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Orders up at New Flyer

IT'S getting more difficult to find a seat on the bus and that's good news for Winnipeg bus maker New Flyer Industries.

After struggling through a period of weak orders following the big financial recession, New Flyer's order books are getting much stronger.

Total order activity in the second half of 2012 was much better than the previous four quarters and represents the third consecutive quarter of improved orders.

In the fourth quarter of 2012, the company booked total orders -- including both firm orders and options -- of 1,055 equivalent units, representing the company's highest level of order intake since the fourth quarter of 2008.

An equivalent unit (EU) gives an approximate measure of the size of a bus, and a bus longer than the typical 40-foot bus represents two units.

New firm orders were received in the fourth quarter of 2012 for 407 EUs with a total value of $191.6 million, a significant increase compared to firm orders of just nine EUs valued at $3.8 million in the fourth fiscal quarter ended January 1, 2012.

New options were received in the quarter for 648 EUs worth $273.1 million, compared to no new options awarded during the same period in 2011.

In addition, New Flyer was successful at converting options for 190 EUs with a total value of $74.6 million during the quarter as compared to 152 EUs with a total value of $64.4 million last year.

In addition to New Flyer's success in building its order book, the total bid universe -- an indicator of the forecast for overall transit bus market demand and active bids -- has increased by 46 per cent in the last year.

New Flyer's order activity could receive an early boost in the first quarter of 2013 with the possibility of a big sale to LA Metro.

The Los Angeles transit authority has recommended to its board to buy 550 New Flyer compressed-natural-gas buses for $302.9 million and an option for an additional 350.


Miraculins, U.S. firm team

A Boston area pharmaceutical company said it will license a biomarker from Winnipeg medical diagnostic company Miraculins Inc. to help identify at-risk mothers for pre-eclampsia early in their pregnancy.

Alere Inc. negotiated a deal with Miraculins three years ago to do the research and development on a number of biomarkers that Miraculins had originally licensed from Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.

Alere is a leader in maternal-care diagnostics and is working on a blood test to help quantify risk in women when pre-eclampsia is first suspected.

Chris Moreau, Miraculins CEO, said his understanding is Alere is looking to commercialize the test and use the Miraculins biomarker.

The Winnipeg company has a royalty agreement with Alere, which will mean a revenue stream for Miraculins once the test hits the market.

Earlier this week, Miraculins announced a distribution arrangement with PharmaChoice drugstores in Eastern Canada to make its skin cholesterol test available at 50 stores, eventually growing to 350. It also has a deal with London Drugs for the skin cholesterol test, called PreVu, in Western Canada.


Construction booming here

MANITOBA posted the second-largest increase in building-permit activity in the country in November, Statistics Canada said Thursday.

The agency said Manitoba municipalities issued $326.2 million worth of permits during the month. That was an increase of 28 per cent from October's total of $254.8 million, second only to Prince Edward Island's 42.6 per cent improvement.

The spurt in construction activity left permit values running 37.9 per cent ahead of last year's pace after the first 11 months of the year -- $2.3 billion versus $1.7 billion.

November's increase was broadly based, with both the residential and non-residential sides of the industry showing gains. Residential permit values jumped by 48.8 per cent to $175 million, while non-residential permit values were up 10.2 per cent to $151.1 million.

Manitoba also had the largest year-over-year jump in permit activity, at 59.8 per cent. Statistics Canada said $204.1 million worth of permits were issued in November 2011.

Manitoba was one of only three provinces to see a month-to-month increase in permit activity. Ontario had the largest decline, followed by Quebec and Saskatchewan.

Nationally, $6.2 billion worth of permits were issued during the month, which was a drop of 17.9 per cent from October and the lowest monthly total since January 2012. It followed a 15.9 per cent increase in October.


New-home prices rise

THE cost of buying a new home in Winnipeg rose 0.4 per cent in November, Statistics Canada said Thursday.

The November increase in the province's new-housing price index followed a 0.5 per cent increase in October.

The agency said 13 of the Canadian cities it surveyed saw month-to-month price gains. London, Ont., led the way with a 0.6 per cent increase.

Winnipeg and Toronto/Oshawa saw the largest year-over-year escalation in prices, at 4.1 per cent, the agency said. Fifteen other cities also reported November-over-November price gains.

Canada's new-housing price index rose 0.1 per cent in November. That followed a 0.2 per cent rise in October. The year-over-year increase was 2.2 per cent.


More Zywave layoffs

A year ago, 21-year-old Winnipeg financial services software company Emerging Information Systems Inc. (EISI) was sold to a Milwaukee company called Zywave with the claim the Winnipeg shop would remain a centre of excellence for the company.

It may still be, but unconfirmed reports say it has a lot fewer people working there now.

Two different sources said as many as two-thirds of the company's employees were let go this week.

This follows layoffs of about 50 people at the beginning of last year.

When Zywave closed its acquisition of EISI in November 2011 it had about 200 employees in Winnipeg.

The Winnipeg company's financial-planning software, NaviPlan, and needs-analysis tool Profiles are used by more than 250,000 financial professionals. Zywave officials in Milwaukee and Winnipeg would not return phone calls.


-- staff, with files from The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 11, 2013 B4

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