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Artis sets new record

with four latest deals

ARTIS Real Estate Investment Trust continues to snap up commercial properties at a record-setting pace, announcing four more deals with a combined value of more than $92 million.

The Winnipeg-based REIT said Monday the new deals include two acquisitions and two unconditional agreements to purchase. Two of the properties are in Alberta, one is in Saskatoon, and the fourth transaction involves a portfolio of five industrial sites in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

Even before these four transactions, Artis set a company record for the highest dollar volume of purchases in a single year. At that time, Nov. 6, the total was $940 million worth of deals completed, with several more waiting to close.

With the four latest deals, the tally now sits at $986 million in completed transactions, with at least $47.3 million more pending.

"Contrary to recent news reports out of the U.S., we are not going firm on the acquisition of the IDS Centres in downtown Minneapolis," Artis president and CEO Armin Martens said in a written statement. "The IDS Centre is not a property Artis has under contract or letter of intent."

The largest deal announced Monday was the purchase of the West Portfolio of industrial buildings in the GTA for $26.5 million. The portfolio consists of five buildings with a total of 296,795 square feet of leasable space.

The second-largest deal involved the acquisition of a 74,156-square-foot retail development in Saskatoon for $18.4 million.

The two unconditional agreements involve a new 83,329-square-foot retail centre in Spruce Grove, Alta., which is being purchased for $26.4 million, and a 71,654-square-foot industrial property under construction in Acheson, Alta., which Artis is acquiring for $20.9 million.

With the two new completed deals, Artis's property portfolio now includes 220 retail, office and industrial properties in Canada and the United States, with a combined total of 23.4 million square feet of leasable space.

Artis shares (AX.UN) trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange, and closed Monday up 12 cents to $15.92 on a trading volume of 141,827 units.

-- Murray McNeill

Chief BMO economist retires

TORONTO -- Bank of Montreal (TSX:BMO) chief economist Sherry Cooper is retiring after a 30-year career at BMO Financial Group.

Cooper, an executive vice-president, plans to step down effective Jan. 30, the bank announced Monday.

"Sherry has built a reputation throughout North America for her straightforward, engaging style," president and CEO Bill Downe said.

In addition to her role at the bank, Cooper is a member of the economic advisory committee of the American Bankers Association. The 12-member group is regularly called upon by the U.S. Federal Reserve Board, the U.S. Congress and the administration to provide perspectives on the U.S. and global economies.

In 2010, she received the Lawrence Klein Award for U.S. forecasting accuracy, beating out a panel of 50 economists.

Ford to fix coolant software

DEARBORN, Mich. -- Ford Canada will update software on 2013 Escape SUVs and Fusion cars to fix a coolant problem that can cause fires.

Last month, the automaker recalled about 91,500 of the vehicles, including some 9,850 in Canada, after getting complaints about overheating and fires. It urged owners to get loaner cars from dealers until Ford found a fix. Only vehicles with 1.6-litre turbocharged engines are affected.

Among the recalled vehicles in Canada, about 6,350 Escapes are in customers' hands and about 200 Fusions.

Ford product development chief Raj Nair says the problem happens when a coolant doesn't flow through the radiator to be cooled. That is because a valve is out of sync with the thermostat. Overheated coolant can blow gaskets and leak onto hot exhaust parts. The problem has caused nine fires.

People Corp. revenue a new high

PEOPLE CORP., the Winnipeg-based national provider of group benefits, group retirement and human resources services, announced record year-end revenue of $27.2 million.

That represents 11.2 per cent growth. The company also recorded a 15.5 per cent increase in EBITDA to $2.7 million.

Net income for the year ending Aug. 31, 2012 was up 54.1 per cent to $726,153

The company closed three acquisitions in the past four months and company officials say the momentum in the acquisition program has never been stronger.

People Corp. shares were up four cents to 39 cents in light trading Monday morning.

Ex-IMF chief, maid settle lawsuit

NEW YORK -- Former International Monetary Fund leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn and a hotel maid settled her lawsuit Monday over sexual-assault allegations that sank his political career and spurred scrutiny of his dealings with women on two continents.

State Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon announced that after lengthy negotiations in the suit brought by Nafissatou Diallo, the parties "came together and put terms of a settlement on the record." The amount of the settlement was kept confidential.

Strauss-Kahn did not attend the hearing Monday at a Bronx courthouse. Diallo, a 33-year-old housekeeper from Guinea, her hair covered by a leopard-print scarf, looked composed and resolute as the deal was announced.

The lawsuit stemmed from a May 2011 hotel-suite encounter that also led to criminal charges, forced Strauss-Kahn's resignation from the IMF and cut off his potential candidacy for the French presidency.

-- from the news services

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 11, 2012 B7

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