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'No Sexiness in the City': UBS plays down dress code fuss

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UBS downplays code UBS AG is trying to clear up the issue of its over-the-top dress code with its staff.

The big Swiss bank became - pardon me - the butt of jokes this week with a trial dress code that ran for more than 40 pages and discussed everything from underwear to the smell of garlic and onions on an employee's breath.

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That brought such jibes as "No Sexiness in the City" from the Daily Mail and others, including me, who had some fun at the expense of UBS, using up valuable staff time by having two employees help translate the document.

As the bank, which was hammered in the financial crisis and took a government bailout, tries to buff up its image, it decided to test the dress code at five branches.

Here are some highlights:

  • Don't eat food with tell-tale signs.
  • Socks that run to the knee are good, so skin isn't bared when legs are crossed.
  • Women should not wear short skirts, underwear shouldn't be too tight, and they should carry spare pantyhouse. "When you are in corporate wear you must never wear the blouse or shirt too tight: no part of your bosom must be visible, as this would look vulgar," according to a Reuters translation.
  • Men should not dye their hair because then it won't match the age of their skin. Dark grey, black or navy suits are good.
  • For both men and women, underwear shouldn't be visible. And for men, a translated version advises, "your underwear should be functional, and shouldn't be visible through your clothes, nor should anyone be able to guess what's under them." (I want to meet the person who wrote that, he or she at least has a sense of humour.)

Today, Reuters reports, UBS downplayed the code in an internal memo, citing inaccuracies and misunderstandings in the wake of all the coverage in the media.

"The key element of the dress code is the requirement for staff to wear a dark suit, white shirt/blouse, red tie/scarf and black shoes ... The dress code also contains a number of other general tips and hints."

BMO strikes U.S. deal Bank of Montreal is moving deeper into the United States, striking an all-stock deal for Marshall & Ilsley Corp. of Milwaukee.

The deal announced today values the U.S. bank at about $4.1-billion (U.S.).

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BMO has long been looking to do a deal that will transform its U.S. operations, The Globe and Mail's Tara Perkins and Tim Kiladze write. Today's deal would boost BMO's U.S. division to 695 branches, from 321, and deposits to $92-billion from $54-billion.

Globe and Mail Streetwise columnist Boyd Erman reports that M&I stock was valued at $5.79 before the BMO bid, which is worth $7.75, down from almost $50 in 2007.

"It's clearly transformational for our U.S. operations," said chief executive officer Bill Downe.

Suncor in huge deal with Total French oil giant Total SA is joining forces with Suncor Energy Inc. in the oil sands, a move that will relaunch its stalled Voyageur upgrader project.

Suncor today released a 10-year "growth strategy" that included Total paying $1.75-billion to enhance its partnership with Canada's biggest energy concern.

Total is acquiring about 19 per cent of Suncor's stake in the Fort Hills project, giving it almost 40 per cent of an interest, and 49 per cent of the Voyageur upgrader project. In turn, Suncor takes just shy of 37 per cent of Total's stake in the Joslyn initiative.

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The two companies said they have agreed "to a joint commitment" to develop Fort Hills and Voyageur" together with the aim of bringing both on stream early in 2016.

"We see several strategic advantages in the partnership with Total," said Suncor chief executive officer Rick George.

"They will be able to access our technological expertise and 43 years of oil sands knowledge, while we will benefit from Total's global operating experience."

Globe and Mail Street wise columnist writes in his Morning Meeting post today that the partnership is a "savvy play" by Mr. George.

What have Europe's leaders achieved? Not much, by the looks of it. As Moody's Investor Service heaped more fuel on the fire today via a hefty downgrade of Ireland's credit rating, the European leaders meeting at a two-summit agreed on a new, permanent rescue mechanism from 2013 onward.

But that's about it, and it doesn't ease market concerns all that much, though it did help boost the euro today.

"The EU summit offered little to chew on other than theatrics", said Scotia Capital economists Derek Holt and Gorica Djeric.

"Nothing was advanced by way of near-term options, and only a loose commitment to a permanent crisis response apparatus by 2013 was brought forward. Thus far the near-term policy options remain squarely focused upon the [European Central Bank] freshly armed with a capital injection and implicitly relied upon to do what it takes to preserve liquidity in European bond markets."

RIM comes through ... again Research In Motion Ltd. continues to defy its critics who say the BlackBerry maker can't keep up. Even Steve Jobs, of rival Apple Inc., has said that "we've now passed RIM, and I don't see them catching up with us in the foreseeable future."

Yet RIM stock is on the rise as, despite the naysayers, Canada's tech king continues to come through with solid earnings. After markets closed yesterday, it topped analysts' estimates with a third-quarter profit of $911.1-million (U.S.) or $1.74 a share, compared to $628.4-million or $1.10 a year earlier.

Bolstered by its touch-screen Torch model, revenue climbed 40 per cent from a year earlier, to $5.49-billion from $3.92-billion. It shipped 14.2 million smart phones in the quarter, and added some 5.1 million subscribers, bringing the subscriber account base to more than 55 million. And it projected earnings per share for the fourth quarter of $1.74 to $1.80 and revenue of $5.5-billion to $5.7-billion.

Not that there's not pressure. As Globe and Mail technology writer Omar El Akkad writes today, some analysts believe the competition in the hot smart phone market, with the likes of Apple's iPhone and the Android system from Google Inc. , will grow more intense. And its share of the market has eroded.

Here are the views of some analysts:

"Management's acknowledgment of competitive ecosystems is positive, indicating RIM is cognizant of the shifting dynamics. Though it appears RIM is taking on a more channel partnership approach, we maintain our view R&D will likely have to increase." Phillip Huang, Maynard Um, UBS Securities

"The fact that guidance is decently above consensus, to me that's pretty positive. Things are trending in the right direction." Tavis McCourt, Morgan Keegan & Co., to Bloomberg News

"The miss on new subscriber estimates is a thin reed to cling to for the bears. The magnitude of the earnings beat suggests that the Torch has done really well." Tero Kuittinen, MKM Partners LP, to Bloomberg

"Everyone knew there was a strong quarter coming out of the company and they delivered." Colin Gillis, BGC Financial, to The Associated Press

"We remain positive on the stock and view this quarter as another step toward improving sentiment." Tim Long, BMO Nesbitt Burns

"There is some concern that [RIM's guidance]could be too optimistic perhaps because of the ongoing pressure, particularly from Android, in international markets." Shaw Wu, Kaufman Bros., to Reuters

"The concerns for this name don't go away - they don't go away with this quarter. What happens in the U.S. marketplace when the iPhone hits Verizon? [What happens]when the cheaper Android handsets start to crack into the international base?" Colin Gillis, BGC Partners, to Reuters

Today in Personal Finance

Everyone wants a great credit score, but few know exactly how to achieve it. Here are a few simple things you can do to improve your score and why it matters.

Some rules of thumb are just dumb, like replacing 70 per cent or more of your pre-retirement income. Financial adviser Ted Rechtshaffen argues you can get by on much less.

Columnist Rob Carrick rounds up the best personal finance links from around the Web.

Today in Your Business

Air Canada has come out on top in Business Traveler magazine's best-of list for 2010. Of 53 awards, Air Canada took five, including best North American airline for international travel, more than any other company this year.

If you want the marketplace to be more receptive to your marketing communications, columnist Ryan Caligiuri writes, you need to stop talking about yourself and start educating them. In business, there are two types of marketers: egotists and educators. Which one are you?

Given the economic landscape, now is probably the perfect time to take a break in the action, columnist Mark Evans says. With the holidays just around the corner and consumers looking to spend time with friends and family, as opposed to doing business, there is no better time to hit the pause button.

From today's Report on Business

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