Saturday, July 4, 2015

POSTED: Tuesday, June 30, 2015, 1:41 PM
The plant on Roosevelt at Byberry, a maker of Oreos, Ritz, and other snacks, is owned by Mondelez International. (MICHAEL BRYANT/Staff Photographer, File)

Mondelez, the $35 billion (yearly sales) food giant that makes Oreo cookies, Ritz crackers, Cadbury candies, Trident gum and other brands, last week shut its often-fragrant landmark bakery at Roosevelt Blvd. and Byberry Rd. and idling the last of 350 workers who baked its products under the Nabisco, Standard Brands and Kraft corporate labels; as well as drivers and other workers, not Mondelez employees, whose jobs depended on the plant. 

Mondelez ceased production last week; crews are still cleaning and closing the facility, and the company "is actively trying to sell" the plant, company spokesperson Tracy Mihaz told me.

Mondelez told me last year it was moving the work to more-modern plants in Fair Lawn, N.J. and Richmond, Va. (corrected). But former Philadelphia employees like retired baker Tom Campeggio, of Horsham, say they suspect the company will eventually shift more U.S. production to a government-subsidized, largely-automated, multimillion-dollar facility in Monterrey, Mexico, where workers earn less than the $24 an hour in pay and benefits the company contracted in Philadelphia. He's glad he was able to retire in 2013, after 43 years on the line, with his pension from the Bakery, Tobacco and Confectionary Workers union.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 1:41 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, June 30, 2015, 12:52 PM

Last fall, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management ended a contract with U.S. Investigations Services Inc., after USIS said it had "identified an apparent external cyber-attack on USIS’ corporate network" in which personnel files for at least 27,000 federal employees were stolen by hackers later traced to China. “We are deeply disappointed with OPM’s decision, particularly given the excellent work our 3,000 employees have delivered on these contracts," Virginia-based USIS said before shutting the business, laying off 1,200 workers in Grove City, Pa., and more than 1,300 elsewhere.

In May -- after OPM disclosed it had been hit with a much larger hack, in which as-yet unidentified data thieves collected information on 18 million military and federal employees -- a review of the earlier hack by the Stroz Friedberg security firm showed China-based hackers got into USIS's government records through "an SAP enterprise resource planning application"  (ERP), NextGov.com reported after reviewing investigation reports. "The cyber intruders got into the company through a glitch in software from tech firm SAP that was likely used to run certain back-office operations, such as human resources," wrote The Hill here.

Neither USIS nor SAP would confirm to me that the hackers got in through SAP systems. But SAP spokesman Andrew Kendzie, in defending SAP's security provisions, stressed it doesn't feel responsible for clients' failure to keep updating:  "We regularly issue security patches," he told me. "Although we strongly urge customers to implement those patches in a timely manner, we often do not have control over whether patches are implemented."  By government contractors or anyone else.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 12:52 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, June 29, 2015, 10:18 AM

Shares of Bancorp Bank, the Wilmington- and Philadelphia-based specialty loan, deposit and banking-services company, fell more than $1 a share, to below $10, in morning trading after the company announced more loan losses over the weekend and said it won't be filing its yearly financial report (10-K) until after June. See Bancorp (TBBK) filings here.

Bancorp, which had already delayed the report once after disclosing it had waited too long in disclosing previous loan losses, is further delaying its reports as "TBBK's auditors scour the book for further losses that
similarly should have been taken against the book in prior periods," writes Frank Schiraldi, analyst at Sandler O'Neill + Partners, New York. Bancorp was founded by former Jefferson Bank boss Betsy Zubrow Cohen, who stepped down from the bank's top job last year, 

With its latest reported losses, Bancorp's bad commercial loans, mostly in the Philadelphia area, total 12.5 percent, or about 3 times more than what other Philadelphia-area banks have been reporting on their portfolios, according to Schiraldi. He expects "potential future losses" as well. But the bank will remain "well-capitalized," Schiraldi adds, predicting the share price shouldn't stabilize below $9.25 a share.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 10:18 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Friday, June 26, 2015, 9:48 AM

A plant near Grenoble (corrected), France, run by Air Products, the Allentown, Pa.-based industrial-gas producer, was attacked by terrorists, French Prime Minister Francois Hollande said in a TV address. Air Products evacuated the plant, the company says here.

A severed human head, with Arabic-language characters dabbed on it, was placed on a stake in front of the plant. Others were reported injured.

Attackers rammed a vehicle through the gate of the plant. At least one man is under arrest. Agence France-Press story (in English) hereBloomberg story here. (Updated)

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 9:48 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, June 25, 2015, 4:30 PM

Luis Carlos Villegas, Colombia's ambassador to the U.S., passed through Philadelphia recently and granted an audience. Highlights:

(Why are you here today?) Colombia has 12 consulates in the United States. We are starting with all the cities where we have Colombians but not a consular office. Right now, Philadelphia is covered by the new consulate in Newark. So I meet with Colombians here, and with people who are interested in Colombia from the universities and the media, and with investors. And with people who trade -- importers, exporters.

I saw your Mayor Nutter. I saw Penn, and the Hispanic Chamber. I met with 25 investors who are already in Colombia. I went to the Navy Yard to see startups and the development of new industries. We have many companies here who trade with Colombia: in food, you have Hershey's; in technology; auto parts; you have ports, pharmaceuticals and medical devices that pass through the Ports of Philadelphia; hotels and tourism; investment funds.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 4:30 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, June 25, 2015, 4:07 PM
Susanne Svizeny,.

Seventeen years after its predecessor bought the last big Philadelphia bank, Wells Fargo & Co. remains the dominant bank in the region, with $22 billion in deposits in the five-county region, $10 billion or more ahead of rivals Citizens, PNC and TD.

But its branch network is down nearly half, to 153 offices, from 290 back in 1998, as more customers go online. After waves of automation and consolidation, Wells Fargo employment here is down, too -- to around 5,000 across the Philadelphia area, from 15,000 after it bought CoreStates Financial. Market share has slipped to 22% of Philadelphia-area branch deposits, from 37% in 1998, according to FDIC data, though that's partly a result of big banks shifting business and online accounts around the country. 

One element that hasn't been replaced is Susanne Svizeny, who has logged nearly 35 years (starting at the former New JerseyNational Bank) at what is now Wells Fargo's East Coast hub, where she serves as Executive Vice President in charge of business lending in Pennsylvania, South Jersey, Delaware, upstate New York, Montreal and Toronto -- "Conshohocken to Canada," as she says

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 4:07 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, June 25, 2015, 11:56 AM

John Guinee, veteran real estate analyst at Stifel & Co., had dropped his "Buy" recommendation on Brandywine Realty Trust, which controls 6 of Center City's 10 largest buildings and much of the office space in high-rent Radnor. He cited "investor ambivalence in general towards the Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. office markets" (Brandywine is also concentrated in suburban Washington) and says that's driven Brandywine shares down more than twice as fast as other office REITs this year. 

How weak is Center City as an office center? Commercial landlords in Center City are still asking office rents averaging in the mid (east of Broad St.) to high (West Market St.) $20s per square foot, which is about where they were 20 years ago; rents at many buildings are lower today, if you count the impact of inflation.

By contrast, rents in University City and the redeveloped Navy Yard district, in buildings that are mostly newer or lately renovated, are approaching $40/square foot, according to data collected by Lauren Gilchrist, research director at Jones Lang LaSalle's Philadelphia office. JLL says it's significant that rents have been rising a bit faster in Center City, up a compound annualized 2.2% since the start of 2010, vs. 1.2% in University City.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 11:56 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Wednesday, June 24, 2015, 2:07 PM

UPDATE: The lone Democrat to back a bill limiting local police pensions last week has qualified his support. Statement from Sen. Art Haywood, D-Roslyn: 

"I voted in favor of legislation that would give municipalities the option of defined contribution pension plans for new police and firefighter employees. As former President of the Board of Commissioners in Cheltenham Township, I understand the challenge of pension obligation growth. While this legislation would not reduce the approximately $8 billion owed to municipal pension across the state, it would curtail the growth of the pension obligation.

"At the same time, I have serious reservations regarding SB755 that I hope will be addressed as this legislation advances: 
- First, income to retirees must not be worse than benefits to state troopers. State and local police should be treated similarly.
- Second, our retired police and firefighters must have adequate replacement income under the new plan. The recommendations of the Auditor General that will soon be announced should be taken into account.
- Finally, the investments made under the defined contribution plans should be professionally, not individually, managed. Senator Eichelberger, the bill sponsor, has indicated a willingness to discuss these concerns and I hope we can reach an agreement. In voting to move this legislation forward, I hope to advance the conversation.”

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 2:07 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 JoeD@phillynews.com, distefano251@gmail.com, 215.854.5194 or 302.652.2004.

Reach Joseph N. at JoeD@phillynews.com or 215 854 5194.

Joseph N. DiStefano
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