Winners & Losers: Who's up, who's down

AbitibiBowater, sockeye salmon, Fidel Castro and more.

? China

Beijing’s nine-day gridlock this August, which became the biggest traffic jam in China’s history, could be a taste of things to come if city dwellers keep buying vehicles at a rate of 2,000 new cars per day. The record-setting gridlock spanned 100 kilometres and was caused by road closures and seasonal travel, but made worse by the city’s congestion problems. Drivers stuck bumper-to-bumper got out of their vehicles to wash themselves, play cards and haggle with locals for food. On one particularly jammed Sunday, cars and trucks moved just one kilometre the entire day. The mass congestion eventually cleared, but just a few days after authorities announced the crisis was over, another 10,000 trucks got stuck in a 120 km stretch between Beijing and Inner Mongolia. Not only were the trucks moving at a crawl, but with some drivers taking naps behind the wheel, getting traffic moving took even longer once roads were cleared. While construction in the area should end on Sept. 17, most of the trucks that caused the second jam were transporting coal, leading experts to suggest that more jams will follow unless the cargo can be transported by rail in the future, or if Beijing’s highway system is modified.

? Shia LaBeouf

The 24-year-old star has been named the actor with the most “bang for the buck” by Forbes. For every dollar that studios spend on the actor, his films deliver $81 in profit. His participation in both the Transformers and Indiana Jones franchises yielded him relatively meagre salaries: LaBeouf earned a half-million dollars for the first Transformers film, which went on to gross more than $700 million worldwide.

? First Quantum

The Vancouver-based mining company recently received a tough one-two punch from the Democratic Republic of Congo. First, the Congolese government withdrew the company’s permits at its Frontier copper mine, estimated to be valued at $249 million. It then proceeded with an audit into Quantum’s operations with allegation that the company shipped copper ore without fully declaring it.

? Nigerian nappers

In an attempt to put an end to so-called “Africa time,” hundreds of Nigerian federal employees were locked out of their buildings for tardiness on the morning of Aug. 31. Attendance was taken before the rest of the sleepy civil servants were let back in. While ministry buildings are supposed to be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day, many workers slowly filter in after 10 and don’t stay late to make up the hours.

? Phone companies

Bell, Telus and several other phone companies will be refunding $310.8 million to some of their customers after the CRTC ruled that they overcharged their urban clients between 2002 and 2006, during which time the CRTC required them to artificially inflate prices to encourage competitors in urban areas. The refunds will range from $25 to $90, and another $421.9 million will be put toward making improvements to rural broadband Internet service.

? Egg farmers

Two Iowa farms are linked to the recall of roughly half a billion eggs. Wright County Egg recalled 380 million eggs on Aug. 13 after it was linked to more than 1,000 cases of salmonella, and a week later, Hillandale Farms recalled 170 million eggs for similar reasons. This raises questions about federal inspection of egg farms, and Food and Drug Administration chief Margaret Hamburg is lobbying to have more authority in holding companies accountable for malpractice.

? Frank Stronach

Auto parts magnate Frank Stronach is about $1 billion richer after winning a battle with shareholders at Magna International. In late August, an Ontario judge rejected an appeal by a small group of institutional investors who opposed the cost of court-approved plans (supported by a majority of Magna’s shareholders) to wipe out Stronach’s super-voting shares and create a one-vote-per-share system.

? AbitibiBowater

When Newfoundland’s government expropriated land, timber and water-use rights from the forestry giant after a 2008 mill closing, the now-bankrupt company filed a half-billion dollar NAFTA claim. Two weeks ago, the federal government settled the legal dispute for $130 million — money that’s coming out of Ottawa’s coffers. Premier Danny Williams isn’t on the hook for a penny.

? San Esteban

Chile’s state-owned mining company is working to rescue 33 miners trapped in San Esteban’s San Jose mine because San Esteban claims to have neither the tools nor the money for the job. The company also claims it can’t afford to pay the miners’ wages while they’re waiting to be saved. Meanwhile, a government inquiry is wondering why the mine was reopened just weeks after a first rock collapse halted production.

? Salmon

West Coast fishers and processors got an astonishing bit of good news last month, just as a federal inquiry into the decline of salmon stocks got underway: the largest sockeye salmon run in almost a century — some 30 million fish — was headed for the Fraser River. Runs of this size haven’t been seen since 1913, when a rock slide triggered by construction of the Canadian National Railway partially blocked the fish migration through the Fraser Canyon.

? Zenn Motor

Shares in Toronto electric-vehicle technology company Zenn Motor plunged nearly 20% when it announced its recent quarterly results. The company’s fortunes are tied largely to a much-hyped experimental battery technology from EEStor Inc. Zenn appeared to distance itself from EEStor in its latest earnings statement, and investors bailed out.

? Fidel Castro

Rumours of Castro’s deteriorating health have been circulating since 2006, when he underwent intestinal surgery and vanished from the public eye. But the 84-year-old, who ruled Cuba for almost half a century, is back. The near-death experience appears to have prompted reflection: Castro took responsibility for the homophobia that swept through Cuba in the 1960s, and vowed to create an “anti-nuclear war movement.”

? SocialDeck

The Toronto-based startup is the latest beneficiary of Google’s social-networking shopping spree. Founded just two years ago, SocialDeck produces multiplayer games for mobile devices and social networks like Facebook, allowing players to compete against each other across platforms. No purchase price was disclosed.