After Canada wildfire, a silver lining for businesses

Thu May 12, 2016 8:56pm EDT
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By Susan Taylor and Nicole Mordant

TORONTO/VANCOUVER (Reuters) - As the Canadian city of Fort McMurray prepares to rebuild after a wildfire reduced parts of it to ash, businesses from 'man camp' suppliers to pizza parlors are preparing for a spike in demand as clean-up crews, builders and oil sands workers pour into the region.

The fire destroyed more than 2,400 buildings, or around 10 percent of the Alberta city's structures, damaged more than 500 others and forced some 90,000 people to flee.

"As tragic as this situation is, there is a unique opportunity for a market that had gone very slow, to get some return of growth," said Russell Dauk, vice president at Alberta builder Rohit Group.

As oil markets weakened, Rohit's building starts tumbled 80 percent in Fort McMurray over the last three years, forcing it to cut three-quarters of workers there.

Providers of temporary housing, such as Houston-based Civeo Corp CVEO.N, say they are already busy with insurers and bankers who need somewhere to sleep after surveying damage. Its stock is up more than 21 percent since the fire started May 1.

Civeo, the biggest supplier of worker accommodations to Canada's oil sands projects, expects occupancy to rise at its seven lodges and 14,000 rooms in the area, said Chief Executive Bradley Dodson.

These so-called man camps are expected to be the only living quarters in the region for thousands of returning oil sands staff and recovery workers as the city itself remains off-limits to residents for the next several weeks.

Bookings at Civeo's Mariana Lake Lodge have swollen to over 700 from 300 before the fire, said Ian Robb, president of the union representing camp cooks and cleaners.   Continued...

A massive plume of smoke, from a wildfire north of the city, stretches over Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada Wednesday evening, May 5, 2016. Courtesy Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta/Handout via REUTERS