Looking back on 2009.The business year 2009 nearly bankrupt the world economy and Manitoba was no different, although some have said it was not so hard here. Not so. While infrastructure spending and new housing starts and low interest rates brought good news, it wasn't as rosy overall. While governments and chambers of commerce tend to accentuate the positive like The Smoke and Mirror football stadium, the truth is as a small province we are far from well off and we are in for a hard battle in the years to come to stay afloat compared to Saskatchewan.
For more than 20 years MANITOBA BUSINESS Magazine has taken the temperature of the provincial economy by gathering financial information from 100 companies.
This year, only 70 companies responded to our annual performance review for 2009. The review has been known as the Top 100 Companies and usually garners 100 respondents. This year the list is off by 30 companies and six of the top ten companies showed losses compared to 2008.
The review illustrates the meltdown's effect on Manitoba's economy. There were some bright spots in the corporate review but gross earnings were definitely negatively affected which was not unexpected.
The transportation sector was especially tough with a backlog of trucks and freight business severely impacted. Maxim Truck and Trailer Inc., owned and operated by CEO Doug Harvey was hit hard. Mr. Harvey says it was the worst year he has seen in the 29 years he has been in the business. Maxim's gross sales were off by $15 million a strong reflection of bad times.
So too for Bison Transport Inc., a top hauler, whose gross sales was off by $53 million in gross revenues underscoring the significant reduction in loss of freight business.
Even the mighty financial giant Great West Lifeco was not bullet proof showing gross income losses of about $3.3 billion. Its publicly-traded stock, like others, has been off by about $13 from its one time high point of $38.
And telco MTS saw losses of $53 million and its stock traded at about $13 off its one time high of about $40. Investors Group (IGM) lost $400 million in gross revenues.
Another strong company, heating and air conditioner manufacturer E.H. Price Limited saw gross sales off by $21 million. A large part of its income depends on the US market. It survived on other arms of its business.
Among the notable gainers is vegetable marketer, Peak of the Market, whose gross sales grew a whopping $21 million.
The Manitoba Lotteries Corporation surged ahead unfazed by the dire economy gaining $21 million compared to 2008. It was bottom's up for The Dairy Farmers of Manitoba whose products chalked up a healthy $12 million increase in 2009 over 2008.
How a company performed depended on what business it was in which will always be the case. HudBay Minerals for an example was off by $261 million as zinc prices softened and internal strife saw several changes in leadership which has now allegedly been fixed. A real story is the continuing success of Winpak the Winnipeg-based packaging company which set a sizzling standard with a increase of more than $40 million year over year expanding operations in the US. The company's net earnings for the year of CDN $49.3 million or CDN $0.76 per share out performed the prior year's performance by 45.9 per cent during a period of economic downturn around the world. Winpak's stock is publicly traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
I thank those companies who shared their performances with us under difficult times. Their participation allows us to present valuable exclusive perspective to MANITOBA BUSINESS Magazine. Our magazine continues to be a privately owned independent benchmark for business news attracting major advertisers and subscribers which any good publication needs to do well. See you next issue with more.
Ritchie Gage, Editor-in-chief