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  1. Avec quelques commentaires architecturaux pour vous tous. Source: Dallas News “This,” says Martin Robitaille, “is the Old Sulpician Seminary. It dates to 1685 and is the oldest building still standing in Old Montreal. And this,” he goes on, sweeping his hand at a building across the street from the seminary, “is Mistake No. 1.” The more formal name of the latter edifice is the National Bank of Canada Tower. It was finished in 1967 and is done in the International Style: 52 concrete pillars rising 32 stories, covered in black granite, framing black-tinted windows. “Its elegant, sober appearance was intended to harmonize with the rest of the historical quarter of Old Montreal,” according to a panel in the nearby Centre d’histoire de Montréal museum, but many, including Robitaille, think it most certainly does not. Robitaille could be considered biased: He’s a professional tour guide, and his beat today is the section of Montreal just north of the St. Lawrence River, roughly a dozen blocks long and three blocks wide, that is the city’s historic center. The quarter’s small, crooked streets are filled by handsome buildings of dressed limestone, some somberly Scottish and plain, some effusively Italian, with intricate carvings and terra cotta ornamentation. Stand at any of a dozen intersections — Sainte-Hélène and des Récollets is a good example — and you are transported, architecturally at least, back in time. Which is why Robitaille finds the incursion of something in the International Style so grating. It really ruins the mood. His tour begins at Place d’Armes, in the shadow of a statue of one of the people who founded the city in 1642, Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve. “They came here to convert the natives,” Robitaille says. “Not so successful. After about 20 years, it became a commercial center. The fur trade.” As European demand for fur grew, so did Montreal. Its success as the funneling point of pelts from Canada’s vast forests to the Continent made it the obvious spot to locate head offices when settlers began to pour into the west. “The Golden Age was from 1850 to 1930,” Robitaille says. “That’s when Montreal was at its best.” And that’s when most of the buildings in Old Montreal were constructed. Robitaille’s tour takes us along Rue Saint-Jacques, once the heart of Montreal’s — and Canada’s — financial district. At the corner of Rue Saint-Pierre he points out four bank buildings, two of which, the CIBC and the Royal, still perform their original function. The Royal’s banking hall, built in 1928, is “a temple of money,” our guide says: soaring stone, coffered ceiling, echoing and imperious. The other two banks have been turned into high-end boutique hotels . LHotel is the plaything of Guess Jeans co-founder Georges Marciano. Marciano has sprinkled its lobby and hallways with $50 million worth of art from his private collection, including works by Roy Lichtenstein, Joan Miró, Robert Rauschenberg , Marc Chagall, David Hockney, Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol. Across the road, the former Merchants Bank is now the St. James, “considered the most luxurious hotel in town,” says Robitaille. The top floor is where folks like Elton John, U2 and the Rolling Stones stay when they’re in town. We twist and turn through Old Montreal’s narrow streets. Hidden away at 221 Saint-Sacrement is one of the few old houses left, three stories, solid stone. Today, it houses offices. “Most of the architecture surrounding us is commercial, not residential,” Robitaille says. The banks were the most lavish in design, but the warehouses, many now renovated as condominiums, were nearly as spectacular. When Robitaille was a child, his parents never brought him to Old Montreal. Then, as now, it was a bit cut off from the present-day downtown, further north, by the auto route Ville-Marie. After the banks decamped in the 1960s, Old Montreal spent the next several decades in decay. At one point, much of it was to be torn down for yet another freeway. A slow-swelling preservation movement finally gained traction in 1978 when the grain elevators blocking the view of the St. Lawrence River were demolished and a riverside walk opened. Over the next three decades, investors began to see the value in resuscitating the neighborhood. Now, more than 5,000 people call Old Montreal home, living mainly in converted warehouses. Restaurants, cafes, small hotels and plenty of art and clothing stores keep the area bustling. A tour like Robitaille’s is a fine way to be introduced to Old Montreal. For those who want to know more, two museums, the Centre d’histoire de Montréal, in a 1903 fire hall next to Place d’Youville (the site of the two Canadas’ parliament until rioters torched it in 1849), and the Pointe-à-Callière Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History, are the places to go. In the basement of the latter are the ruins of buildings that previously stood on the site, along with part of the tunnel that Little Saint-Pierre River once ran through and the city’s first graveyard, filled largely with the bodies of those killed by Iroquois attacks in the settlement’s earliest days. For those who prefer to strike out on their own, Discover Old Montreal, a well-illustrated booklet published by the provincial government, provides a detailed self-guided walking tour and is for sale in both museums. For those who just want to soak in the ambience, the simplest thing is to start in Place Jacques Cartier and stroll first east and then west along Rue Saint-Paul, Montreal’s oldest street. (Its rough paving stones make comfortable walking shoes a necessity.) Robitaille’s final stop is at the Château Ramezay. Built in 1705 as a home for the governor of Montreal, it served several other purposes through the years, including sheltering Benjamin Franklin in 1776, before it became a museum in 1895. “It’s one of only six buildings from the French period, before 1763, still standing,” says our guide. A block away is the modern courthouse complex, finished in 1971 and designed by the same people who did the National Bank tower. “That,” says Robitaille with a final flourish, “is Mistake No. 2.” And so Old Montreal comes to an end.
  2. ArcelorMittal To Shut Down Montreal Plant On June 30 March 26, 2008 12:21 p.m. EST Montreal, Canada (AHN) - The largest steel manufacturer will shut down its wire factory in Montreal on June 30. Around 100 Canadian workers employed by ArcelorMittal at the Lachine plant are expected to lose their jobs. ArcelorMittal said it had to close the Montreal facility because of high production cost, oversupply of products and the strong Canadian currency. The plant has 153 employees, but only 53 of the workers will be transferred to ArcelorMittal's steel wire mill at Saint Patrick. Alain Robitaille, general manager of ArcelorMittal's wire division, said demand for steel wire among carmakers had declined in the U.S. over the past six years. At the same time, the Canadian dollar had appreciated vis-a-vis the greenback, making it more expensive for American buyers to purchase their steel requirements from Canada. "ArcelorMittal cannot continue operating two wire mills in a context where it is more advisable to operate only one plant," Robitaille told the Associated Press. On March 14, the company petitioned an Ontario court to require its partners in Wabush Mines to sell to the firm their majority share in an iron ore joint venture in Labrador and Quebec. Prior to ArcelorMittal's court petition, U.S. Steel Canada and Cleveland-Cliffs withdrew from negotiations with ArcelorMittal to sell their combined 71 percent share, but did not explain why.
  3. La Banque Laurentienne augmente son dividende 5 septembre 2008 - 09h27 Michel Munger La Banque Laurentienne (LB) annonce ce matin qu'elle a accru ses profits de 33% au troisième trimestre et qu'elle augmente son dividende. Le dividende est en hausse de 6% à 34 cents par action. Il sera versé le 1er novembre aux actionnaires inscrits aux registres le 1er octobre. Le troisième trimestre a été une bonne période pour la banque montréalaise. Les profits se sont élevés à 30,9 M$ ou 1,17 $ par action, contre 23,2 M$ un an plus tôt. Cependant, ces chiffres tiennent compte d'un gain net de 31 cents l'action sur la vente de titres de la Bourse de Montréal. Sans ce gain, les profits s'élèvent à 86 cents par action. Les analystes recensés par Bloomberg prévoyaient 84 cents. Le revenu total de la banque a monté de 13% à 171,1 M$, ce que la direction attribue à un bon rendement de ses activités dans le monde du crédit. «Nous sommes heureux des solides résultats obtenus lors de ce trimestre, alors que nous avons pu bénéficier d'une excellente croissance des prêts et des dépôts, ainsi que d'un gain relativement important sur la titrisation de prêts hypothécaires», dit le PDG Réjean Robitaille. «En outre, tous nos secteurs d'activité ont amélioré leur performance, d'un exercice financier à l'autre, et contribué ainsi au développement de la banque», ajoute M. Robitaille. «Cependant, poursuit-il, le récent ralentissement de l'économie canadienne, conjugué à la forte croissance de nos prêts, nous a incités à agir avec prudence et augmenter notre provision générale pour pertes sur prêts.» Cette provision s'est élevée à 18,5 M$ au troisième trimestre, contre 10 M$ au trimestre précédent. Au 31 juillet, la Laurentienne gérait un actif de 19,3 G$, en hausse de 8,4% depuis le 31 octobre 2007. L'action de la banque reculait de 0,7% à 38,82 $ à l'ouverture vendredi à la Bourse de Toronto.
  4. Laurentian thrives in trying times PETER HADEKEL, Freelance Published: 7 hours ago In the midst of the worst banking crisis in decades, small, regional-based Laurentian Bank is beating the pants off its much larger rivals. Earnings are up more than 30 per cent so far this year, and Laurentian stock has risen 37 per cent since January. That compares with a 14-per- cent decline for Bank of Montreal shares, a one-per-cent drop at Royal Bank and a 21-per-cent fall at CIBC. The TMX financials index is down nine per cent over the same period. Laurentian has plenty of cash and its capital ratio is among the best in the industry, Réjean Robitaille says. So much for the talk that a small financial institution could not survive in an age of behemoths. Laurentian, the country's seventh-largest bank, had only a tiny exposure to the asset-backed commercial paper market that collapsed in Canada and no exposure to the U.S. mortgage market. It's one of the few feel-good stories in the current financial mayhem. In contrast, big mortgage lenders and an investment bank in the U.S. have gone down, and huge writeoffs have been taken at most of the big banks in Canada. "It's bad," Laurentian CEO Réjean Robitaille said yesterday when I asked him about the troubles hitting the financial system. This week, the U.S. nationalized mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, while investment bank Lehman Brothers teetered on the brink. But investors shouldn't lump all financial institutions together, he says. In this case, small really is beautiful. "Look around the world, there's a lot of institutions that may not have the same size as others but that are doing quite well. Why is that? Because they have a good focus, and strong execution. "Look at what happened in the United States to the big players. ''Nobody four or five years ago would have said that Bear Stearns or Lehman Brothers" would get into trouble, Robitaille said. Clearly, being a giant is no advantage right now. Laurentian may not have the same scale as some of its rivals, but it can react more quickly. Give it credit for making some smart moves. Its total exposure to the troubled non-bank, asset-backed commercial paper market, frozen last year under the so-called Montreal Accord, is just $20 million. Of that amount, about $4.3 million has been written off. It wasn't dumb luck. The Laurentian credit committee wasn't comfortable with the ABCP market or with other exotic securities that other banks piled into, Robitaille said. "We've got a lower risk profile. ... We weren't in subprime lending or structured investment vehicles or derivatives," he said, rhyming off some of the complex products that have backfired on bigger banks. As a result, the balance sheet is strong and conservatively funded to a large extent by personal deposits. Laurentian has plenty of cash - about $4.5 billion - and its capital ratio is among the best in the industry, Robitaille says. In this case, lack of ambition has served it well. Five years ago, it sold 57 branches in Ontario to TD Bank, deciding that it couldn't afford to spread itself too thin. "We can't be everything to everyone," Robitaille says. The bank has identified three areas where it's focusing its energy and investment. These include the retail and small business market in Quebec, commercial real estate lending across Canada and financial products marketed to independent financial advisers. The bank also maintains a foothold in the investment business through Laurentian Bank Securities. Ironically, given the troubles banks have had in housing in the U.S., Laurentian is doing well by securitizing mortgages in Canada. It packages federally insured Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. home loans for resale to investors, earning a profitable spread when it does so. "It's a very good product," Robitaille says, and this has turned out to be "the cheapest way to fund the bank." Third-quarter earnings per share were a record for Laurentian. "In a challenging year for banks, this is exceptional," said Desjardins Securities analyst Michael Goldberg in a research note. [email protected]
  5. La Banque Laurentienne prévoit une autre année record Publié le 04 mai 2009 à 17h24 | Mis à jour le 04 mai 2009 à 17h27 La Presse Canadienne Montréal La Banque Laurentienne (LB) fait un pied de nez à la récession: elle s'apprête à connaître un nouvel exercice record en matière de dépôts et de prêts. C'est ce qu'a indiqué lundi le président et chef de la direction de l'institution montréalaise, Réjean Robitaille, au cours d'une allocution prononcée à la tribune du Cercle canadien. «On connaît nos six premiers mois de l'année, on connaît ce qu'on a dans le pipeline et c'est déjà plus élevé (en volume) que l'année dernière», a-t-il expliqué en point de presse par la suite. Il est encore trop tôt pour savoir si les profits atteindront eux aussi un niveau inégalé. Au dernier exercice, terminé le 30 septembre 2008, le secteur particuliers et PME de la Laurentienne a enregistré un chiffre d'affaires de 415 millions $ et un bénéfice net de 45,4 millions $. Les profits nets totaux de la Banque ont atteint 102,5 millions $ sur des revenus de 630,5 millions $. L'institution profite de la bonne résilience de l'économie québécoise, mais elle sait aussi se faire opportuniste. Pendant la saison REER, elle a offert, par le biais des conseillers financiers indépendants qui sont clients de sa filiale B2B Trust, un compte d'investissement à intérêt élevé qui lui a permis d'aller chercher «des milliards de nouveaux dollars très, très rapidement», s'est félicité M. Robitaille. Des fonds que l'on prêtera à la clientèle d'affaires de l'ensemble du pays. La crise du crédit, qui a réduit les possibilités de financement pour les entreprises, en raison notamment du retrait de certaines banques étrangères du marché canadien, a ouvert de nouvelles occasions d'affaires pour la Laurentienne. «Je reçois des appels que je ne recevais pas avant», a confié le PDG. «Il y a des projets qui nous intéressaient plus ou moins par le passé parce qu'il y avait tellement de compétition et que la tarification était à des niveaux qui étaient, selon nous, pas profitables. Eh bien là, tout à coup, l'environnement (l'écart entre les taux d'intérêts d'emprunt et de prêt) fait que c'est intéressant pour le client et que ça peut l'être pour nous.» Les meilleurs rendements obtenus du côté du financement commercial permettent à la Laurentienne d'atténuer quelque peu la diminution des marges bénéficiaires dans le secteur des hypothèques résidentielles, une situation attribuable à la vive concurrence et aux faibles taux d'intérêt. Pas si pire, la récession? Fait intéressant, Réjean Robitaille n'est pas convaincu que la récession actuelle est la pire depuis la Grande Dépression, comme le répètent plusieurs économistes depuis des mois. «Jusqu'à présent, ça semble mieux que celle du début des années 1980», a estimé celui qui se qualifie d'«éternel optimiste». Par contre, la récente poussée des bourses ne veut pas dire que le pire est nécessairement derrière nous. «2009 va être une année relativement difficile», a convenu M. Robitaille, ne sachant trop comment interpréter la «lueur» des dernières semaines. «Les pertes sur prêts vont augmenter», a-t-il prévenu, avant d'ajouter qu'«aucune banque n'est immunisée» contre une récession. Le grand patron a expliqué lundi la solidité actuelle de la Laurentienne par les leçons tirées de l'éclatement de la bulle technologique, en 2000-01, qui lui avait coûté cher. Cette prudence a dissuadé la banque de se lancer massivement dans le papier commercial adossé à des actifs (elle en détenait tout de même pour 20 millions $ en 2007) et les produits dérivés complexes. Pour la suite des choses, Réjean Robitaille craint qu'on sorte de la crise sans apporter des changements importants au système économique. Comme bien d'autres, il s'attend à ce que la réglementation soit resserrée. Mais en évoquant certains scandales financiers américains des dernières années, il constate «que les gens n'ont pas vraiment appris». Circonspect sur les réformes à mettre de l'avant, M. Robitaille glisse tout de même que la rémunération de certains dirigeants américains a été «scandaleuse». Il souhaite que l'on mette moins l'accent sur le rendement à court terme pour privilégier davantage le long terme. Quant à la nomination de Michael Sabia à la tête de la Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, décriée par certains commentateurs, le grand patron de la Laurentienne se montre beau joueur. «Ce n'est pas maintenant qu'on peut juger de la pertinence de M. Sabia, ça va être dans quelques années», a-t-il affirmé.