Monthly Archive: October 2009

Down but not out

The powers that be at Manulife extol share price performance by noting that any investor who owned shares since the company went public in 1999 (and has reinvested dividends) has enjoyed a compound annual return of 12 per cent. I’ve cited those numbers myself when I promote my book in media interviews and speeches. After all, they are very impressive. Bernie Madoff had to commit fraud to produce similar results, I always add, tongue firmly in cheek. But how many investors have actually held shares for ten years while reinvesting all dividends? I imagine many individual investors are like me...

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Stand and deliver

Last night’s CBC National news was the first with Peter Mansbridge standing. I found myself checking his suit for wrinkles far more than necessary. I found none, not even in the crotch area, the usual worst place. In what is clearly a rip-off of Wolf Blitzer’s CNN Situation Room, the entire hour is done with everyone standing. At times, they went to ludicrous lengths to stick with the awkward format. Mansbridge and a reporter stood facing each other on a riser the size of a ping-pong table with a rear screen in between them that projected points they were making....

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Bastille, be gone

It’s hard to believe that Edgar Bronfman Jr. has just been charged, along with Vivendi executives, with misleading investors. First of all, the $34-billion Seagram-Vivendi merger in question took place in 2000. Surely the statute of limitations has run out long since. Second, poor Edgar Jr. was not exactly on the inner circle with Jean-Marie Messier, the Vivendi CEO who bought everything in sight except the Arc de Triomphe, which was visible out his office window. Once he got fed up with Messier, Edgar Jr. worked with other directors to oust the megalomaniac in 2002. Not exactly how you pass...

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A tale of thirty-eight cities

Manulife has received approval to sell insurance in Shantou, a port city in China. While all the attention of late has been on variable annuities sold by Manulife in the U.S. and the strain that has put on the balance sheet, in many ways the future of the firm is in China. After first receiving permission in 1996 to enter the Chinese market in Shanghai, Manulife has been adding cities at a fast pace. Manulife is now licenced in 38 cities and has more than ten thousand agents. Most of those cities are huge. Shantou has a population of five...

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Back to the future

Manulife’s new CEO Donald Guloien has a management style that’s rare. During a recession when most business leaders are trying to squelch pessimism, Guloien is busy promoting something: prudence. “I think at this stage of the cycle, prudence and conservatism is called for,” Guloien told Bloomberg’s Sean B. Pasternak in an interview. “The prudence our grandmothers had, the prudence farmers have in the Midwest; a little more of that needs to be applied in the executive suite.” That’s why Guloien cut the Manulife dividend, reduced sales of variable annuities (VAs) and hiked hedging on VAs already sold. Praise followed. “Don’s...

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