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Inquirer Daily News

Archive: April, 2010

POSTED: Monday, April 26, 2010, 9:59 AM

Robert Kane, former svp at PNC Bank's Corporate Banking Group, is the new Philadelphia-area "market president" and head of business banking at First Niagara Group, the Buffalo bank that bought troubled Harleysville National Bank, which had been the biggest bank based in suburban Philadelphia, last year. A 30-year banking veteran, Kane will report to First Niagara business banking chief Daniel E. Cantara 3d.

PNC, Pennsylvania's largest bank, looked at Harleysville when government examiners were pushing its sale, but passed, figuring that, the way PNC values assets, the government would have had to pay PNC to take Harleysville off their hands, a person familiar with the sale told me.

Now Kane has the chance to prove PNC wrong. He's a graduate of Mount Saint Mary's College (with later business courses at Temple and Duke), a veteran of the old First Pennsylvania Bank, and a director of the World Affairs Council, BLOCS (the Philadelphia-area Catholic school financial support group), and St. David's Golf Club.

POSTED: Friday, April 23, 2010, 2:37 PM

Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS AG) "recommended that investors close short bets that the (U.S.) dollar will fall against the euro, pound (and) yen," Bloomberg reports here. UBS analysts cited stronger-than-expected industrial demand and higher Spring home sales. 

POSTED: Friday, April 23, 2010, 12:35 PM

JG Wentworth, the Bryn Mawr firm that buys annuities and structured legal settlements from consumers for ready cash, says it's completed its first securitization fundraising since going through bankruptcy reorganization last year.

Wentworth sold $208 million of Class A notes rated AAA by Moody's Investor Service, paying 5.55%, and $26.5 million of A2-rated Class B notes, at 9.31%, keeping $17.2 million in higher-risk residuals, chief investment officer Stefano Sola told me. No credit enhancements on the notes, which were backed by settlements and annuities Wentworth purchased. Sola joined the firm last fall after serving as a managing director at Swiss Re in New York.

Sola told me employment at JG Wentworth has risen to 140, from a low of 65 during the 2008-09 financial crisis, but still below its pre-crisis peak of 200. Wentworth has been owned since 2006 by JLL Partners Inc., New York.

POSTED: Friday, April 23, 2010, 10:39 AM

Robert S. Kapito, president of BlackRock, the bond and investment company, will be the main speaker at the May 16 Wharton School MBA graduation at the University of Pennsylvania.

Maybe Kapito, a 1979 Wharton grad (with an '83 Harvard MBA), will update whether the company will ever move into that proposed Cira 2 tower that Brandywine Realty Trust (with help from tax breaks approved by Gov. Rendell and Mayor Nutter) offered to build for BlackRock next door to Penn's campus a couple years back.

Separately, Intel Corp. President and CEO Paul S. Otellini will speak before this Spring's graduates of Wharton's San Francisco executive MBA program, on May 2 out there at Wharton West.

POSTED: Friday, April 23, 2010, 8:37 AM

"The nation's oil and chemical plants are spewing more pollution than they report to the Environmental Protection Agency - and the EPA knows it," says Associated Press here (via Wilmington Del. News Journal)

"But the federal agency has yet to adopt more accurate, higher-tech measuring methods that have been available for years. Significant changes will not be seen for at least two more years, even though an internal EPA watchdog called for improvements in 2006 and some of the more sophisticated measuring devices have been used in Europe since the 1990s.

"Records, scientific studies and interviews by the Associated Press suggest pollution from petrochemical plants is at least 10 times greater than what is reported to the government and the public." Main problem is failure to measure many small leaks at aging refineries, and failure to use modern system monitors instead of old-fashioned manual reporting, AP says.

POSTED: Friday, April 23, 2010, 4:50 PM

US Department of Energy says today that it's approved "a $528.7 million loan with Fisker Automotive for the development and production of two lines of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles" by California-based Fisker Automotive, which wants to build some of the cars at a vacant ex-General Motors plant in Wilmington. Previous report here. 
Also here.

Vice president Joe Biden, who trolled for votes for years at the plant when he was a Delaware politician, has been a prominent supporter of the deal, whose minority owners include at least two local investment firms.

Energy says Fisker "expects to manufacture the Karma and Project NINA lines at a recently shuttered General Motors factory in Wilmington" and that it "anticipates that it will employ 2,000 American assembly workers," not counting suppliers.

 

POSTED: Thursday, April 22, 2010, 12:19 PM

When you're boss, you get to say where your office goes. And everyone else's.

After commuting every week for more than a year, Christopher Prior just moved the latest company he heads, Phase Bio Pharmaceuticals, from North Carolina's Research Triangle Park, to a Malvern site near his home.

Twenty years and three companies after he moved here to run Rhone-Poulenc Rorer's biologics R&D unit, Prior says Malvern's more convenient, not just for him personally, but also for the veteran salesmen and scientists he trusted from other jobs and wanted to hire for his current company. It's easier to bring them on board, and replace most of Phase Bio's North Carolina staff, than to get his "network" to relocate down South, or find new ones. "The best product development scientists I've ever worked with are up here," he told me.

POSTED: Thursday, April 22, 2010, 11:02 AM

Shares of PNC Financial Services Group, were up 4% in early trading to around $68, their highest since the 2008 stock market crash, after the bank, PA's biggest, said it earned enough money in the first quarter to pay back US TARP investments. PNC's earnings here. plus: Transcript of earnings call, Q&A via Financial Times' seekingalpha.com here.

In a statement, bank boss Jim Rohr credited "exceptional expense management" and lower credit costs as the financial crisis starts to ease. Branch expenses fell as PNC closed or sold excess offices acquired with Cleveland's National City Corp. The company also prepared to sell its Philadelphia- and Wilmington-based Global Investment Services arm.

PNC's "strong" earnings don't mean the company is lending more. Earning assets continued to decline during the quarter, Sandler O'Neill + Partners analyst R. Scott Siefers told clients in a report. PNC expects "low single digit loan growth" as the economy recovers, wrote David Hendler, head of bond analyst CreditSights Inc.

Home-lending expenses plunged to $125 million from $173 million a year earlier as residential lending plunged more than two-thirds, to around $2 billion for the quarter.  PNC also cut asset management costs $13 million, to $157 million, through "disciplined expense management" including job cuts.

But pay and other expenses for PNC's corporate bankers rose to $445 million, from $430 million, "primarily due to higher compensation expense related to increased sales activity."

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.

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