Canada is the world’s tenth-largest global economy. With a population just short of 40 million, this is an impressive feat. With rising productivity levels and standards of living in the past decades, Canada has secured its place as one of the most developed nations on Earth. The country is a stellar example of a free market economy in which the business environment is fair and robust. However, how do large Canadian companies fare abroad?
In the past few decades, Canada has been largely successful in the global telecommunications industry. Perhaps the biggest Canadian business success story abroad is BlackBerry, a Waterloo-based telecom company that dominated the smartphone market in the late 2000s and into the early 2010s. According to Business Insider, the company once controlled 20% of the global smartphone market: everyone wanted a BlackBerry phone. At its peak in 2008, BlackBerry’s market cap reached $82Bn. Today, that number is just under $3Bn. Competition is what drove the company into the ground, notably with the introduction of the iPhone back in 2007. Today, BlackBerry has shifted its focus away from telecommunications and now specializes in enterprise software solutions and the Internet of Things.
Similarly, one might remember Nortel, a telecommunications company founded in Montreal in 1895. The Canadian company dominated the global telecom market in the 1970s, providing proprietary Local Area Networks to businesses. With the rise of the Internet a few years later, Nortel was determined to maintain its market share and began acquiring “dot.com” start-ups, which eventually led to massive losses when the bubble burst. Nortel went from being the ninth most valuable company in the world in 2000 to losing over 99.5% of its market capitalization in the years that followed. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2009.
Canada is the world’s tenth-largest global economy.
Canada’s food and energy industries are key to its economy and its balance of trade. The country’s vast and diverse territory makes Canada the fourth leading country worldwide based on natural resource value, according to a 2019 study. There are thirteen Canadian corporations in the 2020 Fortune Global 500 list. Food and energy companies account for five out of the thirteen. Those include George Weston, Enbridge, the Power Corporation of Canada, and Alimentation Couche-Tard.
Tim Hortons, one of Canada’s most famous companies, has been expanding beyond Canada as well. While most of the company’s efforts are concentrated domestically, and to a much smaller extent, in the United States, Tim Hortons has opened stores in China, Great Britain, Spain, the Philippines, and much of the Middle East. In 2014, Tim Hortons merged with fast-food giant Burger King, as part of Restaurant Brands International.
Another area of success for Canadian business is in the American banking sector. Of the thirteen Canadian companies listed in the Fortune Global 500 list in 2020, four are banks. These include the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Toronto Dominion Bank (TD), the Bank of Nova Scotia, and the Bank of Montreal (BMO). TD Bank is ranked ninth-largest bank in the US by Business Insider, with over $384Bn in assets as of August 2019.
In the global aircraft manufacturing industry, Montreal-based Bombardier Aerospace has had its share of success. Globally, it is the third-largest after European and American competitors Airbus and Boeing, despite recent trouble maintaining market share. The company’s “C-series” airliner was rebranded as the A220, following a joint venture between Airbus and Bombardier that created Airbus Canada Limited Partnership.
…the reality is that Canada is a major player in many different global industries
Canada’s success in media and journalism is remarkable as well. Thomson Reuters is headquartered in Toronto, and is one of the largest media conglomerates in the world, with a market capitalization of around $40Bn. Canadian television is booming and gaining worldwide attention today, notably after the CBC’s “Schitt’s Creek” won multiple awards at the 2020 edition of the Emmy Awards.
Finally, Shopify is showing real promise in global e-commerce. The company, founded in Ottawa, enables businesses to build their own online store. Shopify powers over a million businesses across 175 countries. As of 2020, Shopify is the most valuable corporation ($160Bn) in the Toronto Stock Exchange index (TSX). With the COVID-19 pandemic, many brick-and-mortar businesses turned to e-commerce. Shopify provided tools for these businesses to implement their online sales platforms and allowed them to compete against larger competitors such as Amazon. The company’s 2020 Q3 earnings grew by 96% year-over-year. In a growing e-commerce market, the growth prospects for the Canadian company are tremendous.
Canada is somewhat overlooked on the global corporate scene, much too often compared to the US due to their geographic proximity. However, the reality is that Canada is a major player in many different global industries. It will be interesting to see how Canadian business recovers from the pandemic, and if new “Made in Canada” industry leaders emerge from this crisis.