropriate standards," UnitedHealth CEO Stephen Hemsley told analysts during a conference call.

Overall, UnitedHealth earned $1.1 billion, or $1.10 per share, in the three months that ended March 31. That's down from $1.19 billion, or $1.16 per share, a year earlier. Revenue rose nearly 5 per cent to $31.71 billion.

Analysts expected earnings of $1.09 per share on $32.01 billion in revenue, according to FactSet.

The insurer said its Medicare Advantage business was hurt by both the overhaul and the mandatory across-the-board federal budget cuts known as sequestration.

Medicare Advantage plans are privately run versions of the government's Medicare program for the elderly and disabled people, and UnitedHealth is the nation's largest provider of this coverage, with nearly 3 million enrollees. It said lower funding forced it to trim benefits and doctor networks this year and leave some markets.

UnitedHealth on Thursday also reaffirmed a 2014 earnings forecast that it announced last December. The insurer still expects earnings to range from $5.40 to $5.60 per share, while analysts expect, on average, $5.60 per share.

Company shares slid 2.8 per cent, or $2.20, to $75.99 in late-morning trading, while the Dow Jones industrial average slid slightly. UnitedHealth is a Dow Jones component.

After soaring nearly 39 per cent last year, UnitedHealth shares have reverted to more measured growth so far in 2014, with the stock climbing about 4 per cent as of Wednesday's close.

UnitedHealth Group Inc. is the first insurer to report earnings every quarter. Many see it as a bellwether for other insurers.

The Canadian Press


21110


Telecom company Rogers doles out nearly $40 million on its two CEOs in 2013

TORONTO - Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B) doled out nearly $40 million last year paying the two executives who held the top position at the telecom company.

Guy Laurence, who only stepped into the CEO role on Dec. 2, made a total of $12.7 million in 2013, according to figures disclosed in Rogers' annual report.

Retired CEO Nadir Mohamed took home total compensation of $26.8 million last year, the bulk of it coming from his retirement package.

Laurence, who was the former head of UK-based telecom company Vodafone, received a base salary of $69,231 for the year.

He was also given $6.81 million in share-based awards, $5.01 million in option-based awards and other compensation worth $755,833. The value of his pension earned was $54,933 in 2013.

Mohamed, who retired in December, had a base salary of $1.13 million, $2.52 million in share-based awards, $2.52 million in option-based awards. All other compensation was $17,242 million, related to his retirement.

The value of his pension earned was $1.85 million in 2013.

Rogers is scheduled to report its first-quarter financial results on Monday after stock markets close.

The company's shares were 17 cents higher at $44.43 in Friday afternoon trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version misspelled Guy Laurence's name and Vodafone.

The Canadian Press


Oil rises past $104 a barrel as Ukraine jiggers offset large rise in US crude supplies

NEW YORK, N.Y. - The price of oil rose past US$104 per barrel Thursday on worries over the upheaval in Ukraine.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for May delivery rose 54 cents to close at US$104.30 a barrel in New York.

Supplies in the U.S. are ample — the Energy Department reported the biggest gain in stocks in 13 years on Wednesday. But that wasn't enough to calm the fears of traders this week, who worry that Russia's actions in response to the turmoil in Ukraine could be met with sanctions that disrupt exports of Russia's oil and gas.

Despite indications of a possible diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine Thursday, traders remained concerned that the situation could worsen over the coming long weekend and were reluctant to sell oil.

Oil markets are closed Friday.

Energy Analyst Jim Ritterbusch expects oil prices to quickly fall back next week if the Ukraine crisis does not worsen. "We still expect some downside rotation through the balance of this month," he wrote in a note to investors.

Brent crude, an international benchmark used to price oil used by many U.S. refineries, was down seven cents to close at US$109.53 a barrel for June delivery in London.

The price of natural gas surged nearly five per cent Thursday after the U.S. Energy Department reported that U.S. storage levels rose less than analysts had expected. Natural gas for May delivery rose 21.1 cents to US$4.741 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex, wholesale gasoline rose 1.4 cents to close at US$3.055 a U.S. gallon (3.79 litre) and heating oil fell 0.1 cent to close at US$3.001 a gallon.

(TSX:ECA), (TSX:IMO), (TSX:SU), (TSX:HSE), (NYSE:BP), (NYSE:COP), (NYSE:XOM), (NYSE:CVX), (TSX:CNQ), (TSX:TLM), (TSX:COS), (TSX:CVE)

The Canadian Press


Loonie advances as rising energy prices send March inflation higher

TORONTO - The Canadian dollar closed higher Thursday amid data showing inflation coming in slightly higher than expected.

The loonie was up 0.04 of a cent to 90.8 cents US as Statistics Canada reported that the consumer price index rose 0.6 per cent in March from the previous month, higher than the 0.4 per cent reading that economists had expected. The rise was mostly due to a three per cent increase in gasoline prices from February.

Excluding volatile items such as food and energy, the core rate of inflation rose 0.3 per cent, which was in line with expectations.

Year over year, the consumer price index was up 1.5 per cent, up from 1.1 per cent in February.

"Looking ahead, gasoline and natural gas prices are likely to put further pressure on the headline rate in April, but it will be a somewhat slower climb to get core prices to two per cent," said Avery Shenfeld, chief economist at CIBC World Markets.

The dollar had slid 1/3 of a cent Wednesday in the wake of the Bank of Canada's announcement that it was leaving its key rate at one per cent, where it's been since September 2010. The bank also lowered its forecast for first-quarter growth this year to 1.5 per cent from 2.5 per cent, but attributed the downgrade mostly to temporary impacts of a unusually severe winter.

But the loonie rebounded Thursday as the "higher than expected Canadian inflation has shifted expectations back toward a firmly neutral from the neutral-dovish reaction to . . . (Wednesday's) Bank of Canada statement," said Colin Cieszynski, senior market analyst at CMC Markets.

Commodities were mixed as the May crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose 54 cents to US$104.30 a barrel.

May copper rose two cents to US$3.05 a pound while June gold bullion declined $9.60 to US$1,293.90 an ounce.

The Canadian Press


TSX advances amid mixed bag of U.S. earnings reports, positive economic data

TORONTO - The Toronto stock market closed higher Thursday as stocks continued to find lift from this week's positive Chinese and U.S. economic data, along with a generally upbeat slate of earnings news.

The S&P/TSX composite index climbed 53.87 points to 14,500.39, led by gains in energy and mining companies.

The Canadian dollar advanced amid data showing higher than expected inflation. The loonie was up 0.04 of a cent to 90.8 cents US as Statistics Canada reported that the consumer price index rose 0.6 per cent in March from the previous month, higher than the 0.4 per cent reading that economists had expected.

U.S. indexes were mixed as traders balanced a string of positive earnings reports from a number of corporate heavyweights, including Goldman Sachs, General Electric and PepsiCo, against earnings disappointments from IBM and Google.

The Dow Jones industrials was 16.31 points lower at 16,408.54, the Nasdaq gained 9.29 points to 4,095.52 and the S&P 500 index was up 2.54 points to 1,864.85.

On Thursday, General Electric posed earnings ex-items of 33 cents per share, down 15 per cent from a year ago but a penny better than analysts expected and its shares were up 1.68 per cent.

And Goldman Sachs posted quarterly earnings of $4.02 a share, beating analyst expectations of $3.45 and its shares were up 0.14 per cent.

But Google stock dropped 3.67 per cent as quarterly earnings growth faltered amid a persistent downturn in advertising prices, while IBM’s first-quarter earnings fell and revenue came in below Wall Street’s expectations amid an ongoing decline in its hardware business, pushing its shares down 3.25 per cent.

There was also some nervousness heading into the weekend even as the United States, the European Union, Russia and Ukraine reached agreement on immediate steps to ease the crisis in Ukraine.

The agreement requires all sides to refrain from violence, intimidation or provocative actions. It calls for the disarming of all illegally armed groups and for control of buildings seized by pro-Russian separatists to be turned back to authorities. The tentative agreement puts on hold additional economic sanctions the West was prepared to impose on Russia if the talks proved fruitless.

North American stocks racked up solid gains this week, partly because Chinese economic growth in the first quarter came in better than expected. Also, the Federal Reserve‘s latest regional survey showed that the U.S. economy picked up over the past two months as bitter winter weather subsided. The TSX gained 1.7 per cent while the Dow industrials ran up 2.38 per cent.

It was a positive change from the previous week when U.S. indexes sustained sharp losses as traders rotated out of expensive biotechs and technology stocks. But there are doubts about whether that rotation is complete and if more volatility could be on the way.

"The concerns remain whether or not growth stocks, particularly the hyper-growth stocks, continue to be a victim of the growth-to-value rotation," said Ben Jang, portfolio manager at Nicola Wealth Management in Vancouver.

The TSX energy sector was up 1.3 per cent as the May crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose 54 cents to US$104.30 a barrel.

May copper was up two cents at US$3.05 a pound and the base metals component climbed 0.7 per cent.

The gold sector lost about 0.9 per cent as June bullion declined $9.60 to US$1,293.90 an ounce.

The Canadian Press


Most actively traded companies on the TSX, TSX Venture Exchange

TORONTO - Some of the most active companies traded Thursday on the Toronto Stock Exchange and the TSX Venture Exchange:

Toronto Stock Exchange (14,500.39 up 53.87 points):

Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.B). Aerospace. Down six cents, or 1.47 per cent, to $4.01 on 16.4 million shares.

Osisko Mining Corp. (TSX:OSK). Miner. Up six cents, or 0.76 per cent, to $8 on 11.6 million shares.

Touchstone Gold Ltd. (TSX:TCH). Miner. Unchanged at 0.5 cents on 6.6 million shares.

B2Gold Corp. (TSX:BTO). Miner. Unchanged at $3.01 on 4.9 million shares.

Twin Butte Energy Ltd. (TSX:TBE). Oil and gas. Up one cent, or 0.41 per cent, to $2.47 on 4.6 million shares.

Yamana Gold Inc. (TSX:YRI). Miner. Down seven cents, or 0.79 per cent, to $8.76 on 4.4 million shares.

Toronto Venture Exchange (998.77 up 0.80 points):

Vanoil Energy Ltd. (TSXV:VEL). Oil and gas. Up two cents, or 44.44 per cent, to 6.5 cents on 9.6 million shares.

Diagnos Inc. (TSXV:ADK). Application software. Unchanged at seven cents on seven million shares.

Companies reporting major news:

Augusta Resource Corp. (TSX:AZC). Miner. Up one cent, or 0.30 per cent, to $3.30 on 15,386 shares. Shareholders have received conflicting advice from a couple of proxy advisory firms over the future of the company's shareholders rights plan in the face of a hostile takeover bid by HudBay Minerals Inc. (TSX:HBM). Proxy advisory firm ISS recommended shareholders vote against renewal of the rights and criticized as "truly egregious" the compenstation for the chief executive if the CEO leaves after the acquisition.

Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B). Telecommunications. Up one cent, or 0.02 per cent, to $44.27 on 660,228 shares. The company doled out a combined $39.5 million last year to the company's outgoing CEO and its new chief executive. Guy Laurence, who only stepped into the CEO role on Dec. 2, made a total of $12.7 million in 2013, according to figures disclosed in Rogers' annual report. Meanwhile, retired CEO Nadir Mohamed took home total compensation of $26.8 million last year, the bulk of it coming from his retirement package.

The Canadian Press


Record labels sue Internet radio provider Pandora over royalties for songs from before 1972

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Major record labels are suing Internet radio giant Pandora for copyright infringement for using songs recorded before 1972 without paying license fees.

The labels, including divisions of Sony, Warner and Universal, argue that songs such as Aretha Franklin's "Respect" and the Beatles' "Hey Jude" are not covered by federal copyright law, but they have been protected in common law by states including New York.

In the lawsuit filed in New York state court, the labels say artists and labels have been deprived of tens of millions of dollars every year by services such as Pandora Media Inc.

Pandora streams songs randomly according to artists or genres like "Motown" or "'60s Oldies."

The labels also sued satellite radio company Sirius XM Holdings Inc. last year in a similar case.

Oakland, Calif.-based Pandora said in a statement that it "is confident in its legal position and looks forward to a quick resolution of this matter."

The Canadian Press


More than 2/3 of US states had job gains in March, while unemployment rate fell in 21 states

WASHINGTON - More than two-thirds of the states reported job gains in March, as hiring has improved for much of the country during what has been a sluggish but sustained 4 1/2-year recovery.

The Labor Department said Friday that unemployment rates dropped in 21 states, rose in 17 and were unchanged in the remaining 12. Meanwhile, hiring increased in 34 states and fell in 16.

The unemployment rate varies from as low as 2.6 per cent in North Dakota to as much as 8.7 per cent in Rhode Island. South Carolina has experienced the sharpest rate decline over 12 months to 5.5 per cent from 8 per cent.

The rate nationwide stayed at 6.7 per cent in March for the second straight month. That national rate stayed flat because someone was hired for almost every person who entered the job market last month.

Employers added 192,000 jobs nationwide in March, close to the average monthly gains of the past two years.

Ohio experienced the largest month-to-month drop in its unemployment rate: 0.4 percentage points to 6.1 per cent. That steep drop occurred because the state added 12,000 jobs last month, while the total number of people in its job market fell 11,200 to 5.75 million.

Unemployment rates can fall when people leave the job market, as well as when employers hire.

North Carolina reported the second largest year-over-year drop in the unemployment rate: a 2.2 percentage point decrease to 6.3 per cent. Part of that decline came from the loss unemployment benefits for jobless workers. Because those workers needed to look for jobs in order to receive benefits, the loss of the jobless aid likely caused them to give up their hunts and no longer be counted as unemployed.

Several states continue to lag the gains made across the country. Unemployment remains elevated in Nevada (8.5 per cent), Illinois (8.4 per cent), California (8.1 per cent) and Kentucky (7.9 per cent).

The Canadian Press


Mentors play important role in keeping entrepreneurs focused and accountable

TORONTO - It may have been a love of cats or rock climbing that first gave shape to a quirky business idea but, for many entrepreneurs, the difference between success and failure of their dream company often comes down to the support and advice they've received from mentors.

That was the case for Cheryl Palermo, a rock climbing enthusiast who runs Kidz Rock, a climbing gym for kids in the Greater Toronto Area.

Palermo, 33, initially opened a climbing gym for adults and children, which she ran for two and a half years. She closed it down but, two years later, she opened Kidz Rock, a kids-only facility that hosts birthday parties and group events. For Palermo, it made sense as children were the largest revenue source in her initial venture. Her instincts paid off: Kidz Rock is now going into its sixth year.

When it came to making big decisions or rebounding from the disappointments that can follow, Palermo said she relied on the guidance she received from a mentor - her father - who is also a small business owner.

She says one of her favourite quotes from her dad, which he repeated often when Palermo lost the first business, was "it will all be all right in the end. If it's not all right, it's not the end."

"I'm very grateful to have inherited his (and his father's) entrepreneurial drive, as I can say from experience it is not a learned skill, but a trait that I was born with that was nurtured because I had a great mentor along the way," said Palermo, who also studied small business management at Seneca College in Toronto.

She feels having a mentor compensates for the lack of a boss or co-workers to discuss ideas or share problems.

"An entrepreneur's mind works different from others. You can bounce things off your spouse or your friend or your partner or your cousin but, if they're not an entrepreneur, you don't get it. I don't know how I would have done it without him. I still use him to this day."

In the case of Michelle Furbacher, who is developing a cat cafe in Vancouver, support came from Embers Ventures, a small business development program.

"The class has been so helpful in terms of networking and meeting other like-minded entrepreneurs," she said. "We've become sort of a team of mentors, helping each other out and throwing ideas back and forth. The course is really helping me get a solid grasp on all the aspects that go into building a business."

Her Catfe, set to open in September, will allow cat lovers to pay an hourly rate to surf the web, read, or attend movie nights and workshops while socializing with some furry friends. The Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association will provide cats for the venture, all of whom will be adoptable.

Furbacher, 37, says she decided go with what may have initially seemed like an off-the-wall idea because she saw a need for what she describes as part "glorified cat shelter" and a way for cat lovers to get their "kitty fix." While the cafes are wildly popular in Japan, there are none in Canada. A crowdfunding campaign launched to help cover start-up costs has already raised more than $2,500 towards its $50,000 goal since it began last week.

According to Jeremy O'Krafka, a professor with the Entrepreneurship and Small Business program at Seneca College, and the founder of MENTORnetwork.CA, entrepreneurs like Palermo and Furbacher are part of a growing trend in the economy. There are about 2.5 million entrepreneurs in Canada who, as small business owners, contribute more than 30 per cent of the country's gross domestic product.

"Low start-up costs, social media and options like crowdfunding campaigns also mean it's "never been easier to start a business," he said.

The bigger challenge is finding something that's viable, validating it by talking to potential customers, and then being willing to take the risk - because even though it's never been easier, there's still a very high failure rate for entrepreneurs.

O'Krafka started MENTORnetwork.CA after having a hard time finding a mentor himself several years ago.

At the time, he was browsing the dating site eHarmony, and realized that it was a much more effective model of connecting with people, so he decided to create what he describes as "the eHarmony of mentoring websites."

"Once you're actually up and running a business, to have somebody to give you that 10,000-foot view of what you're going through can make all the difference in the world," O'Krafka said.

For him, a lot of the value around working with mentors is about being held accountable.

"One of the reasons why some of us get into entrepreneurship is because we don't like to be told what to do, but one of the downsides of that is that it also gives you an easy out not to stick to your plan," he said.

"By sharing your plan with a mentor who you work with over a long period of time, meeting with them on a monthly basis gives you that check-in point to have them hold you accountable for what you said you were going to do."

Dave Wilkin, 26, is a self-described "serial entrepreneur" and founder of Ten Thousand Coffees, a website that looks to bridge the gap between business leaders and the younger generation, setting them up on coffee dates so that they can share ideas and expand their networks.

He says part of the challenge is finding the right mentor, and connecting mentors with young people who can provide them with useful insight into their brand or could be an interesting potential hire.

Wilkin says his own career began with a conversation over a coffee, after he invited someone he met at a conference out for a chat. That person told him to create a business name, get business cards, and start talking to people. If he wanted to be an entrepreneur, she said, he should go start a company. Wilkin turned down a job offer and did just that.

Ten Thousand Coffees, a later venture, was launched in January with 300 experts, and it now has more than 700 companies in more than 30 industries as members.

"It's no question millennials are more entrepreneurial than anybody else, but what they need is the mentor. But mentorship is an outcome, it's not a first step."

Follow @maurinor on Twitter

---

On the Web:

www.tenthousandcoffees.com

mentornetwork.ca

www.thelearningpartnership.ca

www.venturecafe.ca

yorkregion.startupweekend.org

www.kidzrock.ca

www.catfe.ca

www.orphankittenrescue.com

The Canadian Press


US delays review of Keystone XL pipeline, likely punting decision until after Election Day

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration is putting off its decision on the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, likely until after the November elections, indefinitely extending its review of the project.

In a surprise announcement Friday as Washington was winding down for Easter, the State Department said federal agencies will have more time to weigh in on the politically fraught decision — but declined to say how much longer. Officials said the decision will have to wait for the dust to settle in Nebraska, where a judge in February overturned a state law that allowed the pipeline's path through the state.

Nebraska's Supreme Court isn't expected to hear an appeal to that ruling until September or October, and there could be more legal manoeuvring after the high court rules. So President Barack Obama will almost surely have until after the November congressional elections to make the final call about whether the pipeline carrying oil from Canada should be built.

Approving the pipeline before the election would rankle Obama's allies and donors in the environmental community, but nixing it could be politically damaging to vulnerable Democrats running this year in conservative-leaning areas.

"This decision is irresponsible, unnecessary and unacceptable," said Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, who faces a difficult re-election in oil-rich Louisiana. Landrieu said Obama was signalling that a small minority can tie up the process in the courts, sacrificing 42,000 jobs and billions in economic activity.

In an ironic show of bipartisanship, Republicans joined Landrieu and other Democrats like Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska in immediately condemning the announcement — the latest in a string of delays in a review process that has dragged on for more than five years.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., accused Obama of kowtowing to "radical activists" from the environmental community, while House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called the decision "shameful" and said there were no credible reasons for further delay.

"This job-creating project has cleared every environmental hurdle and overwhelmingly passed the test of public opinion, yet it's been blocked for more than 2,000 days," Boehner said in a statement.

But environmental groups fighting the pipeline hailed the delay, arguing that it shows the State Department is taking the arguments against the pipeline seriously.

"This is definitely great news," said Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice-president for the League of Conservation Voters. "We are very confident as they continue to examine the issues with the lack of legal route in Nebraska and the terrible climate impacts, at the end of the day the pipeline will be rejected."

Keystone XL would carry oil from western Canada's tar sands to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. The project requires State Department approval because it crosses an international border. The State Department vowed to move forward with other aspects of its review even while the situation in Nebraska remains in limbo.

"The agency consultation process is not starting over," the State Department said in a statement.

State Department officials said other U.S. agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, won't be notified of their new deadline for comment until the legal situation in Nebraska becomes clearer. At the core of the delay is a concern that the legal wrangling could lead to a change in the pipeline's route that would affect agencies' assessments, said the officials, who weren't authorized to comment by name and demanded anonymity.

The White House has insisted that Secretary of State John Kerry is in charge of the process, which involves making a determination about whether the pipeline is in America's national interest. But Obama is widely expected to make the final call.

In a nod to environmentalists' concerns, Obama has said the pipeline will be deemed not in the U.S. interest if it contributes significantly to increasing carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to climate change. Environmentalists argue that the oil that's pulled out of Canada's tar sands is among the dirtiest on the planet.

The White House declined to comment on the State Department's announcement, which came on Friday afternoon, when many Americans were observing Good Friday. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, accused the administration of "a stunning act of political cowardice" by waiting until most Americans would be too busy preparing for Easter or observing Passover to notice the delay.

Obama and environmental groups dispute the notion that the pipeline would create many permanent jobs or have a substantial economic impact, but Obama has refused to say whether he will nix it. The 1,179-mile pipeline would travel through Montana and South Dakota to a hub in Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines to carry more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day to refineries in Texas.

This isn't the first time that machinations in Nebraska have delayed a Keystone XL decision. The pipeline's initial route had to be redrawn to address concerns that it would threaten the Nebraska Sandhills, a region of grass-covered dunes used as ranchland.

"We are disappointed that politics continue to delay a decision on Keystone XL," said Jason MacDonald, a spokesman for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The pipeline project has become a proxy for a larger battle between environmental activists and energy advocates over climate change and the future of American energy — much to the dismay of Calgary-based TransCanada Corp., which has proposed the pipeline. The company's CEO, Russ Girling, said the company was "extremely disappointed and frustrated" with the latest delay.

Environmentalists' hopes that Obama would reject the pipeline were dealt a blow in January when the State Department, in a highly anticipated environmental report, said that building the pipeline would not significantly boost emissions because the oil was likely to find its way to market one way or another. The State Department concluded that transporting the oil by rail or truck would have an even worse environmental affect than building the pipeline.

___

Associated Press writers Bradley Klapper and Matthew Lee in Washington, Grant Schulte in Lincoln, Neb., and Charmaine Noronha in Toronto contributed to this report.

The Canadian Press


Sources: no Keystone XL pipeline this year

WASHINGTON - The Keystone XL pipeline will not be completed this year.

The United States administration appears set to ignore the Canadian government's demand to make a decision soon on the controversial pipeline, so that construction could begin this summer.

Sources say the administration will announce Friday another delay in a project already beset by political complications.

They say congressional staffers have been informed, via conference call, that U.S. federal agencies will be given more time to weigh in on the project, while a legal dispute plays out in Nebraska over the proposed route.

The case is not expected to be resolved until the end of this year, at the earliest.

There had been speculation about whether the Obama administration might try to punt the politically sensitive decision until after this year's midterm elections.

While the project appears to have support from the general public, it has divided Barack Obama's Democratic party — pitting big-money environmentalist donors against red-state conservative Democrats afraid of losing their congressional seats this fall.

In an attempt to push the process along, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird spent several days in Washington recently pleading for a decision soon — arguing that it would be unfair to keep construction workers and the industry hanging as the building season approached.

But the project was tossed into further disarray by a recent Nebraska court ruling that the state government there broke the law in its attempt to unilaterally dictate a route.

The case is being appealed to the state supreme court. Until then, even a presidential permit to allow the pipeline to cross the border would slam into uncertainty given the confusion over the route.

The Canadian Press


Mobilicity says Telus to acquire company for $350 million in proposed sale

TORONTO - Mobilicity says it has agreed to be purchased by Telus Corp. (TSX:T) for $350 million.

Mobilicity says the proposed sale is subject to approval by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, the Competition Bureau, Industry Canada, and Mobilicity's debtholders.

Telus has twice tried to buy struggling Mobilicity, but both times the deal was rejected by Industry Canada.

"We will not approve spectrum-transfer requests that decrease competition in our wireless sector," Jake Enwright, a spokesman for Industry Minister James Moore, said Friday.

This time, however, Mobilicity says it believes the deal will satisfy the federal agency's criteria and will not affect competition in the Canadian wireless sector.

The company also says the "vast majority" of its 165,000 active subscribers would be able to seamlessly migrate onto Telus' network after the transition.

Mobilicity also says it there are "no foreseen changes to employee staffing levels" under the proposed transaction.

"The transaction is a good outcome from Mobilicity's restructuring efforts and extensive sales process," said William Aziz, Mobilicity's chief restructuring officer.

"I am confident the transaction will serve the best interests of Mobilicity's customers and employees."

Mobilicity has been operating under creditor protection since September 2013.

The company has been seeking a buy and had contacted 25 organizations about submitting bids. Five bids were received by the Dec. 16, 2013 extended deadline and only the Telus bid was deemed acceptable.

The Canadian Press




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