Saturday, May 23, 2015

Archive: May, 2011

POSTED: Tuesday, May 31, 2011, 2:27 PM

Apollo Global Real Estate, New York, hopes to raise more than $180 million from the sale of the Curtis Center and the Public Ledger Building on Washington Square.

That's less than the combined $220 million then-owners Citigroup and Joseph Grasso's Walnut Real Estate tried to raise in a failed attempt to sell the onetime publishing center turned office complex in 2008.

But it's still a lot more than the $137 million investors led by Citi paid to buy the buildings in 2006. Apollo took over the buildings as part of a $3 billion property portfolio it bought from Citi last fall.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 2:27 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, May 31, 2011, 9:48 AM

"Nationally, home prices are back at 2002 levels," after falling an average 4.2% in the first quarter of this year, and 3.6% last fall, according to Standard and Poor's Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, which investors consider more reliable than real estate industry data. Link here.

Home prices fell fastest in Minneapolis, Chicago, Phoenix, Portland Ore. and Seattle over the past year. The numbers look less bad in the Northeast, though Case-Shiller doesn't track Philadelphia.

The trend is back down again after last fall's brief recovery following a moratorium on home foreclosures (= fewer homes on the market) by major banks accused of shoddy loan accounting.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 9:48 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, May 31, 2011, 9:30 AM

Comcast Corp. has agreed to pay investor Blackstone Group more than $1 billion to buy the half of Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure theme parks in Orlando that Comcast doesn't already own, reports here.

No word from Comcast or Blackstone, so far. Wall St. Journal reported the two were in talks in April.

There'd been speculation when Comcast bought NBC Universal that the parks were among the assets Comcast was likely to sell. But Comcast cfo Michael Angelakis last week called the parks a "reasonably good business" and said a decision on what to do with them was close.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 9:30 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, May 31, 2011, 4:19 PM

Michael K. Pearson has bought out his partner and plans to expand his business, Union Packaging LLC, of Yeadon, which makes packaging for Burger King, Wendy's, and Arby's.

Pearson, who grew up in nearby West Philadelphia and Lansdowne and graduated from Penn in 1984, told me he wants to hire more workers (there are currently more than 50) and "branch out into some additional markets."

Pearson borrowed $3.5 million from National Penn Bank, based in Boyertown, to boost production and pay off his outside investor, Dopaco, a Downingtown-based box maker that's in the process of being sold by owner Mead Westvaco Corp. to Reynolds Group Holdings Inc.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 4:19 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Friday, May 27, 2011, 1:52 PM

Ted Aronson, the veteran Philadelphia money manager, just pulled up a list of the most valuable US companies (based on share price), and compares it with a list from the end of 1978, when he was a "young pup" at the vanished Philadelphia brokerage Drexel Burnham Lambert (where Aronson shared the floor with ambitious youngsters like future junk-bond king Michael Milken, and briefly bossed future Comcast chief Brian L. Roberts).

Heading the list at the end of 1978 was IBM (now #3), AT&T (now #8,  after spinning off Verizon and much more), Exxon (now #1), GM (dropped off the Top Ten), and General Electric (still #5).

Kodak and three oil companies have dropped off the list, replaced by Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, and Wal-Mart. Chevron moved up the list, to #4, from tenth.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 1:52 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, May 26, 2011, 2:06 PM

(Updated) Site prep has started on the proposed $140 million Family Court building that general contractor Daniel J. Keating has agreed to build for the state at 15th and Arch Sts. in Center City. 

A pair of lawsuits challenging the way the state hired a contractor to handle more than $20 million of electrical and computer work for the project are working their way through state courts.

Lawyers for Gordon Group, a Feasterville contractor, say Gordon made the low bid for the job, only to be bypassed in favor of Farfield Co., a Lancaster County contractor. State records show Farfield did a better job promising to meet green-building environmental guidelines. But Gordon says those requirements weren't part of the state's bid request. Gordon's complaint is on appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 2:06 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, May 26, 2011, 1:24 PM

Will shopping-mall construction, which shaped the suburbs, ever resume? Andrew DiZio, analyst at Janney Capital Markets, asked that question at this year's crowded International Council of Shopping Centers conference in Las Vegas this week, and got "answers ranging from 2012, to 2015, to never." He's going with "at least the next few years."

Why no building? There's no shortage of investor cash. Insurers, lenders and Wall Street banks are offering gobs of money to buy existing malls, if anyone wants them, DiZio reported: "Low interest rate debt is available for A and B quality assets in both primary and scondary markets."

But demand is still weak, shoppers are still holding back, and store rents are still dropping. Store chains are turning to less-costly online sales as more Americans buy by smartphones. When storeowners do pick new space, they are "targeting urban locations" or building on "oversized parking" lots at existing malls, instead of plowing up new centers.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 1:24 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, May 26, 2011, 12:20 PM

Tasty Baking Co. was the fastest-growing snack cake brand in the US when it was being sold at a fraction of its former value to Georgia-based Flowers Foods, according to a new report by Mitchell B. Pinheiro at Janney Montgomery Scott.

Pinheiro says Tasty's two plants, the new South Philadelphia bakery and the frying plant out in Oxford, which makes doughnuts, and honey buns for Wal-Mart (20% of total Tasty sales), can be expanded to handle more Flowers' products, which include Mrs. Freshley's doughy sugary snacks.

But don't expect too much from consolidation, Pinheiro added.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 12:20 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
About this blog

PhillyDeals posts drafts, transcripts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area business, which he's been writing since 1989.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn and taught writing at St. Joseph's. He has written thousands of columns and articles for the Inquirer, Bloomberg and other media, wrote the book Comcasted, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at,, 215.854.5194 or 302.652.2004.

Reach Joseph N. at or 215 854 5194.

Joseph N. DiStefano