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Power loses steam

POWER Financial Corp. has reported a 9.5 per cent increase in operating earnings in the first quarter, but net profit fell some 13 per cent as a result of one-time items that produced a $96-million swing on its balance sheet.

The international management and holding company and parent of Great-West Lifeco. and IGM Financial, two of Canada's largest non-bank financial-services companies, said net earnings attributable to shareholders in the three months ending March 31 were $394 million, or 55 cents per share.

That was down from $454 million, or 64 cents, in the same 2012 period.

Revenue was $455 million, up from $417 million.

Power Financial said it booked a $13-million impairment charge in the most recent period, while the comparable period enjoyed an $83-million gain on disposal of assets and other charges and income.

On an operating basis, the company reported net earnings of $407 million or 57 cents per share compared with $371 million or 52 cents in the prior-year period.

In addition to its holdings in Great-West and IGM, Power Financial also has a 50 per cent increase in Parjointco N.V., which in turn has about a 55.6 per cent equity interest in Pargesa Holding SA.


Messenger spreading

ORLANDO, Fla. -- BlackBerry came out swinging on Tuesday with a slate of announcements that included an expansion of its popular BlackBerry Messenger service to its competitor's devices and a new smartphone aimed at emerging markets.

Chief executive Thorsten Heins said the time was right for BBM, a key feature of BlackBerry smartphones, to be available on iPhones, iPads and Google Android devices as he kicked of the company's three-day BlackBerry Live conference.

"BBM actually was a key element of (why) people were going to BlackBerry," he said after the unveiling of the smartphone maker's latest plans.

"We feel this platform and its product are standing on its own legs. That is the time to release BBM to another level and really let BBM flourish on its own."

The move is a gamble for the company which has many loyal users who have stuck with their BlackBerry devices just to keep access to BBM. But the messaging service has run into competition from other similar options like WhatsApp and Waterloo, Ont.-based Kik Messenger, both which are available on BlackBerry and other phones.

BBM offers a more seamless and secure experience that includes video chat, an option that many of its competitors don't offer yet. The iPhone and Android version of the application, which will be available for free, will start with text messaging and then roll out other features including video, Heins said.


Windows 8.1 to be free

NEW YORK -- A planned Windows 8 update to address complaints and confusion with Microsoft's new operating system will be made available for free this year, the company said Tuesday.

Microsoft also announced a name for the update: Windows 8.1.

Not charging extra for Windows 8.1 is consistent with the company's practice of offering "decimal point" updates to operating systems for free. However, when Microsoft Corp. announced the update last week, it didn't say that it would be free. The company also hadn't disclosed the system's formal name, leaving open the possibility that it would be a larger update, perhaps to Windows 9. The update had been known simply by its code name, Blue.


-- from the news services

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 15, 2013 B6

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