Goodbye to all that: 2020’s hits and misses

As 202 begins, we look back to the great and dubious milestones from a year like no other.

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LULU set a new benchmark for B.C.-based stocks

As 2020 wraps up, we look back to the great and dubious milestones from a year like no other

Stretchiest Valuation

Helped by the COVID-19-induced shift toward leisurewear, Lululemon Athletica blew past the benchmark for the highest market capitalization of any B.C.-based company this year. At US$45 billion ($59 billion) or so last time we checked, the purveyor of high-priced sweats is now worth more than BCE, BMO and Canadian Pacific–and almost double the value of local peer Telus. Namaste.

Haziest Market

Remember when legal recreational cannabis promised to make Canadian investors and governments rich? In hindsight, everyone was high. Producers capable of surviving the current shake-out have emerged, among them Nanaimo-headquartered Tilray. But has the nation’s pot industry hit bottom, and when can we expect to see real money–not just IFRS “profits” that count inventory? In B.C., at least, the black market remains stronger than a hit of Jedi Kush.

Most Daunting Challenge

Tamara Vrooman replaced Craig Richmond as president and CEO of YVR this past July with eyes wide open. Although the pandemic will doom civil aviation to a long slump, the former Vancity boss has cast her new job as an opportunity to revamp Canada’s second-busiest airport. Vrooman, who piloted a large credit union through the 2008-09 global financial crisis, also brings green credentials to a business aiming for net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Least Valuable Membership

The moment of truth for the five million people across Canada who parted with $5 to join so-called co-op MEC: in September, without even a heads-up, the board of the struggling outdoor gear retailer agreed to sell the whole tent pad to U.S. private equity firm Kingswood Capital. The directors later said they’d considered asking members for money, but here’s one case where the thought doesn’t count. Joining Costco never looked so good.

Best Return from the Dead

We’d like to say the long-suffering forest sector, with lumber prices hitting highs not seen in 24 years when it became clear that housing was on the right side of consumers’ COVID spending reallocation–and shares of companies like Canfor, Interfor and West Fraser Timber following suit. But we have to give it to fuel cell pioneer Ballard Power Systems, which, after two decades of struggling to find its place in the alternative energy firmament, is back in the zone of its Y2K market cap.

Mightiest White Privilege

Premier John Horgan claimed he “didn’t see colour” as a child, while BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson did see homophobia and other intolerance among his party’s election candidates–and failed to intervene until his hand was forced. Guys, the private sector is way ahead of you on this file.

Coolest New Office

That would be the old Canada Post building on Vancouver’s West Georgia Street that Amazon is transforming into 1-million-plus square feet of space for itself. (Oh, the irony.) Downtown as of November, the destroyer of retail worlds had secured 1.72 million square feet of office property–6.5 percent of the total–commercial real estate firm Cresa reports. If you work for Jeff Bezos, don’t expect to do it from home.

Worst Security System

We feel for the management and staff of the Sea to Sky Gondola, and we hope whoever ruined their business is brought to justice. But after someone cut its 4,750-metre cable in August 2019, could the Squamish operation have installed any extra surveillance bells and whistles to stop it suffering the same fate again this September? Just asking.

Best Second (and Third) Act

First, Vancouver entrepreneur Hamed Shahbazi sold his fintech outfit, Tio Networks, to PayPal for some $300 million in 2017. Then he took bricks-and-clicks care provider Well Health Technologies public on the TSX this past January, only to see its stock climb 381 percent as of October 31, to $7.41. Shahbazi also sits on the board of Vancouver-based media tech firm BroadbandTV, founded by Shahrzad Rafati, which recently raised more than $172.4 million with its own Hogtown IPO. Not a bad encore.

Worst B Corp Impression

Only about 3,500 businesses worldwide carry the B Corp designation, which requires them to balance profit and purpose by meeting high ethical and other standards. That didn’t stop Vancouver-based Hootsuite, which joined the club in 2015, from signing a three-year contract with the U.S. government’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the folks accused of splitting up families and locking kids in cages. Before cancelling that US$500,000-plus deal, the social media management company denied it. Oh, Hootsuite also fired the in-house whistleblower. We can think of better ways to trend on Twitter.