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Ontario teachers fund eyes soccer after dumping Leafs (That hurts)

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Teachers' eyes soccer It hasn't taken the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan long to go after soccer after giving up on hockey.

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The pension fund manager, which sold its controlling stake in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment to BCE Inc. and Rogers Communications Inc. last year, is closing in on a deal for Britain's Goals Soccer Centres PLC, which operates dozens of pitches in the country.

Goals Soccer Centres said in a statement today it has received a "preliminary approach" from the Canadian pension fund, though it cautioned that may not lead to an actual deal.

The British company is behind what's known as five-a-side soccer, which it describes as one of the fastest growing sports in the country. One of its centres, it says, typically holds between nine and 14 pitches on at least 2.5 acres.

Shares of the company, whose market value tops $100-million, soared on its announcement today.

(It's like owning the ice rink instead of the team but still ... Just wait until the Leafs make the playoffs.)

Coty bids for Avon Shares of Avon Products Inc. climbed today after a U.S. rival launched an unsolicited bid for the door-to-door company that has been ailing of late.

Coty Inc. is bidding $23.25 (U.S.) a share, which values Avon at about $10-billion, but the target company said the offer's too low.

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It's not the first time Coty has gone after Avon. Today's announcement also disclosed that it proposed a lower offer last month.

Pressure builds on CP The activist shareholder pushing for change at Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. continues to ramp up the pressure on the company in its heated proxy battle.

Bill Ackman's Pershing Square Capital Management, now the railway's biggest shareholder, has brought in another big name from the industry to its slate of proposed alternative directors, The Globe and Mail's Jacquie McNish and Brent Jang report.

The addition of Stephen Tobias, a former executive at Norfolk Southern Corp., brings the number of alternative directors to six in advance of CP's May 17 annual meeting.

Chalco strikes SouthGobi deal Robert Friedland's Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. is selling its majority control of to a Chinese aluminum company that's looking to diversify into coal.

Aluminum Corp. of China, known as Chalco, is launching an $8.48-a-share bid for up to 60 per cent of SouthGobi, whose main asset is a coal mine in Mongolia.

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Ivanhoe owns 57.6 per cent of SouthGobi, and has agreed to sell to Chalco for up to almost $900-million. Selling just 60 per cent of the stake would net $533-million.

"Ivanhoe's board, in conjunction with our financial and legal advisors, has determined that the value offered by this transaction is an excellent opportunity for our shareholders to realize significant value through our creation of what has become one of the fastest growing coal producers on China's doorstep," said Ivanhoe chairman David Huberman.

Euro zone jobless rate climbs Life is getting progressively worse in many of the euro zone's troubled countries, notably Spain.

Unemployment in the 17-member monetary union inched up in February to 10.8 per cent as more than 17 million people search for work.

Today's numbers from Eurostat highlight again the extreme differences among the countries of the euro zone. The highest rates are in Spain, at almost 24 per cent, and Greece, at 21 per cent, while the lowest are in Austria, at 4.2 per cent, and the Netherlands, at 4.9 per cent.

Jobless levels among young people, at almost 22 per cent, are crippling. In Spain and Greece, more than half the youth are without work.

Separately today, a fresh reading of the region's manufacturing sector showed industry continuing to contract.

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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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