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

Wyrd Sisters, Bono, Blockbuster, carbon trading and more.

?Canada’s economy

The country’s economists have been doing a lot of cheerleading lately: “The first six months of Canada’s recovery have surpassed the wildest hopes of even the most strident optimist, seemingly making a mockery of all the chatter of a subdued, halting, or U-shaped rebound,” wrote Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist at BMO Capital Markets. Canada’s real GDP grew by 0.6% in January, the fastest monthly rise in more than three years, and better than the consensus forecast of 0.5%. From November to January, GDP skyrocketed at an annual pace of 6.9%. The last time the economy showed that kind of growth rate over a six-month period was in 2000 at the height of the tech boom. Housing sales may have kicked off this recovery, but a variety of sectors are showing growth, including retail, construction, auto sales and manufacturing. Economists warn the current pace won’t continue, however. The housing market will cool, stimulus measures in Canada and the U.S. will wane, and interest rates will rise. After two quarters of blockbuster performance, the Canadian economy is likely to sail along at a more moderate — but healthy — growth rate of at least 3%, TD Economics reports.

?Wyrd Sisters

Winnipeg musicians the Wyrd Sisters pulled a rabbit out of a wizard’s cap by winning an undisclosed settlement in a five-year legal battle with Warner Bros. The little-known folk group launched a $40-million lawsuit after learning the movie version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire featured a rock group with their name.

?Le Bon Table

This little-known food and beverage interest appointed former Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington to its board in March. “Everything he gets involved in turns to gold,” enthused company founder Homer Lee Thomas. Shares, which trade for a fraction of a penny on the sparsely regulated Pink Sheets, appreciated slightly. But Pocklington refused the job and claimed the company “jumped the gun.” His trial on bankruptcy fraud charges is scheduled for this summer.


The U2 front man is “the worst investor in America,” according to 24/7 Wall Street, a financial news service. Elevation Partners, the Irish rock star’s private equity firm, has dumped close to $500 million into smartphone manufacturer Palm since 2007 while watching the company’s share price fall by 80% in the past six months alone. Elevation’s investments also include Forbes,, and Yelp, all facing financial troubles or major lawsuits.

?Carbon trading

The EU’s Emission Trading System suffered another embarrassing scandal after an unknown trader turned a $2.7-million profit by selling 800,000 recycled emission reduction credits. The Hungarian government originally resold the credits in accordance with ETS rules, assuming they would end up in Japan. But after trading hands several times, some were discovered for sale on NYSE Euronext’s BlueNext exchange. Since they cannot be legitimately resold in Europe, spot trading was suspended for three days to purge the system.


Shares in Chinese search engine Baidu rose 4% in March, after Google began migrating visitors to its Hong Kong domain. Google shuttered its Chinese operations in response to a cyber attack in December, leaving the world’s largest Internet market wide open to Baidu. Analysts expect that Baidu will seize up to half of Google China’s search revenue — which could add $330 million annually to Baidu’s earnings.

?Rio Tinto

The Australian mining giant has been forced to ask legendary U.S. statesman Henry Kissinger for help repairing its relationship with China. In late March, the Asian nation jailed four of its employees — Australian businessman Stern Hu and three Chinese colleagues — for between seven and 14 years for accepting bribes and stealing industrial secrets.

?Ann Coulter

Some believe there’s no such thing as bad press, and firebrand American commentator Ann Coulter is likely among them. Prior to her recent Canadian speaking tour, a University of Ottawa administrator warned her via e-mail that “promoting hatred against any identifiable group” might attract criminal charges. Coulter proclaimed herself a victim of hate speech and cancelled her Ottawa appearance. The imbroglio generated reams of media attention. Mission accomplished.

?Uma Thurman

The actress’s latest film, Motherhood, grossed just $130 in the United Kingdom during its opening weekend. Less than a dozen people bought tickets to watch Thurman play a frazzled parent living in New York. Even worse, only one person in the entire country bought a ticket to the film on its first Sunday in theatres.

?Auto workers

The auto industry received a rare bit of good news when General Motors of Canada announced it will expand production at two Ontario assembly plants and recall more than 700 workers from layoff. Honda Canada also announced plans to boost production at one of its plants in Alliston, Ont., resulting in approximately 400 jobs.


After 25 years of ferrying Canadian snowbirds, travel-tour business Skyservice Airlines filed for receivership on March 31 after it was unable to repay debt that came due at the end of the month. Not counting the staff members who were already out of work due to seasonal layoffs, 860 employees were cut loose when the company folded unexpectedly.

?Canwest execs

An Ontario Superior Court Judge approved up to $4.3 million in bonuses for 27 senior execs at the insolvent media company, in addition to $1.7 million paid in January to the executives, who the company considers crucial to its continued operations.


Lacking the budget for TV ads, online travel agency TripAdvisor agreed to let NBC’s The Office link a fictional B&B, Schrute Farms, to its site, setting up a review page for the B&B as a gag. With more than 600 reviews, the page has increased traffic so much that the company is thinking of adding pages for other fictional hotels.


The struggling video rental chain said it could file for bankruptcy protection as it grapples with declining revenue and a debt load of nearly US$1 billion. Blockbuster’s shares have been plummeting all year, and the company’s value has shrunk so much that it no longer meets the minimum market value requirements to be listed on the NYSE.