Thursday, August 21, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

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. 

POSTED: Thursday, August 21, 2014, 9:22 AM
Attorney General Eric Holder makes a major financial fraud announcement during a press conference August 21, 2014 at the Justice Department in Washington, DC. The Justice Department has reached a $16.65 billion settlement with Bank of America Corporation for financial fraud leading up to and during the financial crisis, the largest civil settlement with a single entity in American history, to resolve federal and state claims against Bank of America and its former and current subsidiaries, including Countrywide Financial Corporation and Merrill Lynch. (Alex Wong / Getty Images)

Writes the SEC: "The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced a settlement in which Bank of America admits that it failed to inform investors during the financial crisis about known uncertainties to future income from its exposure to repurchase claims on mortgage loans. Bank of America also is resolving securities fraud charges that the SEC filed last year related to a residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) offering.

"Bank of America has agreed to settle the two cases by paying $245 million as part of a major global settlement announced today by the U.S. Department of Justice in which Bank of America will pay $16.65 billion to resolve various investigations involving violations of laws regulated by other federal agencies.

“Bank of America failed to make accurate and complete disclosure to investors and its illegal conduct kept investors in the dark... Requiring an admission of wrongdoing as part of Bank of America’s agreement to resolve the SEC charges filed today provides an additional level of accountability for its violation of the federal securities laws.” However, this is a collective, institutional, shareholder-beating "responsibility:" No Bank of America individuals are named or blamed in the SEC's statement, linked here

POSTED: Wednesday, August 20, 2014, 4:36 PM

A group of North Jersey investors, calling themselves PF Hillside Manor LP, have agreed to pay $10.15 million for the 216-apartment Hillside Manor Apartments complex at 1120 Ward St. in Chester.

That’s triple the $3.4 million that partners Philip Balderston, Tristan Silk and Justin Pesin paid for the complex in March, 2012, when it was more than 60 percent vacant. The group says it spent “multimillions” renovating Hillside and marketing it to new tenants. Still, the sale price more than covered the purchase, upgrades and marketing, so it was time to “monetize the asset” and collect “superior returns,” Balderston said in a statement. 

Balderston’s group owns a total of 2,000 apartments in Philadelphia, Delaware and Bucks Counties and South Jersey, and is looking to spend up to $20 million this year buying more, he says. Recent acquisitions include apartments at 401 E. Gibbsboro Rd., Lindenwold, and 7200 Marion Ave., Levittown. 

POSTED: Wednesday, August 20, 2014, 11:56 AM
Work continues at the PPL Center in Allentown, which is scheduled to open on Sept. 12. (Photo from facebook.com/PPLCenter)

Global Spectrum, the arena-management arm of Comcast-Spectacor, which owns the NHL Flyers and the Wells Fargo Center where the Flyers and NBA Sixers play, plans to open two new halls in early September: the 10,000-seat PPL Center in Allentown, whose schedule starts with a concert by the 70s pop band the Eagles on Sept. 12; and the Alaska Airlines Arena in Anchorage, where the Alabama Shakes will do the maiden show on Sept. 13.

PPL Center, name-sponsored by the local power company, will host the American Hockey League's Lehigh Valley (formerly Philadelphia, formerly Adirondack) Phantoms, concerts and other shows.  Alaska Airlines Arena will host the NCAA basketball teams for the University of Alaska at Anchorage, plus concerts and other shows. Comcast-Spectacor Senior Vice President Hank Abate says he plans a cross-continent journey so he can be at both ribbon-cuttings

Comcast-Spectacor will bring in staff from Philadelphia and other facilities to smooth the openings, said Global Spectrum President John Page in a statement. The company, 2/3 owned by Comcast and 1/3 by longtime Flyers boss Ed Snider, stands to get paid multiple ways at both arenas: its Irvine, Calif.-based Pacoilan subsidiary will manage ticketing both places; its Front Row Marketing Services will market all sponsorships and corporate boxes; its Ovations Food Services holds the food, beverage and catering concessions at PPL. In all, Global Spectrum operates 120 arenas and convention centers in the U.S. and Canada, says spokesman Ike Richman.

POSTED: Wednesday, August 20, 2014, 11:32 AM

WEDNESDAY: After just four years in the market, Europe's Delhaize grocery chain has put its 46 Bottom Dollar Foods discount stores, in the Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley areas, plus 20 more in the Pittsburgh and Cleveland regions, up for sale, reports Food Trade News here. 

THURSDAY UPDATE: Delhaize America doesn't comment on acquisition/divestures, spokeswoman Christy Phillips-Brown tells me. The company also operates Food Lion and Hannaford groceries.

EARLIER: Reports Food Trade News: "According to several retailers who were sent real estate profile sheets in late July, all bids for the Bottom Dollar Foods stores were due by August 13. We’ve also been told that Wells Fargo is serving as Delhaize America’s investment advisor for this process...

POSTED: Tuesday, August 19, 2014, 2:57 PM

Offices of the Daily Local News (West Chester), the Daily Times of Delaware County and other suburban daily and weekly publishers are among the U.S. newspaper and Web site properties being offered For Sale by owner DigitalFirst Media Corp. and its brokers.  The offices are being marketed by broker Praxis Commerical and Twenty Lake Holdings, an affiliate of investor Alden Global Capital which has been selling newspaper offices for Alden's newspaper chains Digital First and MediaNews Group since 2011. 

Newly listed: the Interprint plant at 2100 Frost Road, Bristol, Bucks County, which is already under contract with a buyer for $3.5 million, Anne Pennington of broker Praxis Commercial told me. The group has also been marketing the Daily Times building in Primos, asking $2.1 million; the Daily Local News office in West Chester; and the regional printing plant at 350 Eagleview Boulevard in Exton. Already for sale are the homes of the Pottstown Mercury, Norristown Times Herald and Lansdale Reporter in Montgomery County, and the Trentonian in New Jersey.   

The idea is "to streamline our real estate portfolio" by selling old properties and leasing new ones, "thereby freeing the company from the constraints of being overburdened with underutilized properties," Digital First boss Steve Rossi said in a statement. Brokers say they have sold 67 properties for Digital First and its affiliates since 2012 and now have 70 more listed for sale, with an estimated combined value of $85 million. You can see Twenty Lake's listed properties here.

POSTED: Tuesday, August 19, 2014, 1:21 PM
A screen grab from com-pak.com.

With the U.S. Postal Service posting big losses and charging higher fees, Com-Pak Services, a Moorestown direct-mailing company, says it has added two new NPI sorting machines and 50,000 sq. ft. to its plant (expanding to 125,000 sq. ft.), and plans 12 new hires to its current staff of 175, as corporate mailers seek private alternatives, CEO Clif McDougall said in a statement.

"Our direct marketing customers are looking for solutions that balance rising postal rates and increasingly complex mail programs," chief operations officer Russ Stewart added.  The company says it handles more than 400 milllion direct-mail and order-fulfillment pieces this year. 

POSTED: Tuesday, August 19, 2014, 12:00 PM
Delaware is pioneering a new law that will give your heirs and those with powers-of-attorney the right to control your online after-life. ((istock photo))

What happens to your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter accounts, online texts and other assets, when you die?

You go through Digital Death. Delaware says it is the first state to pass a law authorizing "executors, trustees, agents under powers-of-attorney and guardians of disabled persons to access online accounts and other digital content of the individual with whose care and assets they have been entrusted," just as fiduciary trustees can already access bank, financial, tax and medical records, subject to a will, trust, or power-of-attorney.

People can also order their heirs to never open or change their digital assets. 

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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