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Inquirer Daily News

Archive: August, 2009

POSTED: Monday, August 31, 2009, 2:25 PM

Liberty Property Trust, the Philadelphia-based real-estate investment trust best known locally for building the Comcast Center, is up 47% so far this year, compared to 7% for the battered REIT business as a whole, notes David AuBuchon, REIT analyst at Baird & Co. in St. Louis.

And that's enough for now, AuBuchon adds. He cut his Liberty rating to "Neutral" from "Outperform" this morning. AuBuchon sees Liberty stock going to $28 - below last week's closing of $33.50.

In fact, AuBuchon sees 6 of 12 office REITs he likes well enough to follow as overpriced in this summer's reheated market. Exceptions include BioMedix Realty Trust Inc., Alexandria Real Estate, and Douglas Emmett Inc., which three he upgraded to "Outperform."  

Re Liberty: "The stock has done great this year, on an absolute and a relative basis," AuBuchon told me. There's been "significant improvement (to) the company's balance sheet," although "some work remains," as he put in his report. Occupancy (excluding newly bought or sold properties) is a respectable 91%, but it's "a difficult operating environment." In sum, AuBuchon told me. the stock "is just a bit ahead of where it should be right now." 

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 2:25 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, August 31, 2009, 12:32 PM

“While we are disappointed the decision does not provide the flexibility we had hoped for, Delaware is still the only state east of the Rocky Mountains that can offer a legal sports lottery on NFL football,” says Gov. Jack Markell, after federal appeals court judges limited Delaware sports betting to two-game NFL "parlay" bets.

“We continue to believe this is an opportunity to create jobs and generate revenue to help us keep teachers in the classroom, police on the street and maintain other core commitments of state government. The state’s attorneys are reviewing today’s written opinion from the Court of Appeals and we will be discussing our legal options with them." 

Also, Delaware gambling halls have been racing to accomodate sports bettors since the state voted to boost pro and college game gambling, but high-powered legal opposition by NFL and other leagues has made that increasingly unlikely. Suzette Parmley's Inquirer story here.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 12:32 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, August 31, 2009, 9:32 AM

Marvel Entertainment has agreed to sell to Walt Disney for $4 billion, or $50 a share.

Marvel owns Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Captain America, Iron Man, and other 1950s-era comic book titles turned mass-market licensing bonanzas, which have been resurrected as thinly-plotted but brightly-colored action films by the creatively-challenged Hollywood movie studios.

The sale ends a long, wild ride for Marvel that included a litigious stint as part of Philadelphia-bred dealmaker Ron Perelman's complex business holdings in the 1990s.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 9:32 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, August 31, 2009, 9:21 AM

Home finance lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have each topped $2 in recent New York Stock Exchange trading. That's the highest they've been since share prices collapsed last September.

"There is no fundamental value remaining in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, particularly since the government owns 80% of each company," writes analyst Paul J. Miller Jr. and his colleagues at brokerage Friedman Billings Ramsey. "We expect more government capital injections" on top of the $96 billion already invested. "This capital must be repaid" if Fannie and Freddie are to survive. Otherwise the stocks are dead anyway.

Fannie and Freddie each have less than one-third the capital they need to cover their loan losses. And loan losses are rising. If they were banks they'd probably be shut by regulators.

What will happen? "The Administration is keeping discussion about (these government-sponsoerd enterprises) behind closed doors... The most likely scenario is that the GSEs operations will be split up, and Fannie and Freddie will be spun out of the government as mortgage insurers with small portfolios." The government will "manage" their mortgage portfolios. 

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 9:21 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Friday, August 28, 2009, 11:17 AM

Bidding starts at $25,000 (it's tax-deductible!) to get Your Name (or your love one's, or your company's) on a fellowship to be awarded by the Philadelphia- and Siena, Italy-based Sbarro Health Research Organization - that's right, it's backed by the pizza people - to "support a year-long fellowship for a brilliant young scientist to study under Antonio Giordano MD PhD," a Neapolitan scholar who founded the cancer and therapeutic scientific research center at Temple University and the U of Siena in 1993.

Sponsor-A-Scientist!  went up on eBay this morning. No bids yet, but Sbarro is hopeful, says spokeswoman Ilene Rush.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 11:17 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Friday, August 28, 2009, 10:19 AM

The trading value of shares in little Safeguard Scientifics, the Wayne company that invests in small bio and tech companies, has risen 50% on the New York Stock Exchange over the past difficult year. A stake in the company is now worth about what it was in 2007.

Safeguard's price is up a lot more, thanks to today's 6-for-1 reverse stock split, which drove Safeguard shares above $10 for the first time since 2003, at the tail end of the dot.com collapse.

Yesterday, Safeguard raised $53 million by selling some of its stock in California-based cancer fighter Clarient at $3.50/share. Its remaining Clarient stake is worth roughly half of Safeguard's market value, down from two-thirds before the sale, which is good, according to today's report to clients by analysts William Sutherland and Bill DiTullio at Boenning and Scattergood.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 10:19 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, August 27, 2009, 10:38 AM

The Securities and Exchange Commission's plan to ban "pay-for-play" campaign donations by private firms that manage public money, and to stop private "placement agents" from lobbying governments to hire their investor clients, has been collecting comments on a federal Web site since last month.

Read the proposal and comments here - heck, add your own.

What's interesting is the split in the commentary, to date. Some money managers like the ban on donations; wouldn't it be great to end that obnoxious cost of doing business, of having to either pick winners, or spread the money around? 

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 10:38 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, August 27, 2009, 10:24 AM

Toll Bros. has been selling more homes, but at lower prices, notes Merrill H. Ross, homebuilder analyst at BGB Securities in Washington, DC. ADD: Toll sold a net 837 units, worth $448 million, in the quarter, vs 812 units, worth $470 million, a year ago. Quarterly report here.

By pricing homes at realistically lower rates, Toll "is capturing market share of luxury home buyers," but they're still "few and far between," added Ross. "We believe that sales will continue to be depressed through 2010." ("We are reducing incentives and raising prices at selected communities," ceo Bruce Toll said in the report.)

Maybe Toll "can build luxury homes at a profit at some point in 2010" if orders keep rising, Ross added. But she adds there's still a lot of unsold homes to unload before Toll can boost prices enough to make a priofit.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 10:24 AM  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 JoeD@phillynews.com or 215 854 5194.

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