Morning Business Briefing

Caesars Palace casino, others to ban Google Glass

The Globe and Mail

These are stories Report on Business is following Wednesday, May 8, 2013.

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Caesars bans Google Glass
The Caesars Palace casino in Las Vegas is banning Google Glass, a move that may seem obvious but one that raises questions about fast-evolving technology and what we can do with it.

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We’re seeing it more and more, from advanced smartphones, to Google’s new eyewear, to 3-D-printed guns.

The computer-glasses, which aren’t on the market yet, are like something out of The Jetsons, boasting the ability for pictures and video, and access to e-mail, for example. And they are causing a stir. According to published reports, Caesars Palace says it won’t have them at the table.

“Gaming regulations prohibit the use of computers or recording devices by persons who are gambling,” Caesars Palace spokesman Gary Thomson told Computerworld.

“Therefore, individuals wearing Google Glass would not be allowed to gamble. If they attempted to do so, [they] would be subject to arrest under various state gaming regulations.”

Mr. Thompson told the trade publication of “numerous incidents” of people in the United States using computers or hidden cameras to track cards during blackjack, for example, and “when they were caught, they went to jail.”

Spokesmen for Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and in Windsor, Ont., were not immediately available for comment.

These are early days yet, of course, but others are already taking steps, as well, Computerworld notes.

“If you’re one of the few who are planning on going out and spending your savings on Google Glasses – what will for sure be a new fad for the fanny-pack wearing never removing your bluetooth headset wearing crowd – plan on removing them before you enter The 5 Point,” Seattle’s 5 Point Café says on its website.

“The 5 Point is a No Google Glass zone. Respect our customers privacy as we’d expect them to respect yours.”

Google hasn’t yet finalized the product, and, a spokeswoman told The New York Times, “we are thinking very carefully about how we design Glass because new technology always raises new issues.”

Tims names Caira CEO
Tim Hortons Inc. finally has a new chief executive officer, Marc Caira, a longtime executive of Nestlé.

The coffee-and-doughnut chain announced the appointment today as it posted a 2.9-per-cent drop in first-quarter profit and a 1.4-per-cent gain in revenue.

Mr. Caira, 59, will take the helm July 2, in the midst of a push by a U.S. hedge fund for a better performance.

He takes over for Paul House, who had been standing in in the role and who will now become non-executive chairman.

Tims also posted a dip in quarterly profit to $86.2-million or 56 cents a share, from $88.8-million, also 56 cents, a year earlier. Revenue rose to $731.5-million from $721.3-million.

“The operating environment remained challenging in the first quarter,” the company said.

“In Canada , we believe consumer confidence and discretionary spending have been negatively impacted by rising unemployment, high consumer debt and the cooling housing market,” it added in a statement.

“U.S. consumers are also facing elevated unemployment relative to pre-recessionary levels, as well as concerns arising from changes to fiscal policy. In response to the low-growth environment, competitive activity in the consumer sector remains intense, impacting the performance of many participants in the sector.”

Tims added it has several initiatives planned for this year.

The company is under pressure from a U.S. activist hedge fund, Highfields Capital, which holds about 4 per cent of Tims, to hold the line on its U.S. operations consider spinning off its property holdings into a real estate investment trust.

It’s also looking for a recapitalization.

Housing starts dip
Canada’s residential construction industry continues to slow as the housing market cools.

Housing starts in April were running at an annual pace of 174,858 units, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said today, down from the March level of 181,146.

Construction in urban areas fell by 2.5 per cent, driven down by a 3.5-per-cent drop in starts on multiple units such as condominiums.

“As expected, the trend in total housing starts continued to moderate in April,” said CMHC’s deputy chief economist, Mathieu Laberge.

“As a result, it drew closer to its historical average and is in line with estimates of household formation. Recent moderation in total housing starts has been led by the multiple starts segment, particularly in Ontario.”

Quebecor profit slips
Quebecor Inc.’s news media division took a major hit in the first quarter on a dramatic drop in advertising spending on newspapers, The Globe and Mail's Bertrand Marotte reports.

The Montreal-based media giant, on the other hand, says its mobile telephone service performed well, with 18,300 subscriber connections in the first quarter.

Quebecor earned $35.6-million or 57 cents a share in the quarter, compared with $71.4-million or $1.13 a year earlier.

Revenue was off 1 per cent at $1.05-billion.

“In addition to intense competition from new media, traditional newspapers are also facing large reductions in advertising spending by local and national advertisers," said vice-chairman Pierre Karl Péladeau.

"Despite signs of a potential recovery in advertising spending in the coming quarters, news media segment management took immediate steps to adjust its cost structure again in light of the conditions experienced in the first quarter of 2013.”

China trade buoys markets, but ...
Chinese trade numbers may buoyed markets today, but, as always, there’s speculation about their accuracy.

Exports climbed 14.7 per cent in April, according to the official numbers from Beijing, while imports rose at a faster 16.8 per cent.

This would be good news for other countries counting on China for their own exports, notably commodities. But the numbers continue raise questions over credibility.

“Chinese trade figures have been drawn into question of late due to discrepancies between Chinese export figures and data tracking imports from China released by China’s trading partners,” said Derek Holt and Dov Zigler of Bank of Nova Scotia.

“Chinese authorities have been forced to address this issue of late and have generally attributed it to alleged ‘over-invoicing’ by Chinese firms.”

Currency wars redux?
Bank of Nova Scotia today suggests an escalation in the “currency wars,” citing yesterday’s interest rate cut by Australia’s central bank and today’s confirmation by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand that it intervened in the markets.

On top of that, Sweden’s finance minister warned of his currency’s strength.

“Developments over the last 24 hours suggest that the response to the spillover effects of G4 central bank policy (Fed, BoE, BoJ and ECB) are intensifying,” said Camilla Sutton, Scotiabank’s chief currency strategist, referring to the Federal Reserve, Bank of England, Bank of Japan and European Central Bank.

“However, until the fed moves closer to tapering [quantitative easing], we would expect that the currencies of small open advanced economies remain well supported.”

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