Wednesday, May 6, 2015

POSTED: Monday, May 4, 2015, 11:34 AM

(Revised) Less than two years after opening a Philadelphia office, Avison Young, a Toronto-based company that calls itself "the fastest-growing commercial real estate service provider in the world," has taken over a local project-management competitor, Remington Group, and its Wayne headquarters. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

"Project management is integral to us," along with design and construction servcies, David Fahey, Avison Young's Philadelphia-based principal and managing director, told me. "Remington was Number One on our target list." Remington founder William Connor will report to him.

"We are taking what was Remington to the next level, bringing Avison Young services to where our reach will be much broader," Connor told me. "For full service companies like Avison, project management is a key resource to be able to offer their clients."

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 11:34 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, April 30, 2015, 12:48 PM

For customer satisfaction: Susquehanna Bank rates tops among 31 mid-Atlantic banks, while Bank of America ranks near the bottom all across the country, says McGraw-Hill Financial's JD Power agency, in this report on its survey of 80,000 U.S. consumers.

Susquehanna was awarded 834 points out of a possible 1,000, with particular praise for its 245 branches and its electronic banking services. While "mobile banking and mobile deposit (use) is on the rise, branches are still important to customers," even young people, Susan Bergen, chief marketing officer at Susquehanna, told me.

JD Power data shows people in their 20s -- the smartphone generation -- typically visit a bank branch once a month -- which is a little more than people in their 30s and 40s. Customers want to be able to meet with bankers, in person, to talk about loans and investments, Bergen said. 

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 12:48 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, April 30, 2015, 12:32 PM

The U.S. Postal Service's Inspector General in this report recommends the agency fire CBRE Inc., the largest U.S. real estate broker, and re-bid the company's four-year-old contract for leasing private properties and selling surplus offices for the Postal Service.

The agency says CBRE's practices of representing its own private-sector clients -- buyers of surplus Post Office facilities, as well as landlords who rent sites to the Post Office -- at the same time CBRE is paid to get the best rental and sales prices for the Postal Service "are inherently risky and create conflicts of interest."

CBRE "followed the standard business practices explicitly defined in our contract," and is "committed to cooperating with any governmental review," said spokesman Robert McGrath in response. (More details from CBRE's response near the end of this item.)

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 12:32 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, April 30, 2015, 10:03 AM

(Friday update:) After posting flat sales but rising profit margins in its first-quarter earnings last week, DuPont Co. "will reach an agreement with Mr. Peltz" before the May 13 board meeting, predicts Carol Levenson, analyst at bond research agency Gimme Credit in New York, in a report to clients.

Levenson says DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman's efforts to placate activist investors led by Nelson Peltz and his Trian Fund Management have already resulted in (1) cost-cutting that has boosted DuPont margins to nearly 20 percent, highest (for the first quarter) since 2010; and (2) the company's decision to give $4 billion from the planned spinoff of Chemours (kem-OARS), DuPont's cyclical but highly profitable titanium-dioxide (white pigment) unit, to shareholders instead of using it to pay down debt 

 (Thursday:) Shareholders' adviser Glass, Lewis & Co. LLC has endorsed billionaire activist investor Nelson Peltz for a seat on the DuPont Co. board. The move follows support for Peltz by another adviser, Institutional Shareholder Services Inc., on Monday.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 10:03 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Wednesday, April 29, 2015, 4:16 PM
The Pennsylvania State Employees' Retirement System (SERS) has imposed the maximum legal 25% or $1.52 billion  "employer contribution" surcharge on this year's state payroll, to fund pensions for troopers, judges, state college professors, legislators and other state workers, in fiscal 2015. That's up from a 20.5% or $1.21 billion contribution last year. (Last year's total revised: a previous version of this item mixed fiscal and calendar year totals.)

In a statement, executive director David Durbin praised "tough decisions" and "hard work" by state officials, who will themselves collect SERS pensions, for the higher taxpayer funding. The rates were set based on estimates by pension consultant Hay Group, which you can view in this report. The surcharge would have been higher -- 31.5% of payroll -- but a 2010 state law limits the annual increase in pension payments, which has the effect of pushing additional payments off into the future. 

SERS has $26.6 billion invested, to pay liabilities estimated at $44.8 billion. The gap follows a longstanding policy of promising retirees more money than their direct payroll deductions and the state's exotic menu of public and private investments can finance, especialy since pensions were increased by then-Gov. Tom Ridge in the early 2000s. State law requires the taxpayers to help make up the difference.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 4:16 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Wednesday, April 29, 2015, 11:38 AM
Stepping up, acting Pennsylvania Treasurer Christopher Craig recalled that Gov. Tom Wolf had made a campaign pledge in favor of "bidding the work out." (Mark Makela / Reuters)

FRIDAY: Pennsylvania's Treasury was awarded "Best Practice of the Week" honors by the Chicago-based Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) for its decision to hire a bond lawyer by making law firms bid competitively, instead of relying on the Commonwealth's usual practice of letting an elected official pick a favorite.

Shouldn't most taxpayer-funded contracts be competitively bid? Pennsylvania "issues general-obligation bonds about twice a year, but has never used a competitive bidding process, as GFOA recommends," for hiring lawyers, the association said in its newsletter.

"Tradition was, the Governor, the Auditor General, and the Treasurer select the bond team" on a rotating basis, acting Pennsylvania treasurer Christopher Craig told me. 

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 11:38 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, April 28, 2015, 12:25 PM

(Adds grants, pay data in 2d paragraph) Citing its search for a better workforce and location than what's available in its hometown of Baltimore or other places it looked, Zacros America says it will close its Hedwin heat-sealed packaging factory in that city and replace it with a new plant with 154 jobs on Lake Drive in Newark, Del.

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell said in a statement that the deal was sweetened with a Delaware Strategic Fund grant. Zacros was approved for the $703,505 grant, plus a Capital Expenditure grant of up to $180,000 (3% of Hedwin's $6 million private investment target), state spokesman Peter Bothum told me. The jobs "will be staffed with a broad range of skill sets, salaries ranging from $30,000 to well over $100,000." More on the state grant here.

Hedwin, founded in 1946, supplies cosmetics, drug, flavoring and medical packaging. The firm was purchased by Japan-based films and packaging maker Fujimori Kogyo Co. Ltd. and its Zacros division in 2014. Clients include Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics, which also has a plant in Newark.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 12:25 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, April 27, 2015, 2:59 PM
The project at 4224 Baltimore Ave., which requires zoning variances, would replace a vacant lot with a 78-foot brick-and-glass building, including 132 apartments and retail space across the street from Clark Park. Plans include 60 parking spaces for cars and 50 spaces for bicycles. (U3 Ventures via PlanPhilly)

The Philadelphia City Planning Commission, at its monthly meeting upstairs at 1515 Arch St., 1 p.m. Tuesday. Agenda here. Some highlights among the proposals to be reviewed:

- 164 "multi-family" apartments and 12 townhomes in a "mixed-use" development at 3201 Race St., currently a surface parking lot next to Drexel University, by David Yeager's Radnor Property Group LLC, represented by Neil Sklaroff at Ballard Spahr.
- 132 "multi-family" units in another "mixed-use" project at 4224 Baltimore Ave., just east of Clark Park in the University City residential neighborhood between the Penn Veterinary school and the University of the Sciences, by developers Clarkmore LP and U3 Ventures, represented by lawyer Matthew McClure, also at Ballard Spahr.
- 22 residential townhomes Wharton Street Properties project at 2010 Wharton St. in South Philadelphia, by developer (and City Council candidate) Ori Feibush's Wharton Street Properties, represented by Joseph Beller at Offit Kurman.
- A Special Purpose Institutional District to expand the Holy Redeemer Lafayette retirement community, 8580 Verree Road

And a South Philadelphia District Plan, and others.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 2:59 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
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.

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