Thursday, February 19, 2015

Canadian rail strike over; what about U.S. ports?

“At least the Canadian government has the balls to step into the fray and get them back to work,” said a Canadian broker. “What is Obama doing for the West Coast of the U.S.?” 

By Ken McEntee

(The Paper Stock Report) Almost as quickly as it started, the Canadian rail strike ended. Canadian Pacific (CP) and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) agreed on February 16 to enter into binding arbitration, putting an end to the work stoppage by CP's locomotive engineers and conductors.
Meanwhile, recovered paper traders are wondering when the U.S. federal government is going to take action to end a West Coast port slowdown that is holding up import and export activity.

“At least the Canadian government has the balls to step into the fray and get them back to work,” said a Canadian broker. “What is Obama doing for the West Coast of the U.S.?”

Meanwhile, in an appearance this week on CNBC’s Mad Money investment show, Waste Management President and CEO David Steiner called on the federal government to be more proactive.

“We have tens of thousands of materials that are ready to be shipped to China but it can’t be shipped because of the slow down at the ports,” Steiner said. “We’re joining with all the American businesses saying let’s do something to get this resolved. Let’s be a little more proactive at the federal government level to get this resolved and not hurt the economy more than it has already been.”

In Canada, an arbitrator was to be appointed by the federal government to oversee binding arbitration talks.

"This decision ensures both sides will get back to the table, and gets us back to moving Canada's economy forward," said E. Hunter Harrison, CEO of CP. “While we would have preferred a negotiated settlement, this is the right thing to do at this time."

Restructure contracts

Steiner also told Mad Money host Jim Cramer that Waste Management has restructure its contracts for recyclables.

“When the commodity prices go down so that your processing costs are actually higher than what you can sell the materials for, that’s a recipe for disinvestment into recycling,” Steiner said. “So what we told customers is we need to restructure to make sure that we can make money long term in recycling, not just so waste management can do better, but so that we can do better for the environment, because as a business, we have to make money to invest in recycling assets.”

Waste Management last week reported that recyclable commodity prices had a negative $0.03 per diluted share effect on the fourth quarter of 2014, but were more than offset by benefits from operational improvements in the recycling line of business. Overall, recycling operations positively affected earnings by $0.01 per diluted share in the fourth quarter when compared to the fourth quarter of 2013, despite an average old corrugated container price decline of 24 percent.

The company said recycling operations improvements are not expected to keep pace with recent recycling commodity price declines such that the recycling line of business is estimated to be between a negative $0.03 and $0.05 per diluted share in 2015 compared to 2014, assuming no further degradation in the prices of commodities.

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