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May 16, 2018

Canada 'bound by our riches' in commodities: Onex CEO

Onex CEO: Canada is bound by commodity prices

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The Canadian economy is bound by its own commodity riches, according to the head of Onex Corp.

Gerry Schwartz, the founder, chairman and CEO of the Toronto-based private equity firm with $32 billion of assets under management, told BNN Bloomberg in an interview that the global nature of commodity prices makes it difficult for Canadian companies to capitalize on the country’s vast resources – and those sectors don’t appeal to him as investments.

“We’re a country bound by our riches,” Winnipeg-born Schwartz told BNN Bloomberg’s Amanda Lang. “The issue with Canada is the real heavy value – in dollar values, economic value – is so concentrated in forestry and oil and mining.”

“Most of those commodities move on a world market basis, with very little control in the hands of the owner of any particular company.”

When it comes to the global investing climate, Schwartz said he’s still waiting for the market to hit its ceiling, something he says he expected to happen by now.

“We’ve sold things at great prices and great opportunities, only to find out that the market kept going up for them and they were even more profitable in somebody else’s hands,” Schwartz said.

“We’re in a long, long-running bull market... So far, we’re not finding the top.

Onex CEO: We're focusing on investing in the Americas and Europe

Gerald Schwartz, president and CEO of Onex, discusses his current investment strategy and the outlook for markets.

Onex reported a quarterly loss of US$158 million, or US$1.56 per share, while raising its dividend by 17 per cent on May 11.

Schwartz said he doesn’t believe in changing his investing style just because world markets continue climbing.

“I don’t believe in short-term-ism at all,” he said. “We’re not traders. It takes work, it takes time, it takes energy, it take rebounding, it takes perseverance. It takes all of those qualities to make a successful investment our way.”

Schwartz also cautioned on interest rates, but focused his warning on lenders.

“Rates are up, but credit’s even more available and on even easier terms,” he said. “For a long time we saw covenant light [loans], today we’re often seeing no covenant loans. Just ‘pay us back at the end of five years, or 10 years, or whenever it is.’”

“It should alarm the people making the loans, I think.”

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