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G20 in 5 languages: Nichts, nichego, nada, rien, nothing

These are stories Report on Business is following Monday, Feb. 27, 2012. Get the top business stories through the day on BlackBerry or iPhone by bookmarking our mobile-friendly webpage.

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G20 finance leaders kick the can I returned today from a one-week vacation to find that concerns over Greece still linger, the Germans are arguing over the euro zone bailout fund, and another meeting of G20 finance officials has come and gone, with little apparent progress on the issues haunting the global economy.

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I could have stayed on the beach another week.

As The Globe and Mail's Kevin Carmichael writes in today's Report on Business, the finance ministers and central bankers of the Group of 20 held a weekend meeting in Mexico City where they turned up the heat on euro zone leaders to agree on the clout of their bailout schemes, but put off decisions on further support for the International Monetary Fund.

"This weekend's G20 meeting in Mexico saw countries lining up to turn the heat up on Germany to relax its opposition to an increasing of the €500-billion limit on the new bailout fund, the ESM, as well as the combining of it and the remaining €250-billion in the EFSF," CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson said of the two rescue mechanisms.

"There does appear to be some signs of that pressure starting to distil into a softening of this stance; after German finance minister Schaeuble said that such a move might be considered when Europe meets later this week in Brussels, after the latest vote on the Greek bailout in the German parliament," he said in a research note.

Key, though, is the fact that global officials want the euro zone to step up its efforts before the IMF gets anything more.

"There were some developments that came out of this past weekend's G20 meetings of finance officials (finance ministers and central bankers) in Mexico but, unfortunately (and not terribly surprisingly) nothing concrete," said senior economist Jennifer Lee of BMO Nesbitt Burns.

"There was general agreement that some sort of European firewall had to be set up but the amount was still under debate," she said.

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"There were reports that it could be as much as $2-trillion but much would depend on how much Europe is willing and able to beef up the existing bailout fund ... and knowing what that amount will be will determine how much other countries (China, Japan, the U.K., etc) kick in to the IMF. It appears that a decision or a plan will be made by (or at) the next G20 meeting in Washington at the end of April."

The summit came just before today's vote in Germany's Bundestag to approve the new bailout plan for Greece.

Fiera Sceptre in Natcan deal Fiera Sceptre Inc. and National Bank of Canada are reshaping the ranks of wealth managers.

Fiera today struck a deal to acquire National Bank's Natcan Investment Management for $309.5-million, while the bank gets 35 per cent of the newly merged business, with an option to go to 40 per cent.

"Our goal is to quickly become a major player in the ranks of North American asset managers," chief executive officer Jean-Guy Desjardins said in a statement. "Fiera will have approximately $54-billion in assets under management as a result of the transaction, vaulting our firm into the ranks of the largest independent asset managers in Canada."

Fiera, controlled by Mr. Desjardins, said the deal will put it in the top five of Canadian independent asset managers.

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"The transaction fits perfectly with our plan of developing key partnerships in order to grow our reach in selected areas of our wealth management business," said Luc Paiement, the executive vice-president for wealth management at National Bank. "It also helps us keep focused on our own core business of growing our advice-based distribution capabilities, which is one of our strategic priorities."

Enbridge chief to retire Canada's Enbridge Inc. is getting a new CEO.

The giant energy transporter announced today that Patrick Daniel, who joined the company in 1982 and has been CEO for more than a decade, is retiring this year.

Mr. Daniel will remain CEO until he leaves by the end of 2012, but the board appointed to the president's job Al Monaco, who heads the gas pipelines unit and has been with the company since 1995.

"As a board, we place very high priority on succession planning and on developing people to ensure the company's continuing success," said chairman David Arledge.

"Enbridge has an outstanding management team; choosing one individual to lead was not an easy decision. Over his 30 years of experience in the energy industry, Al Monaco has demonstrated exceptional leadership capabilities across the range of Enbridge's businesses."

The company pointed out that its share price has increased by 250 per cent under Mr. Daniel.

Who is Buffett's heir? The billion-dollar question floating through markets today is this: Who has Warren Buffett tapped to succeed him at the helm of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. ?

In his weekend letter to shareholders, a widely-watched, annual document, Mr. Buffett said he has a candidate and two backups. But he didn't name them, which appears to have caused some angst as the legendary investor gets on in years.

"Berkshire Hathaway is 100 per cent the product of Warren Buffett's genius," Philip Anthony Quinet, long-time investor, told The Wall Street Journal. "I know the board is comfortable with [his successor] but why can't loyal shareholders know who he is, too?"

It's not like he's leaving or anything like that - indeed, in his letter he said he's not going anywhere - but he did try to calm the waters, though with little apparent success.

Trial delayed BP PLC and the parties in a civil trial are scrambling to reach a settlement related to the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

The trial had been scheduled to begin today, but both BP and the lawyers for the plaintiffs said in a statement yesterday that the court agreed to delay it by a week to allow the company and the plaintiffs' steering committee, or PSC, more time to strike a deal.

"BP and the PSC are working to reach agreement to fairly compensate people and businesses affected by the Deepwater Horizon accident and oil spill," they said. "There can be no assurance that these discussions will lead to a settlement agreement."

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About the Author
Report on Business News Editor

Michael Babad is a Report on Business editor and co-author of three business books. He has been with Report on Business for several years, and has also been a reporter and editor at The Toronto Star, The Financial Post and United Press International. His articles have appeared in major newspapers around the world. More

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