Archive: January, 2009
Heartland Payment Systems, a Princeton credit card merchant service that employs 2,400 around the U.S., could face pressure to sell the company after admitting last week its system was hacked and data stolen (second item), Janney Montgomery Scott analysts Thomas McCrohan and Leonard A. DeProspo 3d write in a recent report.
The stock fell below $10 for the first time since it went public in 2005 on word of the data breach. McCrohan and DeProspo estimate the breach could cost Heartland $100 million to $300 million.
Buyers could include a major credit card issuer like JPMorgan Chase & Co. or Bank of America, which could have legal claims against Heartland for compromising customer data, or the big card networks, Visa or MasterCard, which want "a feet-on-the-street" sales force, according to the report.
AstraZeneca PLC, the multinational drugmaker which employs nearly 5,000 at its U.S. headquarters in Wilmington, says it will cut 15,000 of its 67,000 worldwide jobs -- up from an earlier plan to elminate 7,600 -- by 2013. AstraZeneca said profits were flat in the fourth quarter. The company sells heart drug Crestor, breathing drug Rhinocort, and dozens more. Read more in its earnings statement here.
Advanta Corp. will cut 300 jobs this year, and reduce its dividend. The company employed 914 at year-end 2007 but has been cutting costs since then. The Spring House, Montgomery County lender, which had been planning a new $50 million headquarters just last fall, is bracing for losses of more than 20% on its shrinking portfolio of business credit card loans. Announcement here.
So many Philadelphia-area building projects have been lain aside or cancelled, but developer Brian O'Neill's Uptown Worthington office-apartment-retail project at the old National Rolling Mills site in Frazer, Chester County, keeps forging ahead. He's landed West Chester lab-supply giant VWR International as a tenant, with a little help from state grants designed to keep VWR from moving to job-hungry Delaware. Diane Mastrull's story here.
Bank analyst Tom Brown lost his job at Donaldson Lufkin Jenrette for ridiculing First Union CEO Ed Crutchfield and his expensive purchase of Philadelphia's CoreStates ten years ago. That freed Brown to work for hedge funds, with varying success, and to build a Web site -- www.bankstocks.com -- that's been a cheerful platform for jeering at ruinously expensive bankerly empire-building, especially by First Union's late successor, Wachovia Corp., and its Charlotte, N.C. rival, Bank of America Corp.
Check the site today for Brown's take on how and why BofA CEO Ken Lewis, after gaining control of Merrill Lynch, used its deteriorating finances to throw Merrill Lynch head John Thain under the bus, while collecting $20 billion from worried federal officials in the last days of the Bush Administration to fund the deal. Excerpts:
Lewis determined to "unceremoniously push Thain out of the way—and trash him in the process—as a way to protect his own job."
Doug Oliver, spokesman for Mayor Nutter, says it's TracFone's fault that Philadelphia won't let it give out federally-subsidized free cell phones in the city: (See previous PhillyDeals item.)
"We support the idea of giving lower-income Philadelphians better access to emergency services by providing free cell phones," Oliver wrote.
"However, TracFone has been unwilling to rigorously test their phones' ability to access emergency services regardless of their activation status as required by the FCC to be eligible to receive a government subsidy.
Wells Fargo & Co. is dependent on $25 billion in federal TARP capital, yet it isn't earning enough to cover its dividend, and may still have to cut the payouts to investors, writes Friedman Billings Ramsey's Paul F. Miller, who expects the price to drop to $12 a share.
Sales and results are "weaker than expected," writes Sandler O'Neill + Partners' Scott Siefers, though he thinks today's price is about right. Results "missed consensus," and profit margins "face pressure," writes CreditSights chief David Hendler.
For once, the analysts are more skeptical than the investing public. Wells shares rose above $20 for the first time in two weeks yesterday after the giant bank reported 2008 profits, fourth-quarter losses, and no cut in its shareholder dividend.
Pay-as-you-go mobile-phone vendor TracFone Wireless Inc., Miami, says Philadelphia and Bucks County have turned down its attempt to give free, government-subsidized mobile phones to poor people.
TracFone says its SafeLink wireless service is subsidized by a federal program that, in Pennsylvania, pays phone companies $8.25 per low-income customer per month, in hopes of expanding access to 911 emergency services and other basic needs. Some carriers use the program to offer cut-rate service to qualified callers; TracFone offers a free phone, plus 42 minutes of free use each month, in hopes they'll buy additional minutes.
To participate, the phone has to be approved by local 911 emergency phone service coordinators in each market, TracFone lobbyist Jose Fuentes told me. He says Florida, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Virginia, Atlanta, New York City, and Allegheney, Chester and Montgomery Counties, among other places, have approved SafeLink. But Philadelphia and Bucks turned it down, as did the counties including Allentown, Bethlehem and Reading. Delaware County is testing the phones, Fuentes added.