NEW YORK (Reuters) - BlackBerry smartphone maker Research In Motion is a national “jewel” worthy of support, Canada’s industry minister said on Friday, insisting that Canada is open to foreign investment even though it blocked a $39 billion potash deal last year.
“RIM is a Canadian jewel,” Christian Paradis told Reuters in an interview in New York on Friday, speaking in his native French. “I think we have to support companies like RIM.”
Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM said on Friday no longer expects to meet its full-year earnings forecast, in the latest in a series of setbacks that have fueled speculation the faltering smartphone maker could become a takeover target.
Paradis declined to say whether the Canadian government would block any foreign takeover of the company, calling it “speculation.”
Still, he said, “What I hope for is that RIM be able to be on a path of prosperity. As for speculation, we’d have to see what happened and consider if the law would apply.”
But Paradis spoke of the importance of having business friendly tax policies to make Canada enticing, pointing to a decision by coffee shop chain Tim Hortons to move its headquarters back to Canada in 2009 after 14 years away.
Paradis was in New York to promote Canada as a country open for business and a place that welcomes foreign investors. That reputation took a big hit in 2010 when the government blocked a proposed purchase of Potash Corp of Saskatchewan by Australian mining company BHP Billiton.
The minister said the Conservative government’s decision to stop BHP from acquiring the world’s largest fertilizer maker has not come up in his conversations with U.S. executives.
“Honestly no. Again, what I tell people is to look at this as a whole. One mustn’t take an isolated incident and draw general conclusions,” Paradis said.
He pointed out that the Potash deal was one of only two deals ever blocked under a law that can stop foreign investments that would bring no “net benefit for Canada.”
“If you look at Canada’s history, we are very open to foreign investment,” said the minister, who is from the mainly French-speaking province of Quebec.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said last year that his government would take a look at the law to give investors clearer guidelines about what kind of foreign investment would pass muster.
Paradis said Canada’s low corporate taxes and new measures such as tariff exemptions for machinery imports were key parts of Canada’s efforts to woo foreign investment.
“There are ways to improve transparency and give more certainty,” Paradis said, noting that he welcomes input. “I‘m all ears.” But he declined to say when the parliamentary committee might come back with recommendations.
Reporting By Phil Wahba in New York; Editing by Frank McGurty and Janet Guttsman