Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

POSTED: Wednesday, August 27, 2014, 12:19 PM

Lucinda Bronwyn Duncalfe has replace founder David Brussin as day-to-day CEO at Monetate, the Conshohocken marketing software builder that counts Best Buy, QVC and Celebrity Cruises among its clients. Brussin stays on board as executive chairman, "completely focused on product innovation," the company says in this statement.

Monetate has been staffing up in recent months to support a broader product line and possible IPO. Duncalfe, a Penn grad, is well-plugged-in with the local private-public tech-funding community. She served most recently as boss at RealFoods, a veggie-meal-delivery start-up that collected $200,000 in Philadelphia city funds last fall (plus state Ben Franklin Partnership funds) in partnership with investor Josh Kopelman's First Round Capital, which is also a Monetate investor. 

Her previous projects include two other Conshohocken firms, ClickEquation, a paid-search firm sold to Channel Intelligence in 2011, and Destiny WebSolutions, an early website developer for big locally-based companies.

POSTED: Tuesday, August 26, 2014, 3:16 PM
A Burger King logo is pictured in the Brooklyn borough of New York August 25, 2014. (Carlo Allegri / Reuters)

Standard & Poor's is threatening to cut Burger King Corp.'s credit rating, already a junk-level B+, to plain B (highly speculative) on the strength (or weakness) of BK's plan to merge with coffee-and-doughnut vendor Tim Horton's of Canada, because the deal will push the combined company even further in debt.

"The proposed acquisition will increase consolidated debt substantially for the Burger King – Tim Horton entity and weaken credit protection measures compared with either company currently," S&P said in its statement summarizing the report from a team headed by analyst Charles Pinson-Rose. S&P said it will review what the merger will mean for the companies' credit and the likelihood lenders and investors will get their money back before deciding whether to downgrade.

Burger King "indicated its financing plans consist of about $9 billion in funded debt and $3 billion of preferred equity financing commitment provided by Berkshire Hathaway," billionaire Warren Buffet's insurance-railroad-investments holding company, S&P noted. Consolidated debt (leverage) will rise to several times income, from the current 4x, S&P estimates.

POSTED: Tuesday, August 26, 2014, 3:00 PM

My colleague Jeff Gammage's Aug. 25 Philadelphia Inquirer story comparing the 1964 Columbia Ave. riots in North Philadelphia, and police response, to the police-African American community riots in Ferguson, Mo....

...Recalls this 1991 story Jeff, myself and Dwight Ott wrote on the 20th anniversary of the 1971 police-barrio riots in Camden, N.J. I did the interviews with the Puerto Rican survivors, some in Spanish.

That story ran so long ago, it was closer to the date of the riots, than to today. Why should each city have to learn its own hard lessons? Or fail to learn them, and forget, and repeat -- 

POSTED: Tuesday, August 26, 2014, 11:34 AM

Mobiquity, a Boston- and Wayne-based mobile-systems business software maker that claims CVS, Fidelity Investments, MetLife and the New York Post among its clients, says it has raised another $5 million from NewSpring Capital, the Radnor-based fund headed by Michael DiPiano, along with Longworth Venture Partners, Sigma Partners and Thomas Weisel Partners, 14 months after the same investors pumped in $12 million.

Mobiquity, headed by Boston-based CEO Bill Siebel and Radnor-based President and CEO Scott Snyder, says it has recently expanded into healthcare solutions, announced an applied technology lab, and expanded its digital marketing team, and plans new hires to expand its current staff of nearly 400. The company also has offices in India, Holland, Costa Rica, New York and San Francisco, among other cities.  

POSTED: Monday, August 25, 2014, 1:48 PM
The XFINITY TV Go app at work on an iPad. (Photo from xfinity.comcast.net)

What do professors think at Drexel, Delaware and the other schools signing deals with Comcast to give all dorm-dwelling students, not just cable TV, but also cloud-based app-linked Xfinity TV on their smartphones, laptops, iPads and Android tablets (as I wrote in today's Philadelphia Inquirer)? 

Drexel political scientist Richardson Dilworth says video was in over-supply even before it became 'free': "Students are already so inundated with moving images and other screen data that I think it’s a matter of what they tune out -- rather than when they have access, which is already all the time, and what they have access to, which is already pretty much everything."

Dilworth is among the profs who still try to enforce an in-class laptop ban, "because inevitably students are emailing or watching shows." But even as his ban leaves students hand-inking notes on old-fashioned paper pads, "they still often are peaking at their phones under their desks, he added. "Maybe it’s just that I’m a boring professor."

POSTED: Monday, August 25, 2014, 1:27 PM
Bryn Mawr attorney Mark D. Schwartz and a screen grab from the Securities and Exchange Commission's web site. (Photos from rockthecapital.com and sec.gov)

Bryn Mawr lawyer and ex-Pa. General Assembly aide Mark D. Schwartz was head of Prudential-Bache Securities' Philadelphia public-finance office in the mid-1980s when he objected to the corrupt practice of muni-bond bankers donating to politicians who hire them. Fired, he reported Pru to the National Association of Securities Dealers, was credited (p.15) with inspring the SEC ban on muni-banker campaign gifts, and found himself blackballed. Since then he's represented longshot clients (Harrisburg City Council vs. a state takeover; opponents of the new Barnes museum), job-discrimination claims, and whistleblowers. When I researched my Sunday Inquirer story on Vanguard Group Inc. whistleblower David Danon, I called Schwartz for perspective.

DiSTEFANO: What motivates these guys to allege wrongdoing by their bosses? Some readers assume it’s pure greed.
SCHWARTZ: Sometimes it is greed. Each of the laws have rewards that are a percentage of recovery. In my experience of thirty years of repping and being a whistleblower, it is much more likely that whistleblowers believe in the system, and feel that it has been violated. They want to uphold fundamental values.

How often do they get paid for turning in their bosses?
With the notable exception of the very few we read about who get the gold, most of them live with disappointment and the harsh results of their actions, in terms of being blacklisted. I knew that after my own whistleblowing that I would never work on Wall Street again.

POSTED: Monday, August 25, 2014, 9:14 AM
The Sikorsky Global Helicopters plant in Coatesville. (LAURENCE KESTERSON / Staff Photographer)

Pennsylvania plans to spend $2.5 million in Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program matching funds to design and build a tunnel under Washington Lane at Sikorsky Global Helicopters Inc.'s 1,800-worker Coatesville commecial and medical helicopter plant, next to Chester County Airport, state Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-Chester County, said in a statement today.

The senator says that means it won't have to shut Washington Lane anymore when it sends ships on test flights over the neighborhood. Dinniman says the state gift "will ensure that hundreds of high-paying jobs stay in Chester County and in fact allow for continued expansion and job growth." Without the money, Dinniman says Sikorsky was ready to move some operations to another site with easier air access. 

POSTED: Thursday, August 21, 2014, 10:10 AM
A bumper crop of corn this year is good news for consumers and bad news for farmers as prices are falling. (istock photo)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects farmers will harvest more than 14 billion bushels of corn this fall for the first time. That may be good news for consumers, driving down one factor in meat costs. But it's tough times for grain farmers: The falling prices that follow fat supplies and record crops are being met with higher seed prices (from suppliers like DuPont) and continued high fuel and other operating costs, driving down grower operating profits from $5.04 a bushel in 2011 to just 3 cents this year, reports Ryan M. Connors, water and ag analyst for Janney Capital Markets in Philadelphia, citing USDA data.

"Severe pressure on farm profitability" will likely continue into 2015, depressing farm machinery and irrigation sales and making it tougher to finance farm purchases at today's increased property prices, he adds. On the other hand, reduced demand will likely moderate fertilizer prices.

And while the nation's many corn farmers feel the squeeze, "dairy and livestock are faring nicely" with lower feed costs, Connors adds. Existing farms will manage, but the collapse in operating margins, which were relatively fat for most of the late 1990s into last year, will likely slow U.S. farm expansion and investment in the near future, the analyst concludes. 

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 JoeD@phillynews.com or 215 854 5194.

Joseph N. DiStefano
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