Tuesday, July 28, 2015

POSTED: Tuesday, July 28, 2015, 12:35 PM

The British owner of Citizens Financial Group, which operates Citizens Bank and pays for naming rights at Philadelphia's baseball stadium, plan to sell up to 75 million shares of the company, which would raise close to $2 billion at recent share prices. The owner, Royal Bank of Scotland has been divesting Citizens in stages. Citizens, successor to the former PSFS, Girard and Mellon Bank branch networks in the Philadelphia area, rivals Wells Fargo, PNC and TD Bank among the largest commercial and consumer banks in the region.

While Royal stands to gain a windfall from the deal, Citizens (like other banks) has been struggling with low interest rates and weak demand in its Northeast and Midwest markets. The company told investors last week it's going to try to return to profitability by cutting costs and raising fees. "We see opportunities to tighten pricing," mostly for business customers, and are reviewing "operations transformations" and vendor contracts, CEO Bruce Van Saun said in the second-quarter conference call July 21.

I'm asking the company for details on how the "Top II" profit-boosting program would affect Citizens' Philadelphia-area operations. The company, based in Providence, R.I., employs around 18,000 nationally.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 12:35 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, July 28, 2015, 11:57 AM
Samsonite luggages are displayed during an investors' luncheon presentation in Hong Kong May 30, 2011. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Two years after Center City lost its iconic Robinson's briefcase-suitcase store on South Broad St., luggage-maker Samsonite is opening its first Philadelphia-area store at the city's largest shopping center, Philadelphia Mills, says owner Simon Property Group.

Simon has been renovating the Northeast Philly complex, formerly known as Franklin Mills. The new Samsonite store will be in "Neighborhood 2," next to Burlington Coat Factory. Samsomite's nearest existing stores are in outlet clusters in Reading, Lancaster, and Jackson Township, N.J.

Other new stores at Philadelphia Mills include Puma, Rack Room Shoes, Express Factory Outlet; and, later this year, Starbucks and Yankee Candle. Simon, which also owns the big King of Prussia shopping complex, says it's also cooperating with "significant renovations" at Philadelphia Mills' Marshalls HomeGoods, Burlington Coat Factory, H&M and Foot Locker stores, among others.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 11:57 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, July 28, 2015, 10:31 AM
Nelson Peltz (Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg)

Shares of DuPont Co. fell as low as $53 in early trading today -- then bounced back nearly to Monday levels -- after the Wilmington-based bio/chemical manufacturer reported weaker-than-expected sales. Shares topped $76 last Spring as billionaire investor Nelson Peltz pressed for more aggressive cost cuts and campaigned for board seats for himself and three allies, but have dropped since CEO Ellen Kullman's allies beat Peltz's challenge at the annual meeting in May.  Earnings report here.

Will DuPont's (and the ag supply industry's) disappointing results give DuPont critics more ammo to demand faster change? "I fully expect Peltz to come back with a hammer, hopefully a sledgehammer," Michael Crofton, chief executive at Philadelphia Trust Co., which held 435,000 shares of DuPont at March 31, told me. "Kullman is out of time," he added. "Her stewardship of DuPont will be a business school case study of arrogance, incompetence and mismanagement."

But Kullman told the Bloomberg news service she had a cordial, positive meeting with Peltz recently and they are in general agreement on the company's direction. Indeed, instead of criticizing Kullman as his firm has after past disappointments, "we decline comment on today's results," Anne Tarbell, spokeswoman for Peltz's Trian Partners, told me.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 10:31 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, July 27, 2015, 9:45 AM

The 1990s-era chairmen of the New York and Philadelphia Stock Exchanges and a former longtime aide to Vice President Joe Biden are asking New Castle County, Delaware to help finance a new stock exchange focused on newly-legal small-company IPOs, reports Xerxes Wilson in the Wilmington News Journal here. Highlights:

"County Council on Tuesday is scheduled to review a proposal from Delaware Board of Trade Holdings Inc., which was incorporated in June and is led by John F. Wallace, former CEO of the Philadelphia Stock Exchange. Dick Grasso, former chairman and CEO of the New York Stock Exchange, and Joseph J. Grano, former chairman and CEO of UBS Capital Markets, are listed as advisers for the company."

The proposed exchange "is seeking to capture a share of business created by the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act passed by U.S. Congress in 2012, which sought to make it easier for small companies to raise capital. Small companies can now sell up to $50 million in shares in a 12-month period without the full reporting requirements of going public. Previous rules capped such offerings at $5 million... 

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 9:45 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Saturday, July 18, 2015, 5:14 AM
Joseph N. DiStefano @ 5:14 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Friday, July 17, 2015, 5:10 PM

Michael Golden sat back with a jungle-colored Mo'Green smoothie at Bryn and Dane's in Plymouth Meeting, telling how he's diversified his investments since his days as an e-commerce pioneer.

That same  Thursday, King of Prussia-based eBay Enterprise, a business built on the online retail-fulfillment business Golden cofounded with Michael Rubin, announced it had been re-sold for $925 million to Georgia rival Innotrac and its private-equity backers.  EBay had paid $2.4 billion for Enterprise, then known as GSI Commerce, just four years before. It had been the anti-Amazon, filling online orders for retailers not ready to do their own. But it suffered as online sales morphed, from an exotic specialty, to the heart of every big retailer: "When you succeed too well, they move everything in-house, and you can end up out-of-business," Golden observed.

That’s someone else's problem now. Like Rubin, Golden says, "I have made tons of investments alongside venture capitalists. Real estate. Tech companies, software, e-commerce. Things I know about. Also, things I get passionate about."

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 5:10 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Friday, July 17, 2015, 1:34 PM
Investors led by Chicago-based Sterling Partners and its Georgia-based Innotrac "fulfillment" group agreed to pay $925 million for eBay Enterprise, the King of Prussia-based online-shopping fulfillment group whose clients include Ikea, PetSmart and Sports Authority. (Getty file photo)

Investors led by Chicago-based Sterling Partners and its Georgia-based Innotrac "fulfillment" group, which picks up online orders and ships products to customers from U.S. and European warehouses for Target, Ann Taylor and other big retailers, this week agreed to pay $925 million for eBay Enterprise, the King of Prussia-based online-shopping fulfillment group whose clients include Ikea, PetSmart and Sports Authority.

EBay built the Enterprise business around its $2.4 billiion, 2011 purchase of the former GSI Commerce, the Michael Rubin- and Michael Golden-founded company which employed 5,000 in King of Prussia and at warehouses in Kentucky and elsewhere but has lately lost clients as more retailers bring their online operations in-house.  Rubin still controls Fanatics, ShopRunner, RueLaLa, businesses he built at GSI. Golden is a diversified real estate, food and tech investor.

Besides Sterling and Innotrac, the buyers' the group include London-based Permira, whose investments includeHugo Boss women's clothing and Dr. Maertens boots, along with Toronto-based Longview Asset Management.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 1:34 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Friday, July 17, 2015, 12:40 PM

Marlette Funding LLC, the Wilmington, Del. company that arranges Best Egg-brand unsecured personal loans, says it has raised $75 million in equity funding from investors led by Invus Group, New York, and from publicly-traded Navient, the Wilmington-based Sallie Mae student-loan-collection spin-off, "to accelerate growth, further its partnership agenda" and begin booking loans on its own balance sheet instead of just through partners.

Marlette says it has made loans totalling more than $1 billion since early 2014, and expects to raise $450 million from banks and other lenders to finance more loans. Marlette is "an emerging star in this multibillion-dollar, online lending market," said Invus partner Ben Tsai in a statement. The company employs 70, and plans to add 30 by year end, says spokeswoman Alison Guzzio.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 12:40 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
About this blog

PhillyDeals posts drafts, transcripts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area business, which he's been writing since 1989.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn and taught writing at St. Joseph's. He has written thousands of columns and articles for the Inquirer, Bloomberg and other media, wrote the book Comcasted, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at JoeD@phillynews.com, distefano251@gmail.com, 215.854.5194 or 302.652.2004.

Reach Joseph N. at JoeD@phillynews.com or 215 854 5194.

Joseph N. DiStefano
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