Description: It can’t be good news any time a bond-rating agency downgrades your outlook from “stable” to “negative.” But that is exactly what happened this past week as the Dominion Bond Rating Service (DBRS) provided its opinion on the current state of the Province of New Brunswick’s financial situation. With an aging population requiring health services, and a threat of young, educated citizens heading elsewhere in Canada, the province obviously has significant challenges. One thing relatively sure is that with interest rates rising and debt status facing a downgrade, the Province’s debt service costs will impose a significant constraint on the government’s options.
Date: March 1, 2018
1) How will a downgrade in debt status affect a government’s budget?
2) What do you think would happen if the Province of New Brunswick defaulted on its debt?
3) You can read about DBRS’s rating scale for debt on page 543 of Wiley’s Financial Accounting: Tools for Business Decision Making, Where does New Brunswick fit in this scale? Where does your home province fit?
Description: Canadians appear to be split down the middle regarding who is right regarding the pipeline dispute between Alberta and British Columbia. When BC’s government threatened to slow down the progress on the Kinder-Morgan pipeline by launching additional study on environmental impacts, Alberta struck back with threats to block British Columbia’s wine sales in Alberta stores. You don’t let our oil through, we won’t buy your wine. Tit for tat. By the end of the week though, the heated talk seemed to be winding down, a welcome deescalation.
Date: February 22, 2018
1) Have you been following the oil/wine fight? Which side are you on?
2) What are some of the key issues involved for the Canadian economy?
3) On page 655 of Wiley’s Financial Accounting: Tools for Business Decision Making, we read about Suncor’s purchase of an additional stake in the oil sands company, Syncrude, in early 2016. Do you think the management would have made this decision today, given the pipeline controversy?
Description: And in another poll, along comes the sobering news that many Canadians are carrying mortgages into retirement. Roughly 25% of those between 55 and 80 seem to have some form of debt. A Toronto financial planner states “it suggests that a large percentage of the population either doesn’t think about retirement much or doesn’t think about it at all.” In other scary news for those heading towards retirement, roughly 25% of those between 20 and 64, and still in the workforce, were dipping into their retirement savings to help get through the present day.
Date: February 24, 2018
1) What did you think of this story? Does it surprise you?
2) Would you be interested in a career in personal financial planning
3) How soon after you graduate do you think you will start saving for retirement?
Description: A recent survey indicates that 28 % of Canadians spend two hours or more on their smartphones each day. The rate jumps to approximately 50% for users between 18 and 34. Investors and others are urging phone makers – like giants Apple and Samsung – to do more to address the subject of smartphone addiction.
Date: February 23, 2018
1) How much do you use your smartphone each day? Have you ever tried to reduce the time you spend on it?
2) Apple and Samsung, as well as other tech giants, seem to be in a strange situation. They obviously want to encourage users to spend time on their products. But at the same time they are drawing negative attention regarding this so-called smartphone addiction. What might be some strategic responses to these two conflicting pressures?
3) In chapter 14 of Wiley’s Financial Accounting: Tools for Business Decision Making, you can read about Apple’s gross profit margin and its connection to share price (see page 786). Check out more recent statistics on gross profit margin and share price to see if the relationship continues.
Description: Westjet Airlines, known for innovation in the industry, is entering the ultra low cost carrier (ULCC) by introducing its subsidiary Swoop. Come June 2018, you will be able to fly this new airline with the hot-pink Swoop logo for only $69 between Hamilton and Winnipeg. Don’t expect any frills though. You will pay for snacks and drinks. And you’ll feel an even tighter squeeze on your legroom as Swoop reduces that space to cram more seats into the aircraft.
Date: February 13, 2018
1) As a student, does the arrival of ULCCs make you rethink your travel plans?
2) What would be some of the key strategic issues an airline would face in starting up a ULCC?
3) In chapter 9 of Wiley’s Financial Accounting: Tools for Business Decision Making, you can read about Westjet’s strategy for acquiring aircraft. According to that chapter opening vignette, Westjet leases about 30% of its aircraft fleet. Why would the airline choose to lease some aircraft and purchase the rest outright? Do you think Swoop will lease its planes or buy them?
Description: The competition was tight with a number of dubious entries. But the new $8.2 million skating rink on Parliament Hill took the top spot in the Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s annual awards for federal government waste. This outdoor rink – a mere stone’s throw from the world’s longest skating rink, the Rideau Canal – works out to about $53 per skater. Ouch! In the provincial government contest, Ontario’s choice to borrow money to keep power rates artificially low “won” over New Brunswick’s $63.4 million failed bailout of Atcon construction.
Date: February 14, 2018
1) Have you ever experienced an incident of government waste? What did you see?
2) Do you think that an award for some of these big scandals helps to prevent further government waste?
3) What account would something like the Parliament Hill rink show up in? Could you find it easily in the financial statements or would it take some special digging?
Description: After rising to a total of approximately 20% of book sales three years ago, digital book sales are dropping. Despite the stories of the disappearance of print media, digital sales are now down to about 15% of total book sales. Print seems to be hanging on just fine in the face of the digital onslaught. Maybe it’s the texture and the feel. Perhaps people like seeing them on a bookshelf. Maybe it’s the ability to highlight your textbook with your favourite colour of ink. For whatever reason, books are not dead.
Date: February 16, 2018
1) Were you surprised to see that digital book sales are dropping?
2) As a student, are you using both digital and print versions of textbooks? Which do you prefer? Why?
3) In Wiley’s Financial Accounting: Tools for Business Decision Making, page 86, BE 2-5, you can read about the current ratio of Indigo Books and Music. If you assume Indigo has experienced a similar decline in sales of e-books, and it has replaced that loss with sales of physical books, what impact might this have on Indigo’s current ratio?
Description: After years of losses, Twitter has finally posted a quarterly profit. New tools that have helped to keep users online longer could be behind the recent success. This is definitely better news for Twitter than all the 2017 talk of how Russian bots may have infiltrated the social media platform and influenced the 2016 US election.
Date: February 08, 2018
1) Were you surprised to see that this was the first time Twitter has recorded a profit?
2) Why do you think that some of the big social media players like Twitter and Snapchat have such a difficult time turning a profit?
3) In Wiley’s Financial Accounting: Tools for Business Decision Making, page 422, you can read of how debt collectors sometimes set up fake profiles on social media like Twitter to link with debtors . Do you think debt collectors should be allowed to employ this strategy in trying to collect accounts receivable?
Description: The sales are up but the stock price is down. High-end winter coat supplier Canada Goose is continuing its sales success with some sizes and styles selling out, despite sticker prices upwards of $1,500. This success is driving sales and profits upwards. But this past Thursday the Canada goose stock dropped 15%. Perhaps even high earnings is not enough to help keep the price up when the market as a whole is heading south.
Date: February 08, 2018
1) Do you see many Canada Goose parkas around your university campus?
2) What do you think caused the Canada Goose shares to drop despite the good news about sales?
3) Wiley’s Financial Accounting: Tools for Business Decision Making talks about trademarks in chapter nine. How would you determine the value of a trademark like Canada goose?
Description: Drivers at Oakhurst Dairy in the State of Maine are happy about a missing comma. Oakhurst Dairy has agreed to pay the drivers $5 million in overtime pay to settle a dispute over whether or not the dairy industry was exempt from the overtime provisions of a State law. Drivers had claimed the placement of a comma meant that they were entitled to receive overtime pay for anything in excess of 40 hours per week.
Date: February 09, 2018
1) Has a grammar issue ever cost you on a university assignment?
2) What tips do you have on how to improve writing and grammar skills?
3) Look at the discussion on Provisions and Contingent Liabilities on page 533 in Wiley’s Financial Accounting: Tools for Business Decision Making. How might Oakhurst Dairy account for this legal dispute in its financial statements?