Teck and Telus feel the pain of weak commodity prices

Teck’s operations in Trail, to the west of its Elk Valley mines.

Plus, Kelowna leads the country in growth and LNG proposal gets conditional approval

Teck and Telus
Weak commodity prices
are being cited as key factors in the sub-par fourth-quarter financial reports released Thursday by two of B.C.’s largest public companies, Teck Resources and Telus.
Teck Resources, Canada’s largest diversified miner, posted a loss of $459 million, which compared unfavourably to the fourth quarter of 2014, which saw a profit of $129 million. However, the company managed to squeak out a small adjusted profit of $16 million for the fourth quarter, or three cents a share. This profit came despite low commodity prices in all three of its key products: steelmaking coal, copper and zinc.
Annual adjusted profit was reported to be $188 million, or 33 cents a share, compared with $452 million, or 78 cents per share in 2014. “We were pleased with our operating performance in 2015, meeting our guidance, reducing our costs and raising nearly $1 billion through two streaming transactions to strengthen our balance sheet,” said CEO and president Don Lindsay. “However, the commodity cycle continues to provide us with a very challenging environment.”
The company’s short-term priorities, Lindsay said, are to keep all operations cash-flow positive and to meet its commitment to Fort Hills, an oil sands project in which it has invested $2.9 billion. The project is expected to begin production in late 2017, but at current oil prices it will not generate the revenues originally expected.
Telus was negatively impacted by oil prices as well, reporting a net income of $261 million in the fourth quarter ended December 31. During the same period in 2014, the company posted $312 million. CEO Darren Entwhistle blamed the suffering oil industry for the lacklustre numbers, Telus has a major presence in Alberta, as job losses and cost-cutting at oil-patch businesses decreased demand for its services. Telus gained a mere 4,400 new postpaid subscribers during the second half of 2015, down from a net 50,000 during the same period last year. In the fourth quarter alone, business users in the province trimmed their monthly bills by an average of 7.6 per cent.

Okanagan booming
Kelowna, long known as a tourist destination, is also a desirable place to put down roots. The most recent census crowns the wine-making region as the fastest-growing metropolitan area in Canada. With a growth rate of 3.1 per cent, Kelowna leads Calgary (2.4 per cent) and Edmonton (2.4 per cent). The census measured populations between July 1, 2014, and June 30, 2015.

The seven metropolitan areas with the strongest population growth rates were all located in Western Canada, with Abbotsford-Mission tying Winnipeg in the sixth position (1.4 per cent). Kelowna also posted the highest growth rate from interprovincial migration (1 per cent). Abbotsford-Mission has apparently been enjoying a baby boom, recording the highest proportion of children aged 0-14 years in Canada (18.1 per cent).

LNG green light
The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency gave the Pacific NorthWest LNG project a stamp of approval on Wednesday, while acknowledging the industry’s likely negative effects on climate change and porpoises in the harbour of Prince Rupert.
In a 257-page draft environmental assessment report on the LNG plant proposal, the CEAA warned that the $11.4-billion export terminal will create large increases in greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas production, processing and pipelines. However, the CEAA gave its blessing to the project. “With respect to all other valued components,” the report stated, “the agency concludes that the project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects taking into account the implementation of the key mitigation measures.”
The CEAA outlined a series of conditions in a separate 20-page document. The consortium making the LNG plant proposal must meet these conditions and implement programs to reduce the environmental effects of its operations.