Wednesday, December 17, 2014

POSTED: Monday, November 24, 2014, 1:37 PM

Descartes Systems Group, a logistics software company based in Waterloo, Canada, says it paid $29.7 million last week to acquire Trevose-based AirClic Inc., which automates bar-code reading and bill-paying for industrial shippers and other clients onto hand-held phones, using the cloud-based Perform platform.

"Descartes and AirClic have several common customers" who use both systems together, said Descartes CEO Edward J. Ryan in a statement. "We believe we can meet the growing demand for integrated routing and mobile fleet management solutions" and make Airclic as profitable as Descartes, he added. No immediate comment on Descartes' plans for the Airclic office and staff.

Besides Trevose, AirClic has operations in Owings Mills, Md. and Reading, England. AirClic's CEO at the time of sale was Michael B. Lee. Cofounder was Peter B. Ritz, a onetime Ikon Office Solutions executive whose later projects include cloud-software developer Xtium and the Keystone NAP data center rising at the former U.S. Steel site in Bucks County. 

POSTED: Monday, November 24, 2014, 1:18 PM

Shares of Lincoln National Corp., the Radnor-based insurance and investments company that owns naming rights for the Eagles stadium, are trading above $59 for the first time in six years, and Lincoln CEO Dennis Glass and his managers are "confident of their prospects" for yearly profit growth of 8-10%, Robert Glasspiegel, analyst at Janney Capital Markets in Philadelphia, tells clients in a report today.

Glasspiegel notes some concerns (in addition to interest-rate and stock-market risk): Lincoln has cut way back on its old policy of reinsuring its life insurance, and is holding a lot more of the risk on the books, Glasspiegel notes. He points out that Swiss Re and other European insurers have said they are worried customers are living longer than expected, so they are having to pay some annuities longer than expected. He's watching to see "if this is just a European insurer problem" or whether American firms like Lincoln will have to change their assumptions, too.

Glasspiegel also says Lincoln is investing more money (6%-12% of  its new investments) into high-yield junk bonds. He questions "if this is a good time to be re-risking in light of where yields, spreads and valuations are today."  

POSTED: Monday, November 24, 2014, 11:16 AM

"Certain broker dealers" -- the firm won't say which -- "have resumed sales of products distributed by Realty Capital Securities LLC," an affiliate of RCS Capital Corp., says the brokerage's CEO, Bill Dwyer, in this statement.

Investment News reported earlier this month that affiliates of AIG, LPL, Securities America Inc. and National Planning Holding Inc. were declining to handle some securities backed by RCS or other companies founded or controlled by Nicholas Schorsch, the Jenkintown scrap-recycling heir turned New York-based real estate mogul, after another company he chairs, American Realty Capital Partners Inc., announced it would have to restate earnings after two financial executives left the company for reporting inaccurate financial information. Dwyer said he expected the suspensions would prove "temporary." 

Shares of RCS rose 35 cents in morning trading, to $11.25, but remain near their historic low. The investment finance company stock peaked at $39.50 in April.

POSTED: Thursday, November 20, 2014, 2:11 PM

UPDATE: New Jersey had the most-underfunded pension system of any U.S. state this year, with the government in Trenton kicking in just 28 cents for every dollar needed to balance spending liabilities with income, Moody's Investor Service says in a report today by a team of analysts led by John Lombardi. Two-thirds of states put in at least 90 cents for every dollar of "actuarially determined contributions."  f

EARLIER: Yesterday's departure of Robert Grady, a longtime adviser to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, as chairman of the State Investment Council, which oversees the underfunded New Jersey state workers' and teachers' pension system, provoked an outpouring of praise from Christie financial managers. (See my colleague Maddie Hanna's article here.) 

You'd never know, from the official statements, that the state's pension deficit has ballooned under Christie-era policies. The assets set aside to pay current and future retirees trail the liabilities actually owed to current and future pensioners by $42 billion, according to "Truth and Consequences," a report prepared by Christie's own Treasury Department in September. This deficit is twice what it was back in 2007; it's approaching the high it briefly hit during the financial markets collapse that bottomed in 2009; it has grown worse by $6 billion over the last two years, even as U.S. stock values jumped 16% in 2012, and 32% in 2013.

POSTED: Thursday, November 20, 2014, 11:59 AM

They weren't acting lke the defeated party: "A sold-out crowd of over 200" filled JG Domestic, the restaurant at the Cira Center office tower next to Philadelphia's 30th St. train station, last night to raise funds for bringing the 2016 Democratic National Convention to Philadelphia, says one organizer, Dan Kessler, investment analyst for Cira landlord Brandywine Realty Trust (and son of Duane Morris rainmaker and national Democratic fundraiser Alan Kessler).

It was a cheap night - $20.16 a head, up to $200+ for "host committee" members. Ex-Gov. Ed Rendell and Mayor Michael Nutter were on hand to rally the faithful and tell young "millennials," like the  professionals crowding into Center City and neighboring districts, that "we are the future of the Democratic Party," Kessler adds. City hotel-keepers are also hoping the party will be here in two summers.

POSTED: Wednesday, November 19, 2014, 12:38 PM

First Savings Bank of Perkasie and First Federal of Bucks County have agreed to merge, forming a single, depositor-owned mutual savings bank with $1.8 billion in loans and other assets and 24 offices. Jeane Coyle, president of First Federal, will head the combined banks, which will have the second-largest branch network in the county, after Wells Fargo (check FDIC data here). First Savings boss Fred Schea plans to retire after the merger.  They haven't decided on a new name.

Each company has 12 offices. Perkasie-based First Savings focuses on wealthy suburban central and upper Bucks, while First Federal is based in Bristol and covers blue-collar Lower Bucks. Since the branches serve different areas, the banks expect to keep all of them open; headquarters jobs will be combined. 

“Being a mutual means we don’t have to answer to stockholders. We answer only to our customers,” said First Savings board chairman Bob Byers Jr in a statement.  While First Federal remains an old-fashioned mutual, First Savings has set up a depositor-owned holding company, FSB Mutual Holdings Inc., that owns the bank and its insurance and investment affilaites. The banks will be part of the holding company.

POSTED: Wednesday, November 19, 2014, 9:35 AM
Shire P.L.C. is headquartered in Ireland but has operations in Exton and Wayne (above). (TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer, file)

Shire Plc, the drugmaker that popularized Adderall for attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), plans to move its U.S. headquarters and more than half the 970 jobs at its Chesterbrook offices near Valley Forge to the Boston area, workers were told in a meeting this morning.

The company, incorporated in the British tax haven island of Jersey, employed 1,100 plus 300 contractors at Chesterbrook as recently as 2012, and previous CEO Angus Russell had considered local sites for a larger Philadelphia-area campus. But current CEO Dr. Flemming Ornskov, killed those plans; Ornskov, who holds a master's in public health from Harvard, prefers the Boston area. "Our strategy is to become a leading biotechnology company, and Boston is a biotech center," spokeswoman Gwen Fisher told me. 

Shire plans to move 500 staff -- executives, research and development staff and the gastroinestinal, internal medicine and neuroscience business groups -- to Lexington, Mass., near the company's infectious-disease unit. Legal and some other corporate support functions will also move, Fisher said. Supply chain, government contracting, and parts of the human-resources and information-technology groups will stay in Chesterbrook. Shire statement here.

POSTED: Tuesday, November 18, 2014, 4:19 PM

David Danon tried to warn Vanguard Group it was illegally underpaying its income taxes while he was a tax lawyer for the company from 2008 to 2013 -- and was punished, with "attempts to silence me," until he was fired "in retaliation for my persistent and vocal questioning" of the $3 billion investment company's "unlawful practices," the Wayne resident says in an affidavit filed for his whistleblower lawsuit this week.

He says he only sued after Vanguard officials' "refusal to act on clear violations of law" he brought to their attention, showed the company "intentionally engaged in unlawful conduct," Danon alleged in court papers meant to answer Vanguard's efforts to discredit him and stop his complaint from advancing in a New York court.

Danon alleges Vanguard, based in Malvern, has violated federal tax law governing payments between corporate affiliates, by undercharging for services it provides to its own mutual funds. Low income means less income tax. Danon says Vanguard has used this method to underpay taxes by more than $1 billion over the years.

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.

Joseph N. DiStefano
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