Years ago, young people with an eye to impressing the opposite sex at snappy dances, would break into the Canadian Two Step and strut across the floor. It’s a dance with a slow polka 2/4 beat. These days the Canadian Two Step refers to the on going negotiations between Canada’s biggest media owner, the insolvent Canwest, its banks and 8% noteholders who are owed somewhere around $C3.7 billion or more.

Two weeks extension in every four, a slow beat that encourages partners to look into each other’s eyes and tell porkies, such as: Canwest: “We will repay the money, its just that we are a little short, so give us a loan for the next couple of weeks’. From the banks and noteholders, “the cheque is never in the mail, we can shut you tomorrow, here’s a few million more”.

It’s a ritual that is fascinating Canadian business and amusing those in Australia with an interest and knowledge, such as the Ten network, the most saleable of Canwest’s assets, if only there were any buyers. There won’t be for ages because the media is now the death industry not to invest in, having assumed that mantle from the world’s banks and especially America’s zombies.

The company this morning told the markets that its new deadline to “do something” about its debt is May 19.

You get the feeling there’s an automated message service that kicks in at midnight of the day of the latest extension deadline, to be triggered by a Canwest executive, holding hands with one of its bankers or note holders. Out goes the message, Canwest gets a few more million dollars to handle payroll and other costs over the next fortnight, then the various parties reschedule a meeting that they know will end in the same result.

Peter Fray

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