December 30, 2015 12:15 pm

Tough year for business gave rise to bewildering corporate speak

Target Canada defied the trend in corporate speak this year in its blunt disclosure in January: "Today Target Corporation announces that it plans to discontinue operating stores in Canada."

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley
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CALGARY – From disruptive synergies to opening the kimono, corporate speak can range from the mildly irritating to the entirely bewildering. And with 2015 an often tumultuous year for business, such language thrived as companies tried to deflect unwelcome news.

Here’s a look at some of the more unusual bafflegab.

Calgary-based Atco didn’t formally announce in November it was cutting jobs, but a spokesperson did confirm they were happening, sort of. The company had this, and nothing more, to say about the layoffs:

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“Atco is responding to the extremely challenging economic times. We remain dedicated to the communities we have the privilege to work in and are committed to providing safe and reliable services to our customers. We wish to thank all of the people of Atco – past and present – for their tremendous contributions to our company.”

TD Bank had an equally non-committal response in October when asked about the layoffs it was implementing, saying only that after an organizational review “some roles are changing and some are being impacted.” The company declined to elaborate on what “being impacted” meant.

In its third quarter results, Telus announced that — along with a dividend hike — it was cutting 1,500 full-time jobs as a result of “efficiency initiatives.”

The telecom giant said the job cuts were “a necessary element of aligning our organization with the growth, customer service and capital allocation activities we are implementing.”

And Suncor Energy said in January that it had “implemented a series of workforce initiatives” that would see 1,000 positions lost.

But job cuts weren’t the only thing companies tried to avoid saying outright.

Last month, plane and train maker Bombardier, which lost US$4.9 billion in the last quarter, said it was setting out a plan to “further stabilize and de-risk our business, solidify our liquidity, and transform our company through a transition period.”

Bankruptcies and funding issues also crept up this year as the resource sector crumbled, but companies didn’t want to come out and say just how cash-strapped they were.

In early October, Parallel Energy Trust said its US$165 million credit line was not renewed and “Parallel is continuing to work with its lenders on alternative arrangements. There can be no assurances that alternative arrangements will be agreed to with Parallel’s lenders.”

The Calgary company filed for creditor protection in November.

Sometimes companies are forced to respond to speculation in the market but aren’t prepared to confirm any news.

When word first leaked that Canadian Pacific Railway was preparing a takeover bid for Norfolk Southern, the company had only this to say:

“On behalf of the Toronto Stock Exchange, Canadian Pacific Railway Limited advises that there is no material news pending at this time. CP does not comment on market rumour and speculation.”

The following week, CP announced its proposal to take over the U.S. railway.

But some of the biggest corporate news of the year was delivered straight up.

When Valeant Pharmaceuticals decided to end its relationship with a questionable drug distributor, the company came out and said it.

“We have lost confidence in Philidor’s ability to continue to operate in a manner that is acceptable to Valeant,” the Quebec pharmaceutical giant said, adding that it was “severing all ties with Philidor Rx Services.”

And when Target announced it was closing all of its 133 Canadian stores employing 17,600 people, the news release began on a blunt note.

“Today Target Corporation announces that it plans to discontinue operating stores in Canada.”

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