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Category: Hicks on Biz columns from The Edmonton Sun

Hicks on Biz columns from The Edmonton Sun

Hicks on Biz: COVID-19 and the mystery of public debt By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, April 4, 2020

PhotoMan - Fotolia In this emergency pandemic, the federal government says it will spend about $82 billion over and above its 2020-21 $180 billion budget. In Alberta, the province pegs the direct cost of fighting the pandemic at $500 million, above and beyond its $56 billion 2020-21 budget. On top of that $500 million,  Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has announced a provincial government  “investment” (i.e. repayable if all goes well) of $1.5 billion to get TC Energy’s Keystone XL pipeline built, plus $6 billion in loan guarantees, i.e. if TC Energy goes bankrupt, the government of Alberta is on the hook to pay its outstanding bills. Where does all this money come from? It’s borrowed! For years and years, both governments have been spending more than what’s coming in from taxes. Before the pandemic, Ottawa had accumulated $713 billion in debt, Alberta about $85 billion. STORY CONTINUES BELOW Both governments cover their annual shortfalls ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Oilers playoff anticipation brings March madness to Edmonton By Graham Hicks first published Edmonton Sun, March 9, 2020

Edmonton Oilers' Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) celebrates a goal on Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) at Rogers Place on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020.Ian Kucerak / Postmedia It’s March, there’s still 13 games left in the regular season.  The Oilers aren’t guaranteed a playoff spot yet. But the city is already going playoff crazy. At last week’s Oiler away games, the bars, lounges  and sports pubs were full, even though it was mid-week, even though it’s the quietest time of the year for the hospitality business. Sales are piling up for Oiler jerseys, car flags, foam fingers, ball caps. The excitement grows. Because it’s apparent to hockey-savvy Edmontonians that the Oilers are fast becoming one of the league’s better teams – with two leading scorers, two dangerous forward lines, depth up front, a fast-maturing defensive corps and two goalies shooting out the lights. STORY CONTINUES BELOW The anticipation ... Read the rest of entry »

HICKS ON BIZ: Lots more oil still to come By Graham Hicks, first published Edmonton Sun, February 28, 2020

The Aspen Oil Sands Project, Imperial Oil’s $2.6 billion, new in-situ oilsands project will eventually produce 150,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd). It is under construction. Foster Creek Oil Sands Expansion Project — Cenovus — $2 billion, adding 40,000 bpd — under construction. Lewis/Meadow Creek East/Meadow Creek West SAGD Oil Sands Projects — Suncor — $2 billion, around 200,000 bpd from different projects — proposed. Narrows Lake In Situ Oil Sands Project — Cenovus — $1.6 billion — 130,000 bpd — proposed, currently deferred. What is our problem here? Why the tears and teeth-gnashing over the indefinite postponement of the TECK Frontier open-pit bitumen mining proposal in the oilsands, when environmentally acceptable in-situ oilsands projects are lined up around the block? STORY CONTINUES BELOW A quick oilsands refresher: There are two ways of extracting heavy oil (bitumen) from the oilsands, open-pit mining a ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Fact is it's a Goldilocks economy By Graham Hicks first published Edmonton Sun February 22, 2020

Crews walk past the polypropylene reactor and the giant crane being used to raise it into position at the Heartland Petrochemical Complex in Fort Saskatchewan on Thursday, March 7, 2019.David Bloom / Postmedia, file Do we laugh or cry over the state of Alberta’s economy? We are so swayed by the latest headlines, especially the enormous conflict between Western Canadian oil and natural gas versus the youthful/progressive/protest cry for a no-carbon-fuels world. Our bitumen, and now B.C.’s natural gas, has become symbolic of a global fight to the death between unspoiled nature and evil global capitalism. The captains of Alberta’s No. 1 industry are the baddest dudes of all. On the one hand, despair. The global energy companies, huge pension funds, and our fellow Canadians want nothing to do with our No. 1 industry, if only because they will be blocked by climate warriors and our federal government at every turn. On the other … The Alberta government has an excelle ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Saving Edmonton, saving Alberta By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, February 14, 2020

Skyline taken from the airport control tower at the Blatchford Redevelopment in Edmonton, December 4, 2017.Ed Kaiser Ed Kaiser / Ed Kaiser/Postmedia Two interesting reports will be coming forward in the next few weeks, one to Edmonton City Council, one to the Government of Alberta. Whoa, don’t let your eyes glaze over! Don’t give up on Hicks on Biz! Reports, however dry and horrible and impossible to read, can profoundly influence the economic well-being of our city and province. And never before has Edmonton/Alberta faced such crossroads as today. If there’s not ingenuity and leadership and innovation, we are going to see a continuing decline in our real estate prices. Our children and grandchildren will reluctantly leave Alberta for career opportunities elsewhere. A slow, steady decline in entrepreneurial spirit will infect the province, to a point, where, like too many parts of Canada, the big deal will be to get a government job and never let it go. STORY CONT ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Patience is a virtue By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, February 7, 2020

After 27 years, Dr. Robert Foster's drug developed at the U of A, Voclosporin, has been approved as a treatment for lupus kidney disease. GRAHAM HICKS/EDMONTON SUNEdmonton In the modest south Edmonton office of his latest drug-development company, Dr. Robert Foster can now chuckle about the day in 2007 when his net worth crashed from $30 million to $250,000. The pharmaceutical scientist, businessperson and professor lost his fortune with the collapse of Edmonton-based drug company Isotechnica. The company had been formed to commercialize Voclosporin, an immunosuppression drug Foster had created with a team of University of Alberta scientists and medical researchers. Isotechnica was as good as gone, but Foster never lost faith in Voclosporin’s medical potential. Today, after an incredible 26-year tale involving the cold-hearted realities of the international drug-development world, politics, betrayal, drug regulation and a never-ending search for investment cash, Dr. Foster has been vindicat ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Metro Edmonton is a political mess By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, January 31, 2020

Edmonton's downtown skyline is seen from the Blatchford project site on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019.Ian Kucerak / Postmedia A new regional report is urging the 13 towns, counties and cities of Greater Edmonton to get their acts together and set up a regional public transit service. Yes, a regional public transit system is way overdue, and, overall, is a good thing. Except, being government-driven and involving 13 municipalities, it will happen years later than planned, will cost twice as much as anticipated, will have far fewer riders than projected, and will not reduce the number of cars on the road. (Always unacknowledged in these reports is human nature. When it’s super cold outside half the year, anybody with the means will use a warm, comfortable, door-to-door car, not public transit.) I digress. The reason regional transit will take so long and be so inefficient is that — as with anything to do with Greater (or Metropolitan) Edmonton — 13 municipalities debate and mus ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Cannabis goes bust By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, January 24, 2020

Cannabis plants are shown at Sundial Growers facility in Olds.Dean Pilling / Postmedia It’s a business story as old as time. Canada’s cannabis green-gold rush has gone bust. It happened with Bre-X, with the dot.com bubble, with Nortel, with the American lending/real estate crash of 08-09. Everybody gets super-excited over one or two companies, or a sector. Investors pile in. Rationale goes out the window. The shares double, triple, quadruple in value. Buy, buy, buy! We’re rich!!!! And then it happens. Feast to famine. Hero to zero. The company cannot possibly produce the revenue to sustain such sky-high stock prices. The smart money starts to sell, the selling stampede starts, investors pile out. Usually the company (or companies) end up worthless and/or bankrupt. STORY CONTINUES BELOW Sadly, the stakes are higher in the Edmonton area. It’s not just a few thousand foolish folks who invested in cannabis companies without doing their research. ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: You too can be successful in Edmonton By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, January 17, 2020

Skyline taken from the airport control tower at the Blatchford Redevelopment in Edmonton, December 4, 2017.Ed Kaiser Ed Kaiser / Ed Kaiser/Postmedia By GRAHAM HICKS Maybe this is not the best week to promote our dear but oh-so-cold city as a fine place to live and do business. But it’s true! A psychological turn-around is happening out there, backed by hard statistics. The “plus” factors of buying a business in Edmonton are now outweighing the negatives. A practical way of betting on a recovery of Northern Alberta’s economy is through the purchase of an existing business. STORY CONTINUES BELOW Many are for sale, mostly energy-related. The owners who started and grew them are ready to retire.  A 2017 EEDC (Edmonton Economic Development Corporation) report suggested 50 per cent of owners of independent companies in Greater Edmonton would sell in the next five years. Hundreds of these businesses, suggests Edmonton business consultant Aroo ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: RAM Manufacturing — keeping it local By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, January 11, 2020

Out of Edmonton, Richard Meunier's RAM Elevators and Lifts manufacture and export 1,000 units a year. By GRAHAM HICKS The announcement came out in November. Located in the city’s west end, RAM Elevators and Lifts Manufacturing had been sold. It was not so much the sale of an independent manufacturing company, founded, operated and owned by lifelong Edmontonians Richard Meunier and his partner Sandy Smart, that was of interest. It was about the buyers. Aroon Sequeira and Corey Smith are among the city’s top businesspeople, business leaders and business thinkers. STORY CONTINUES BELOW Sequeira heads up Sequeira Partners, a financial advisory company focused on helping oilfield servicing companies be bought and sold. Smith was the president, CEO and minority partner in oilsands camp operator Noralta Lodge. He steered that company from a value of minus-$50 million (following the 2014/15 oil crash) to its sale in 2018 to former competitor Civeo Canada for $420 milli ... Read the rest of entry »