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Corporate Profile
3221 North Service Road
POB 5028, Burlington, Ontario L7R 3Y8

Go to Laidlaw's Corporate Web site

Publicly-traded company listed on both the New York Stock Exchange (LDW) and Montreal and Toronto exchanges (LDM).


Transportation management services. School bus and public transportation. Ambulance services and hospital emergency room management. Retains a substantial interest in Laidlaw Environmental Services, a hazardous waste and trash disposal firm.


Officers: Peter N. T. Widdrington* (Chairman), James R. Bullock* (President and CEO), Leslie W. Haworth* (Vice-President and CFO), John R. Grainger* (Executive Vice-President and COO of Laidlaw Transit), Ivan R. Cairns* (Senior Vice-President and General Counsel), George B. DeHuff (CEO of American Medical Response), Kenneth W. Winger (CEO of Laidlaw Environmental Services), Jeffery Cassell (Vice-President, Risk Management), Thomas A. G. Watson (Vice-President, Communications), William R. Cottick (Associate General Counsel), Debbie Block (Manager, Human Resources). Asterisk indicates that individual is also on the firm's board of directors.

Directors: William P. Cooper (President and CEO, Cooper Corporation), Jack P. Edwards (President and CEO, Danzas Corporation), William A. Farlinger (Chairman, Ontario Hydro), Donald M. Green (Chairman, ACD Tridon Inc.), Martha O. Hesse (President, Hesse Gas Company), Gordon R. Ritchie (CEO, Strategico Inc.), Stella M. Thompson (President, Governance West Inc.).


1998 1997 1996 1995 1994
(fiscal year ending in August)
Earnings per share $0.97 (est) $0.14 $0.40 $0.27 n/a
Stock price high 16.50 (est) 16.50 11.00 10.13 8.38
Stock price low 8.60 (est) 14.38 8.25 7.00 5.38
Stock price close 8.60 (est) 14.63 9.63 9.00 8.13


Insiders: Own less than 1% of outstanding equity.

5% Shareholders: No individuals. Canadian Pacific owns 17% of the company.


1998 1997
(Millions of $)
Passenger services $1,646.3 $1,363.5
Healthcare services $1,659.1 $957.2
Subtotal $3,305.4 $2,320.7
Hazardous waste services $384.8 $710.0
Total revenues $3,690.2 3,030.7

(Note: figures for year ending August 31)


Employees: 79,500 1-year employee growth: 20.6%

Growth Rates: 1-year 3-year 5-year
Sales % 32.00 30.04 9.49
EPS% -64.57 -6.77 -22.91
Dividend% 5.26 7.72 4.56

1997 1996 1995
($ millions)
Revenue 3,031 2,296 1,722
Operating expenses 3,067 2,063 1,548
Operating income -366 233 175
After-tax income -19 117 75
Capital expenditures and other investing -615 -707 -694

Comparative data: Laidlaw Industry
Operating margin (5-year ave) 2.89 6.47 13.27
Net profit margin (5-year ave) -0.45 2.57 6.19
Return on assets (TTM) 5.43 6.12 5.29
Return of assets (5-year ave) -0.49 5.88 4.16
Return on investment (TTM) 6.04 10.41 7.17
Return of investment (5-year ave.) -0.54 12.61 5.35
Return on equity (TTM) 12.17 14.58 14.90
Return of equity (5-year ave) -0.23 17.24 12.85

(Note: TTM = trailing twelve month)


Market capitalization (millions of $): 3,008.37

(2nd qtr.)
1997 1996 1995
($ millions)
Long-term debt and capital leases 2,751 2,192 2,041 1,666
Total liabilities 3,900 3,323 2,796 2,437
Total equity 2,751 2,794 2,137 1,697

Comparative data: Laidlaw Industry average
Total debt to equity (%) : 0.96 0.69

(Most recent quarter)


Originally a small, Ontario-based trucking firm, Laidlaw was acquired in 1959 by Belgian entrepreneur Michael DeGroote for $300,000. DeGroote employed an aggressive acquisitions strategy over the next two decades to transform the company into a multifaceted transportation services firm. Though the firm remained based in Canada, most of its business is now in the United States. DeGroote took Laidlaw public in 1969, and in 1988 sold out his interests in the firm to Canadian Pacific for $500 million. By this point, Laidlaw had wide-ranging interests in solid waste disposal, the school bus industry, public transit, and chemical and hazardous waste management. In the 1990s, Laidlaw has been transformed yet again by current CEO James Bullock, who has continued to use aggressive acquisitions and major divestitures to refocus the company less on waste management, which failed to provide consistent earnings growth, and more on bus transportation (school and municipal), ambulance services, and emergency room management. The continuing sale of businesses in the stagnant waste services industry has generated significant cash reserves. In 1997, that allowed Laidlaw to acquire 10 separate businesses for $1.9 billion, including American Medical Response, the largest private U.S. ambulance service, and EmCare, the largest private operator of U.S. hospital emergency rooms. By October 1988, when it proposed acquisition of Greyhound Lines Inc. for $470 million, Laidlaw was already the largest North American provider of ambulances, municipal transportation fleets, and school bus services.

In many of its U.S. and Canadian acquisitions, Laidlaw has employed a low-cost financing scheme which involves the use of a Laidlaw subsidiary based in a European tax haven. (Perhaps half of the Canadian companies that have U.S. subsidiaries have employed the same device; many European firms have as well, though to a lesser extent.) The IRS argues that this arrangement exceeded acceptable norms for deductible lending, and that Laidlaw took unjustifiable tax breaks. Laidlaw contests the claim. CEO Bullock estimates that if the IRS's view prevails in Tax Court, the company might easily owe as much as $500 million in additional U.S. taxes. Investor uncertainty over this issue has driven Laidlaw's stock price down by nearly 40% in the past year.


  • Provides school bus transportation for 1,940,000 students per day. Has more than 25% of the market for privately-run school buses. Nearly 80% of the firm's school bus revenues are generated in the U.S.
  • Provides bus services to 205 municipal transit systems in 45 states (including Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle).
  • Bus operations include fixed-rate transit, daily scheduled services, parcel express, and private tour packages. Also the largest operator of "paratransit" services to elderly and physically and mentally-handicapped passengers in the U.S.
  • The second largest provider of health care transportation services in the U.S., operating from 71 locations in 23 states. Provides service to more than 5 million people annually. Healthcare transportation services include emergency ambulance operations, emergency response services, and nonemergency medical transport. About half of U.S. ambulance operations are privately-run. In 1997, Laidlaw had about 15% of that market. Of the approximately 5200 emergency hospital rooms in the U.S., only about 20% are privately managed. Laidlaw is already the leading private operator in this market.
  • Privatization of public services (school bus and ambulance operations) has been a principal source of Laidlaw's revenue growth over the past five years, though it has often come through the acquisition of firms that had existing public contracts -- such as Mayflower Contract Services, which operated more than 7500 school buses in the Midwest.
  • Continuing interests in solid waste include operations in 26 states and 7 Canadian provinces. Owns 35% of Safety-Kleen, a hazardous and industrial waste management firm. Laidlaw has been attempting to abandon simple trash hauling, a low margin business, in favor of integrated waste operations in which the firm additionally controls the dump or recycling process.
  • Target of $5 billion in annual revenues by 2000. Operating earnings growth continues in excess of 20% per annum.
  • Relatively poor financial performance and depressed equity values are attributable in part to the debt overload that has resulted from the company's policy of continuing acquisitions, restructuring charges, currency exchange losses, and the uncertainty over the ultimate disposition of the company's dispute with the IRS over interest deductions, which has led the company to build up a cash reserve in excess of $200 million.


Laidlaw's early growth in the school bus market was achieved primarily through acquisitions of existing companies. More recently, it has shifted its focus to the conversion of existing public systems to private ownership. Much of Laidlaw's recent growth is the result of the determination of local school boards to save money by privatizing bus operations. The company argues that it can reduce bus transportation costs by 10-20% through a combination of lower wages and efficiencies gained through size (lower costs for replacement parts, say, or cheaper insurance rates). Laidlaw's size permits it to maintain relatively newer buses than many public systems can afford, and the company claims that it enjoys a better safety record (measured in the form of accidents per 100,000 miles) than a typical public school system.

This Profile was prepared by the Center for Economic Organizing, Washington, DC, for the National Education Association Educational Support Personnel Information System (ESPIS). ESPIS is a collaborative project of NEA Affiliate Capacity Building and NEA Research.

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