Archive for July, 2008

Shun Feng serves up perfect birthday dinner

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Chinese restaurants often the best source

Stephanie Yuen
Sun

Shun Feng Sea-food Restaurant general manager Wallace Yuen with some of the featured dishes. Shown are steamed live B.C. prawns, served with soy sauce, braised beef ribs with chef’s special sauce, deep fried dumplings filled with shrimps and gooseliver, and baked buns with almond filling. Photograph by : Ian Smith, Vancouver Sun

SHUN FENG SEAFOOD RESTAURANT

1425 – 4380 No. 3 Road, Parker Place, Richmond.

604-304-6088

Opens daily for lunch and dinner

Major credit cards

Price: $

- – -

When my family decides to go out for a seafood dinner, we often choose a Chinese restaurant. And no, it has little to do with the fact that we are Chinese, but a lot to do with live seafood; the many varieties we can enjoy in one meal and most importantly, our budget.

We recently celebrated a birthday at Shun Feng Seafood Restaurant located inside Parker Place Mall in Richmond. The 10-course dinner included B.C. seafood such as geoduck, sea-cucumber, spot prawns, two whole Dungeness crabs and ling cod; plus other meat and vegetables dishes; and dessert; came to around $40 each. To us, that is an affordable price tag.

Chinese restaurants have long shifted away from the boring traditional red and gold dragon décor but are using brighter and warmer colour schemes and contemporary features. Shun Feng’s open style dining room and clean design is a good example of that. What also impressed us was the attentive but not overwhelming service. The only complaint we had was the untimely delivery of the food to our table, the kitchen must be operating in a high speed mode that evening.

Chinese call geoduck “The elephant trunk clam;” a name that perfectly describes this funny looking sea animal. We consume the whole clam but the shell; the “head” we throw in to the stock pot; the trunk, or body, we either eat raw with wasabi and soy like sashimi or we stir-fry it.

The meat of sea-cucumber is the body part which looks spongy and has gelatinous fluffy rice like texture when cooked. The muscle is soft and crunchy and is actually the wall linings inside of the sea-cucumber body. Both the geoduck and the sea- cucumber muscles can be rubbery if not done right.

Shun Feng chose juliennes of geoduck and sea-cucumber muscle stir-fried with Chinese chives and bean sprouts as the hot appetizer. The chef did a wonderful job here by not overcooking the meat. “I stir-fry the vegetables first, then put some oil in the wok and heat it up till its red hot. The meat must be stir-fried quickly to keep them tender and juicy. Then I return the vegetables to the wok,” executive chef Kit Poon explained.

The Dungeness crabs were wok- fried with chili black bean sauce, known as “harbour style” fried crab, a well-known recipe from the boat people in Hong Kong. The crabs were drenched with such lingering spicy flavour that they were literally finger-licking good.

The fish was my least desired dish of the evening, probably because it arrived after the ravishing Flambe drunken spot prawns which was cooked table side. The prawns were dunked in Chinese wine, removed, seasoned and pan-fried. Just like crepes Suzette, liquor was added in and ignited, creating the amazing flambe effect. This “show” dish obviously took everyone’s full attention and the robust flavour prawns mesmerized our palates too.

The vegetable we opted was baby choy sum. They were so young and tender that if the chef left them in the wok three seconds longer, they would be too soggy already. Lucky for us, his timing was perfect.

Though we brought our own birthday cake, the kitchen sent out a complimentary birthday dessert — steamed sweet buns stuffed with red bean paste in the shape of a Chinese peach, symbolizing best wishes. Steamed Chinese buns are white in colour, they are aromatic and cuddly soft when hot, and is definitely a great way to end a birthday dinner.

© The Vancouver Sun 2008

 

A Kits spot abuzz with satisfied customers

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Good food, great service, everyday prices spell success

Mia Stainsby
Sun

TRATTORIA ITALIAN KITCHEN.

1850 West Fourth Ave., 604-732-1441.

www.trattoriakitchen.ca.

Open for lunch and dinner, 7 days a week.

No reservations.

Restaurant visits are conducted anonymously and interviews are done by phone.

- – -

In the first few weeks, Trattoria Italian Kitchen buzzed like an apiary, with people on the street waiting for a table. Inside, it was even more hive-like. It takes something special, beyond the no-reservations policy, to cause this kind of kerfuffle in a restaurant.

At the Trat, the fourth (and not last) of the Glowbal group of restaurants, it comes down to good food, great service and everyday prices for yummy, yummy food.

On my first visit, I thought I’d been outed. The attentiveness! The friendly staff! The eagerness to please! The jovial chatter! It was abnormal.

I soon saw it wasn’t just me. Everyone was treated equally well.

People waiting for a table, both indoors and on the street, were offered nibblies and were chatted up by one or other of the senior staff.

Emad Yacoub, head of the Glowbal empire (Glowbal, Coast, Sanafir, Italian Kitchen), is smart. Some of the managers are allowed to invest in his restaurants, so what’s good for the restaurant is good for them.

And while some of the buzz is the rush to check out the sexy newbie in the neighbourhood, this place will be a thriving neighbourhood trat for some time to come. And, you know, it’s not just locals that it attracts. I can see myself coming from a distance after being struck by a craving for the Kobe beef meatballs (baseball size, $2.50 a pop) or the papparadelle with lamb sausage ($13).

As I said, the food is a big part of the success. Chef Jeremy Atkins rose up through the ranks of the Glowbal restaurants. He’s delivering great quality for the prices.

Glowbal’s got the advantage of buying in volume and getting a price break. I expected the kitchen would focus on pizzas and pastas (thumbs up on both) and that the entree-style dishes would be so-so. Well, not so. My half-chicken ($13) was juicy and flavourful. A forno-roasted whole trout stuffed with anise, lemon and herbs ($14) was rustically prepared and spot-on.

Note, however, that there isn’t much in the way of side dishes on the menu — they’re $6 apiece, if you want, but the cost of a meal is still very reasonable.

I loved the antipasto misto. It’s a $28 platter for sharing, and my share would have been enough for a meal. It was an uber-plate filled with roasted asparagus and mushrooms, Kobe meatballs, eggplant parmigiana, osso bucco croquette, forno-roasted clams, caprese salad, tiger prawns, and calamari with spicy tomato fonduta. Atkins uses dried pasta, but I would have sworn it was housemade. He divulged his pasta cooking technique: “You can’t cook too much at a time. If it says cook for 12 minutes, we cook it for six. And cool it properly, on a sheet tray with oil. And don’t rinse the starch off. It’s important! And you’ve got to let the noodles cook in the sauce for 30-ish seconds.”

Hey, I thought. Forget about about making my own pasta and drying the noodles all over my kitchen and dining room. I’m going back to dried De Cecco.

And the chicken isn’t organic or free-range, although it measures up, flavour-wise. He takes it off the breastbone and dries it on a sheet tray for 12 hours, “seasoning very aggressively with lemon zest and rosemary,” he says. Thus, the crispy skin. The wine list, with well-chosen Italian selections, is strong for a casual restaurant.

Yacoub says the next two operations will be a “sporty lounge” where Coast currently sits. And Coast will move to Alberni Street, next to Italian Kitchen. Beside Coast, a lounge called O.

And that’s it, as far as his expansionist moves go. “I promised my wife I’m going to stop,” he says.

© The Vancouver Sun 2008

U.S. inflation set to soar, Rubin says

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Province

CIBC’s Jeff Rubin believes soaring oil prices will drive up U.S. inflation to six per cent. CNS file photo

TORONTO – Jeff Rubin, chief economist at CIBC World Markets, pushed his bullish oil call one step further yesterday, forecasting in a report that soaring oil prices will drive the annual U.S. inflation rate to six per cent in the next six months.

He said the U.S. Federal Reserve will have to raise interest rates 200 basis points by the end of 2009 as a result.

The report says the U.S. economy has not seen an inflation rate this high since 1990 — and that only lasted four months.

“You’ve got to go back to 1982, in the midst of the stagflation that followed the second OPEC oil shock, to see the last time American inflation was clocked at that kind of pace for any sustained period,” Rubin said in the report.

Rubin forecast in April that oil would hit $150 US by 2010 — which looked possible only a few weeks ago when oil crested at $145 US, but less so now with oil at $121 US — and $200 US by 2012 on a wave of emerging market demand and a shrinking supply of politically stable sources.

And he said the last bastion against oil seeping into broader price pressures — wages — is set to fall. High energy prices give American manufacturing workers bargaining power that they have lacked for over a decade, while at the same time encouraging them to ask for larger pay raises to keep pace with the soaring price of gasoline, he argues.

Rubin expects to see a return to cost-of-living allowances (COLA) in North American wage negotiations, particularly in highly organized industries like steel.

“Back in the 1980s, most collective bargaining agreements of the day had cost-of-living allowances built into the wage scale,” Rubin said. “Those COLA clauses largely became self-fulfilling prophesies by ensuring that largely oil-price driven inflation would become self-sustaining through a wage-price spiral.”

To fight off the deepening inflation threat, the U.S. Fed will have to raise rates 200 basis points by the end of 2009, Rubin said. He notes that in 1990 the federal-funds rate — the U.S. central bank’s lever for adjusting overnight loans between commercial banks — was at around 7.5 per cent, a far cry from the current two-per-cent rate.

In contrast to the CIBC World Markets view, many economists believe the current U.S. inflation problem will be fleeting, as the massive housing crunch and economic slowdown suck oxygen from any inflationary embers and stop aggressive wage demands in their tracks.

© The Vancouver Province 2008

 

Mexican tapas on tap here

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Yaletown: Plus, wide selection offers chance to update your ‘tequila stories’

Mark Laba
Province

Manager Emi Numez with Camarones Enchipotlados and Ceviche de Pescado. SAM LEUNG – THE PROVINCE

TEQUILA KITCHEN

Where: 1043 Mainland St., Vancouver

Payment/reservations: Major credit cards. Call 604-681-2120.

Drinks: Beer, wine and tequila.

Hours: Mon.-Thurs., 5 p.m.-11 p.m., Fri., 4 p.m.-11 p.m., Sat., 10 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun., 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m.

- – -

There are two things most people I meet have in common. They all have a secret stash of condiment packs that they’ve scoured from fast-food establishments –enough, say, to keep every citizen of a small Eastern European nation rolling in ketchup, mustard and vinegar for at least a year — and everyone has a tequila story. My tequila experiences ended many moons ago when I disappeared and was found three days later wandering the Coquihalla Highway clad only in underpants, a sock puppet on each hand and a pair of deer antlers duct-taped to my head. Blackouts like that come only once in a lifetime, but they take work and persistence and the ability to shoot back tequila until you’re as blind as a cactus. I realized I was no longer up to the task. Let the younger generation pick up the slack I thought.

But tequila, or the devil’s sweat as I like to call it, has gotten a bad rap and the fact is good tequila can be sipped moderately and enjoyed without finding yourself waking up next to an inflatable sex doll in a trailer park. As evidenced at this relatively new Yaletown establishment with its earth-tone brick walls, cozy semi-circular plush booth seats mirrored by a semi-circle of open kitchen jutting out into the room and an overall casually chic sensibility. Plus, a tequila list that offers up the cream of the agave crop.

Peaches and I took a seat on the patio alongside the revamped shipping-dock promenade. The intriguing part of the menu here is the botanos, which in Spanish means small sharing plates that you fight over.

We began with the wonderful homemade guacamole, made to order so you can request a spice level, which is a new thing to me since I always believed guacamole was supposed to have the mild-mannered personality of say, a life-insurance salesman. This was an excellent green goop, a little flick of lime hiding in each bite and the hot chili sauce on the side carried all the thrills of almost stepping on a rattlesnake.

Cooled down with that Tijuana classic, a Caesar salad ($7), that was good enough to keep the creator of the thing, Mr. Cardini, from rolling around in his grave. Along with that we sampled a small side of tortilla soup ($3) that proved to be a rich reddish brown mire of tomato and dry chilies with thin pieces of tortilla, avocado, cheese and cream lurking in its murk. There were great layers of flavour in this stuff and I’ve got to say that on the slurpability scale this soup rates a seven or eight.

Next up on our botanos journey was Tostadas de Atún ($10). Two fair-sized crispy tortillas smeared with chipotle mayo were the foundation for thinly sliced raw tuna, red onion, avocado, cilantro and citrus dressing. Very good although I found the chipotle concoction a touch too sweet.

Finished with the queso con chorizo ($9) and two small pulled-pork tacos ($7). The first, consisting of melted cheese and house-made chorizo, and baked until slightly browned, got no complaints from me. Meat and gooey cheese — these are two of the basic building blocks of all human life. As for the latter, let’s just say this is one place that the shredded pig meat can comfortably call home.

It’s an inventive menu when it comes to Mexican food, revamped for the modern urban grazer without turning its back on tradition because, in the end, tradition and tequila are very much alike — both waiting to jump out from behind a cactus and bite you in the ass if you don’t show them some respect.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Reinventing Mexican cuisine and tequila dreams.

RATINGS: Food: A- Service: A Atmosphere: B+

- – -

5 GREAT PLACES FOR CLASSIC COCKTAILS

1 THE CASCADE ROOM: Named for Vancouver‘s original “beer without peer,” this cool, comfortable room hasn’t forgotten its roots with cocktails from a time when logger barons ruled the earth.

2616 Main St., Vancouver, 604-709-8650

2 GRUB: Great retro-style drinks in this spiffy and sparse room that warms up immediately when you set your lips to sipping a Casablanca or Great Gatsby.

4328 Main St., Vancouver, 604-876-8671

3 GEORGE: Ultra-swank factor abounds in this lounge where mixology borders on alchemy and the classics aren’t neglected in these trying modern times.

1137 Hamilton St., Vancouver, 604-628-5555

4 NU: A room that feels both retro and contemporary all in the same breath. Then, classic cocktails with some of the finest ingredients are bound to leave you breathless.

1661 Granville St., Vancouver, 604-646-4668

5 BONETA: A happening joint that balances style with comfort — and they take their cocktails seriously. Great classic entries like The Alfonso, The El Diablo from Trader Vic’s and The Vancouver, which first saw light in 1954 at the Sylvia Hotel.

1 W. Cordova St., Vancouver, 604-684-1844

- – -

FOOD FLASH

I’m giving you all plenty of notice to this Sept. 6 event so no one can complain about missing out on such a great food and wine shindig. Namely the first annual Wine & Culinary Extravaganza hosted by the Fraser Valley Wineries Association at Highpoint Equestrian Estate Community in Langley (200 Street at 8th Avenue) between 2-5 p.m. With wineries like Domain de Chaberton, Township 7, Sanduz and River’s Bend represented, along with fantastic food from local restaurants and culinary wizards, plus live entertainment, this celebration of all things Fraser Valley, at only $50 a pop, is sure to be a great soiree. Check the website www.fvwa.ca for tickets and more info.

THE LUNCH BOX

Azia

Selling Point: Sleek and modern Asian-style interior that sets up a nice counterbalance to the Old World recipes. And if you’re hitting The Scotiabank Theatre for a matinee, it’s not a bad spot to stop in and suck up some food first.

What to Eat: Check out appetizers like the wok-flash fried salt and chili calamari or the Szechuan BBQ spareribs. There are also some interesting noodle dishes like Ants Climbing Up a Tree (I’ll leave this a mystery) and Singapore-style fried vermicelli. Plus entrees like Mongolian beef, Malaysian chicken curry, grilled wild salmon with miso-sake sauce, Peking braised short ribs, Singapore chili prawns and braised long green beans in a spicy minced meat sauce. The only way to eat veggies.

EDIBLE CITY

CARDERO BOTTEGA

Lowdown: Calling itself a New York-style deli, this place lives up to its billing with a great array of specialty groceries and some of the most amazing take-out sandwiches you’ll ever taste.

What to Eat: I’d say just keep going back until you’ve tried every sandwich on the list. Check out the fantastic porchetta with provolone and lemon pepper mayo, the Caliente with hot capicolla, spicy eggplant, hot peppers and havarti, the Fat Tony with prosciutto cotto, prosciutto salami, provolone and marinated peppers, the Lafayette with garlic roast beef, balsamic onions, havarti and Creole mustard or the great New Orleans muffuletta, all served on a Portuguese bun. And all only $6.30.

1016 Cardero St., Vancouver, 604-689-0450

© The Vancouver Province 2008

 

Real Estate Council ratchets up realtor discipline

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

Derrick Penner
Sun

The Real Estate Council of British Columbia has handed out some of its stiffest penalties for the transgressions of realtors in a year that has been busier than 2007′s record pace for disciplinary action.

As of this week, the Real Estate Council, the self-regulatory body that governs the industry, has handed down 56 disciplinary decisions, compared to 52 for the first seven months of 2007.

Among the decisions, the council issued suspensions to 29 licensed realtors or their firms, including:

- The cancellation of Richmond property manager Randall Charles Frederick Lewis’s managing broker’s licence for professional misconduct relating to the failure to keep proper books, failing to respond to clients’ requests for documents, and failing to file a required accounting report to the council.

- The cancellation of property manager Kim Wayne Lem’s managing broker’s licence for professional misconduct related to failure to maintain proper books, and failing to immediately rectify the negative balance in a trust account.

- A two-year suspension of Nanaimo realtor Allan Joseph Lupton’s managing broker’s license for professional misconduct related to his failure to actively supervise activities in the office, failing to keep separate trust ledgers and ensure his brokerages realtors complied with council rules.

- A one-year suspension of strata property manager Daniel Arthur Bourke’s licence for professional misconduct related to his failure to maintain proper books, permitting payments out of a trust account resulting in a negative balance, and misappropriating funds from a trust account by making withdrawals for purposes other than those allowed under the Real Estate Services Act.

“We’ve raised the bar,” Maureen Coleman, senior compliance officer for the Real Estate Council, said in an interview.

“There is no doubt that in the disciplinary decisions over the last few years, year-over-year, penalties have increased for licensees.”

The council has been building up precedents for its rulings since taking over full regulatory authority for the industry in 2005 from the B.C. Financial Institutions Commission.

Coleman added that over the Real Estate Council’s last reporting year, which ran from July 1, 2007, to June 30, her compliance department received 563 written complaints, versus 543 for the year ending June 30, 2007, which was a record at that time.

The complaints added up during a year when the council also had a record 20,310 realtors licensed in B.C. That compares with a low of 12,678 licensees in 2001-02.

However, Coleman said the council still does not find that the inexperience of new licensees factors into the number of complaints and disciplinary measures being meted out.

Late last year when The Vancouver Sun reported on realtor discipline, Coleman said a rising number of cases had more to do with the torrid pace of transactions taking place in the market before it began to cool in 2007.

Coleman said that is still the case.

“The longer you’re in business, and the more productive you are, it may be a possibility that sooner or later something is going to go awry,” she added, “even with the best of intentions.”

Coleman said rising expectations of professionalism, and awareness of the council’s role among consumers, also continues to prompt complaints.

Realtors, Coleman said, “are trusted advisers with specialized expertise, and the consumer quite rightly expects that when he’s dealing with a licensee, he should be delivered a professional service.”

Coleman said “dual agency” — when realtors act for both the buyer and seller in a transaction — continues to be a particular concern that shows up in disciplinary actions.

Transgressions of dual-agency rules were behind one of the more serious penalties handed down this year, a 180-day suspension of Langley realtor Kenneth Edward Heppner’s licence.

Heppner, while working at Royal LePage Wolstencroft realty, “committed acts of deceptive dealing,” related to his role as a dual agent in six transactions over 2005 and 2006, which amounted to professional misconduct in the eyes of the Real Estate Council.

In several transactions, Heppner did not inform the property sellers in a timely fashion that the buyer was assigning the sale contract to another party, and misled his managing broker by saying he had no role in assigning the contracts when he did offer some assistance by providing the assignment document that the buyer used.

In one instance, Heppner advised a buyer to deposit with his bank a $200,000 cheque, which was not the certified cheque required, and wound up being returned because of insufficient funds.

The decision said Heppner testified that, while he knew his duties as a dual-agent, he acknowledged that he “was sloppy and failed to pay proper attention to detail,” and that “his conduct was substandard,” which he resolved to correct.

Coleman said about 60 per cent of complaints are resolved administratively. Council investigators can decide there was either no offence, the commission does not have jurisdiction, or it can issue a warning letter when transgressions were minor and did not harm a consumer.

For the cases that do proceed to investigation and review by a council complaints committee, Coleman said she is satisfied that they serve an educational function for other realtors.

“When we publish disciplinary decisions, we’re hopeful that that raises the bar and makes licensees very mindful of what their professional obligations are,” she added.

Discipline delineated

The Real Estate Council of B.C. has handed down some of its strictest penalties this year to realtors who have violated the provincial Real Estate Services Act and regulations.

Decisions handed down: 56

Licence cancellations: 3*

Reprimands to individuals

or brokerages: 42

Suspensions of individuals

or brokerages: 29

*(includes the brokerage and

individual licence in one instance)

Breakdown of suspensions

7 days: 12

14 days: 3

21 days: 5

28 days: 1

30 days: 1

45 days: 2

60 days: 1

180 days: 2

1 year: 1

2 years: 1

Source: Real Estate Council of B.C.

 

© The Vancouver Sun 2008

Real Estate Council ratchets up realtor discipline

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

Derrick Penner
Sun

The Real Estate Council of British Columbia has handed out some of its stiffest penalties for the transgressions of realtors in a year that has been busier than 2007′s record pace for disciplinary action.

As of this week, the Real Estate Council, the self-regulatory body that governs the industry, has handed down 56 disciplinary decisions, compared to 52 for the first seven months of 2007.

Among the decisions, the council issued suspensions to 29 licensed realtors or their firms, including:

- The cancellation of Richmond property manager Randall Charles Frederick Lewis’s managing broker’s licence for professional misconduct relating to the failure to keep proper books, failing to respond to clients’ requests for documents, and failing to file a required accounting report to the council.

- The cancellation of property manager Kim Wayne Lem’s managing broker’s licence for professional misconduct related to failure to maintain proper books, and failing to immediately rectify the negative balance in a trust account.

- A two-year suspension of Nanaimo realtor Allan Joseph Lupton’s managing broker’s license for professional misconduct related to his failure to actively supervise activities in the office, failing to keep separate trust ledgers and ensure his brokerages realtors complied with council rules.

- A one-year suspension of strata property manager Daniel Arthur Bourke’s licence for professional misconduct related to his failure to maintain proper books, permitting payments out of a trust account resulting in a negative balance, and misappropriating funds from a trust account by making withdrawals for purposes other than those allowed under the Real Estate Services Act.

“We’ve raised the bar,” Maureen Coleman, senior compliance officer for the Real Estate Council, said in an interview.

“There is no doubt that in the disciplinary decisions over the last few years, year-over-year, penalties have increased for licensees.”

The council has been building up precedents for its rulings since taking over full regulatory authority for the industry in 2005 from the B.C. Financial Institutions Commission.

Coleman added that over the Real Estate Council’s last reporting year, which ran from July 1, 2007, to June 30, her compliance department received 563 written complaints, versus 543 for the year ending June 30, 2007, which was a record at that time.

The complaints added up during a year when the council also had a record 20,310 realtors licensed in B.C. That compares with a low of 12,678 licensees in 2001-02.

However, Coleman said the council still does not find that the inexperience of new licensees factors into the number of complaints and disciplinary measures being meted out.

Late last year when The Vancouver Sun reported on realtor discipline, Coleman said a rising number of cases had more to do with the torrid pace of transactions taking place in the market before it began to cool in 2007.

Coleman said that is still the case.

“The longer you’re in business, and the more productive you are, it may be a possibility that sooner or later something is going to go awry,” she added, “even with the best of intentions.”

Coleman said rising expectations of professionalism, and awareness of the council’s role among consumers, also continues to prompt complaints.

Realtors, Coleman said, “are trusted advisers with specialized expertise, and the consumer quite rightly expects that when he’s dealing with a licensee, he should be delivered a professional service.”

Coleman said “dual agency” — when realtors act for both the buyer and seller in a transaction — continues to be a particular concern that shows up in disciplinary actions.

Transgressions of dual-agency rules were behind one of the more serious penalties handed down this year, a 180-day suspension of Langley realtor Kenneth Edward Heppner’s licence.

Heppner, while working at Royal LePage Wolstencroft realty, “committed acts of deceptive dealing,” related to his role as a dual agent in six transactions over 2005 and 2006, which amounted to professional misconduct in the eyes of the Real Estate Council.

In several transactions, Heppner did not inform the property sellers in a timely fashion that the buyer was assigning the sale contract to another party, and misled his managing broker by saying he had no role in assigning the contracts when he did offer some assistance by providing the assignment document that the buyer used.

In one instance, Heppner advised a buyer to deposit with his bank a $200,000 cheque, which was not the certified cheque required, and wound up being returned because of insufficient funds.

The decision said Heppner testified that, while he knew his duties as a dual-agent, he acknowledged that he “was sloppy and failed to pay proper attention to detail,” and that “his conduct was substandard,” which he resolved to correct.

Coleman said about 60 per cent of complaints are resolved administratively. Council investigators can decide there was either no offence, the commission does not have jurisdiction, or it can issue a warning letter when transgressions were minor and did not harm a consumer.

For the cases that do proceed to investigation and review by a council complaints committee, Coleman said she is satisfied that they serve an educational function for other realtors.

“When we publish disciplinary decisions, we’re hopeful that that raises the bar and makes licensees very mindful of what their professional obligations are,” she added.

Discipline delineated

The Real Estate Council of B.C. has handed down some of its strictest penalties this year to realtors who have violated the provincial Real Estate Services Act and regulations.

Decisions handed down: 56

Licence cancellations: 3*

Reprimands to individuals

or brokerages: 42

Suspensions of individuals

or brokerages: 29

*(includes the brokerage and

individual licence in one instance)

Breakdown of suspensions

7 days: 12

14 days: 3

21 days: 5

28 days: 1

30 days: 1

45 days: 2

60 days: 1

180 days: 2

1 year: 1

2 years: 1

Source: Real Estate Council of B.C.

 

© The Vancouver Sun 2008

 

International buyers bid on U.S. bargains

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

Anheuser-Busch and Chrysler Building are sold. What’s next?

Jessica Hall
Province

Majority ownership of New York City’s Chrysler Building was sold to the Abu Dhabi Investment Council. Photograph by : Reuters

PHILADELPHIA – With a record volume of international takeovers of U.S. companies, it almost appears America itself is up for sale.

The weak dollar and slumping stock prices of U.S. companies has created a window of opportunity for international buyers to snatch up American icons such as beer brewer Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc. and the landmark Chrysler Building in New York.

“The dollar has depreciated so much that America is on the sale rack,” said Sung Won Sohn, a professor of economics at California State University.

America has such an appetite for foreign goods — Chinese imports and oil — that U.S. dollars have gone overseas. Now, many Americans aren’t happy that foreign companies are buying pieces of America with the money we gave them in the first place,” Sohn said.

In the second quarter, acquisitions of U.S. companies by international buyers totalled $124.3 billion US, the highest total for any second quarter on record and jumping 23 per cent over the year-earlier quarter, according to research firm Dealogic.

International takeovers represented 22 per cent of all U.S. merger activity in the first half of the year, up from 17 per cent in the first half of 2007, Dealogic is reporting.

InBev NV‘s deal to acquire Anheuser-Busch for $52 billion gave Belgium the distinction of being the most active foreign buyer of U.S. assets in the first half of this year, followed by Spain and Canada, Dealogic said.

The Anheuser-Busch deal ranked as the second-biggest cross-border acquisition of a U.S. company in history, following Vodafone Group Plc’s $60.3 billion acquisition of AirTouch Communications in 1999, according to Thomson Reuters.

Other U.S. assets recently falling into international hands include Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc., which agreed to be acquired by Israel‘s Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., the world’s largest generic-drug company, for $7.46 billion; and eye-care company Alcon Inc. which is being bought by Switzerland‘s Novartis AG for about $27.7 billion.

Earlier this month, Swiss drugmaker Roche AG made a bid to acquire the shares of its U.S. partner Genentech Inc. it does not already own for $43.7 billion. Even the Pennsylvania Turnpike awarded long-term leasing rights to a Spanish-led investor group for $12.8 billion.

Although some investment bankers and analysts pin the spike in cross-border activity to the weak dollar, others contend that strategy and the desire to expand globally were the motivators behind many of these recent corporate deals.

“Strategic buyers don’t wake up in the morning and say: ‘This currency is cheap. I’m going to go do a deal.’ They do a deal because it’s strategic and makes sense,” said Herald Ritch, president and co-chief executive officer of investment bank Sagent Advisers.

“There’s no question that, on the margin, currency levels tend to influence decisions, but strategic deals get done because they fit a company’s strategy,” Ritch said.

European companies have been the most active buyers of U.S. assets, with 314 deals so far this year, compared with 117 deals by Asian acquirers, and 33 by African and Middle Eastern buyers, according to Thomson Reuters.

Europe and the U.S. dominate deal activity globally, so it makes sense that deals between those areas would predominate,” Ritch said.

Although some investment bankers view the second quarter’s record pace of U.S. takeovers as an anomaly, Sohn said the 13-per-cent depreciation of the dollar against major currencies over the past 18 months should fuel more acquisitions.

“There are trillions of dollars overseas that have to be put to work. This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Sohn said.

© The Vancouver Province 2008

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