Saturday, January 31, 2015

POSTED: Friday, January 30, 2015, 11:59 AM

Shares of Spark Therapeutics, the Philadelphia gene therapy developer backed by Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia, zoomed as high as $45 a share after trading opened at $23 in its initial public stock offering (IPO) led by JPMorgan and Credit Suisse.

The company said it grossed $161 milllion, before payments to brokers, by selling 7 million shares (ticker symbol: ONCE) to investors on the Nasdaq stock market at $23/share. But a surge of investor interest in the company boosted Spark's total value (including shares still held by earlier investors before it went public) to nearly $1 billion, and increased the value of 4.9 million shares owned by CHOP, according to previous federal securities filings, to as much as $220 million.

Chief executive Jeff Marrazzo is another major beneficiary: he owns 380,000 shares, now worth around $16 million, according to federal securities records. Spark's statement on the IPO here.  More on Spark's structure, investors, founders and early products in my Philadelphia Inquirer colleague David Sell's Jan. 2 story here.  Spark investor prospectus with more detail on what they're going to do with the money here. 

POSTED: Thursday, January 29, 2015, 3:28 PM

Last year's rising stock markets pumped billions of dollars into the nation's college endowments. Harvard remains the nation's richest, at $36 billion (corrected, thanks Tom), up 11% (investment profits + donations - endowment spending), according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers/Commonfund Institute yearly survey. The University of Texas state system passed Yale to rise into second place, with $23.9 billion, up 24 percent.  

Schools with fat endowments sometimes use them for operating expenses and tuition discounts. Smaller schools tend to save them for use on big buildings and other capital projects.

Here's how Pennsylvania and Philadelphia-area colleges with endowments >$200 million boosted endowments in their 2014 fiscal years: the 12-month periods may vary from one school to another (Jan. to Dec. vs. July to June, etc.) Rank is from the NACUBO/Commonfund national list of universities by endowment size:

POSTED: Thursday, January 29, 2015, 9:42 AM
Ted Mann, CEO of Snip Snap a Philadelphia based coupon clipping app. The offices of Snip Snap are at 417 N. 8th St. in Philadelphia. Photograph taken at this office on Thursday, January 3, 2013. (Alejandro A. Alvarez / Staff Photographer)

(With more information about buyer Slyce, and comments from founder Mann) Slyce Inc., a Canadian company that says it is developing image-recognition and search software for retailers, says it has agreed to pay $1 million in cash and up to $5.5 million in stock for SnipSnap, a made-in-Philadelphia firm that lets consumers present coupon discounts to stores on their smartphones.

According to Slyce chief executive, Mark Elfenbein, who earlier worked for K-Tel, his family's music distributor, “SnipSnap and its four million users represent an enormous opportunity for Slyce to widen its service offering to leading retailers." In a statement, Elfenbein said that SnipSnap is "building a bridge between analog and digital coupon distribution." Slyce trades on the Toronto stock market's Venture Exchange for small and penny-stock companies, at a price of around 76 cents a share. "The company's pretty new. We just IPO'd at 60 cents" last year, Elfenbein told me. He said the price rose after Nieman-Marcus confirmed it is using Slyce in its Snap-Find-Shop app.

A fraction of the size of publicly-traded rivals RetailMeNot and, SnipSnap turned profitable in August, according to founder Ted Mann, a Haddonfield resident and Penn grad ('99). Post-merger, SnipSnap plans to add social-media and loyalty marketing. SnipSnap employs 5 fulltime and 3 parttime at its Center City office. The company will repay Ben Franklin Technology Partners and other lenders with a share of the proceeds, Elfenbein added.

POSTED: Wednesday, January 28, 2015, 4:35 PM

Shares of TE Connectivity, the Berwyn-based electrical switch, sensor and specialty parts company, jumped 4.4% to $67.46 a share after announcing it will sell its Broadband Network Solutions business (which makes telecom, enterprise netowrk and wireless parts) to North Carolina-based CommScope for $3 billion. Sale statement here, 

Broadband Network Solutions last year accounted for nearly $2 billion of TE's $13 billion in yearly sales. TE will use sale proceeds to buy back its own stock, buy more companies, and build up its remaining businesses, chief executive Thomas J. Lynch told investors in a conference call.  Shares of CommScope fell on the news. 

TE also reported higher quarterly profits here. The company's shares closed today at its highest price ever. TE Connectivity, which is nominally based in Switzerland to reduce its U.S. taxes but run from offices in Berwyn, is one of Pennsylvania's largest industrial employer at its plants in the Harrisburg area (the former AMP). The company was spun off from Princeton-based Tyco International Ltd. in 2007.

POSTED: Wednesday, January 28, 2015, 3:52 PM
City Hall.

Payments to Philadelphia's city treasury and utilities, from mortgage foreclosures and delinquent tax, gas and water bills, surged to $58.3 million last year, a 40% jump from $34.4 million in 2013, according to a statement from the city's elected Sheriff, Jewell Williams. The office, which also transport prisoners, has in the past been accused of inefficiency and favoritism in its management of delinquent property accounts.

"The increase in revenue can be attributed to two changes," says Williams' office: First: a new policy "that requires purchasers of properties to make final settlement within thirty days after the sale is held. In the past, final payment could be made months after a property was sold." Second, "a new data management system which increased the speed of processing sales and collecting payments."

“The faster we get paid for properties, the faster we can send delinquent taxes and municipal fees to the City,” Williams said in a statement. The payments include $22.7 million in back taxes from foreclosed properties, $8.5 million in back water bills, and $5.4 million to the city-owned Philadelphia Gas Works. 

POSTED: Wednesday, January 28, 2015, 12:27 PM

LiquidHub, the Wayne-based "digital integrator" and IT outsourcing firm that raised $53 million from ChrysCapital and other investors last year, says it has acquired two firms that help corporate clients use software: ClosedWon, based in Albuquerque, N.M.; and Harvest Solutions, of Boston and San Francisco. This follows LiquidHub's earlier acquisition of New York-based Foundry9, a digital marketing agency. LiquidHub hasn't disclosed what it paid.

“Our acquisition of ClosedWon and Harvest Solutions is the latest example of our commitment to strengthening LiquidHub’s position as a Salesforce partner for our clients,” and to "aggressive growth," said LiquidHub boss Jonathan Brassington in a statement. Managing partner and cofounder Sid Lejfer of Harvest Solutions, cofounder Mark Morris of ClosedWon and about 28 others from the two firms will join LiquidHub's staff. 

from Rob Kelley, co-founder and partner at LiquidHub, for your last two questions. In terms of the first two, they aren’t disclosing financial figures for this transaction.

POSTED: Wednesday, January 28, 2015, 11:39 AM

Rita’s Italian Ice, the Trevose company that calls itself the world's largest water-ice store chain with more than 600 locations, says it has contracted with onetime Starbucks executive Faysal Younes' Eathos Ltd., Dubai, to open at least 46 stores over the next ten years, in Turkey and seven Middle Eastern Arab nations: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar.  

"The warm climate makes the Middle East a natural market for Rita's cool treats," Younes said in a statement. Rita's last year said it also has stores in Canada, China, India and the Dutch Caribbean islands. The store count was around 556 back in 2009, up from 300 in 2005, when founder Bob Tumolo, a former Philadelphia firefighter who named the chain after his mom, sold Rita's to McKnight Capital of Pittsburgh; it was purchased in 2011 by New York investor David Moross' Falconhead Capital (they also own Escort radar detectors and ESPN Classic of Europe). 

Rita's also plans to "double" its U.S. stadium service locations, in partnership with Rutherford, NJ-based 16W Marketing, Rita's CEO Jeff Moody said in the statement.. Rita's treats and "limited table menus" are now offered at 8 stadiums, including Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia; two stadiums in each of New Jersey and Pittsburgh; and at stadiums in Washington DC, Denver, and San Diego. 

POSTED: Tuesday, January 27, 2015, 12:23 PM
Dollar Tree stores, such as this one in Miami, join forces with Family Dollar. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

Virginia-based Dollar Tree has agreed to buy Charlotte, N.C.-based Family Dollar for $8.7 billion, beating rival suitor Dollar General and pleasing billionaire activist investor Nelson Peltz of Trian Fund Management, who (after Family Dollar shares rose toward the deal price) has promptly dumped most of his stock and grabbed his profits. (Peltz is also trying to break up DuPont Co., having already won cutbacks at Heinz and Kraft, among other targets.)

Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, what's the difference? You can see at a glance on this map of the two store networks: prepared by Matt Felton at Datastory Consulting, Baltimore, and sent me by David Goodman, principal at Equity Retail Brokers, Conshohocken.

The Datastory map shows how Dollar Tree, in the Philadelphia area, concentrates its stores in majority-African American neighborhoods of Philadelphia, Camden, Chester, Wilmington, Norristown, Coatesville, and in some nearby communities (such as northern Gloucester County); while Family Dollar (corrected) is much more a suburban-focused enterprise hereabouts, with city outposts in predominantly white sections of Center City and South Philadelphia. 

About this blog

PhillyDeals posts raw drafts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area finance, investment, commercial real estate, tech, hiring and public spending, which he's been writing since 1989, mostly for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn, taught writing at St. Joe's, and has written the book Comcasted, more than a thousand columns, and thousands of articles, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at or 215 854 5194.

Joseph N. DiStefano
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