Sunday, October 26, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

POSTED: Monday, October 20, 2014, 1:19 PM
File: Sears at King of Prussia (Peter Tobia photo)

Ireland-based multinational retailer Primark plans to lease the last 100,000 sq. ft. of what used to be Sears' big King of Prussia mall retail store and auto service center, says investor Eddie Lampert's Sears Holding Corp., which runs Sears and Kmart, in this statement. Dick's Sporting Goods already occupies the 75,000 sq. ft. former Sears space upstairs. Sears plans to pull out in about a year. 

Sears also plans to sublet to Primark at locations in Staten Island, N.Y., and five other cities, the company says.  Not immediately clear how the King of Prussia pullout affects Simon Property Group's ongoing plan to expand the retail area to connect the KofP Mall and Plaza. 

POSTED: Monday, October 20, 2014, 9:46 AM

LATEST: Don't get him wrong: "Joe (Corradino) and the team (at Pennsylvania REIT, the mall owner) have done a really good job" of buying and selling shopping centers, activist investor Jonathan Litt tells me. Though "they could be doing a better job" explaining how good some of their malls are to Wall Street investors, Litt added. Then maybe PREIT shares wouldn't trade at such a "persistent" discount to other mall owners. like Simon Property Group (they own King of Prussia) or General Growth (which, like Simon, has lately sold many of its properties.)

To boost PREIT's shares -- his firm owns not quite 1%, worth around $10 million -- Litt went public today with his proposal for PREIT to sell 17 of its 33 malls, including several in the suburbs around its Philadelphia headquarters.L

itt says PREIT should keep its malls in Cherry Hill, Willow Grove, Springfield, the Gallery at Market East, and 12 other high-performing locations -- while "liquidating" those at Moorestown, Plymouth Meeting, Exton, Voorhees and 13 other places with high vacancies/low rents. PREIT shares were up 3% in early trading to around $20.

POSTED: Thursday, October 16, 2014, 1:05 PM

For all the talk about a manufacturing revival in Philadelphia, small factory sites are still giving way to housing in trendy ex-industrial districts like Northern Liberties. 

Frost Development Co., Blue Bell, has agreed to pay $1.58 million to owner JCB Properties Inc. for 413 Green St., the 9,300 sq. ft. former location of Spot Wire Works Co. and, long before, a bakery site. Plans call for knocking over the pale-brick two-story building "to make way for a new residential develoment," pre-approved by the city zoning board for modern rowhome construction, reports Michael Barmash, broker at Colliers International, who represented the seller. Precision Group represented Frost.

A proopsal for the site by KJO Architecture includes four homes on Green St. and up to six around back on Wallace St.

POSTED: Thursday, October 16, 2014, 9:37 AM

The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, in a page-length ad targeted to readers, say unknown operators are targeting subscribers with "fraudulent renewal and new order notices for their subscriptions."

These junk-mail offers, sent through the U.S. mail, are arriving "under different company names, such as Readers Payment Service, Associated Publishers Network,,, Orbital Publishing Group, Publishers Billing Exchange, United Publisher Service, and Magazine Billing network, and others. We have no relationship with any of these companies," wrote circulation vice president Ed Delfin and customer service manager Lori Dowling in the papers' notice to subscribers.

The papers say they have reported this fraud to the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office and other law enforcement. But apparently they are still in business: A visit to the Web site the offers are using,, accepted the early stages of my application to pay for the Inquirer and only balked when I didn't supply a credit card number.

POSTED: Wednesday, October 15, 2014, 4:45 PM

The Bond King is dead; long live the Bond King, writes Daniel P. Wiener, publisher of the Independent Adviser for Vanguard Investors newsletter.

He's talking about Pacific Investment Management Co. (PIMCO) boss Bill Gross leaving the company he founded, followed by more than $20 billion in PIMCO Total Return customer assets reportedly leaving what was the world's largest mutual fund. PIMCO is no longer tops; Wiener notes that Vanguard's Total Bond Market Index fund, and its various related funds, as of the end of summer totalled over $222 billion. "It's safe to say" that Vanguard bond manager Joshua Barrickman now manages "the most money in the bond universe," Wiener concludes. 

Which is a piece of a bigger story: Vanguard now manages more than $2.7 billion in the U.S., which is 18% of the mutual fund business, according to data founder John C. Bogle sent Vanguard managers and posted on his Web site for the company's 40th birthday last month. Worldwide assets top $3 trillion. Vanguard has more than doubled since 2009, which was a record year for Vanguard despite the stock market collapse, as investors snapped up its bond funds; the group has added more than $1 trillion more just since 2011.

POSTED: Wednesday, October 15, 2014, 2:44 PM

Michael M. Carter says his company, BizEquity, of Devon, has built the "first and largest database" of millions of U.S. firms and the factors that enable owners, buyers, sellers and lenders to value them -- and it's just raised $5 million from investment bankers Miles Frost and Peter Brooks and their group to expand the business; U.S. media investor Herb Siegel and ex-Safeguard Scientifics boss Pete Musser are also aboard, Carter says.

BizEquity counts MasterCard, Metro Bank, Experian and Bryn Mawr Trust among its clients and partners. Fox Chase Bank and Metro Bank (Pa.) have private-labeled the service and put it online. Carter tells me he's lined up industry heavies like Michael Stefanick, svp-business intelligence/big data/commercial analytics at Equifax, to join BizEquity shortly.

Carter's idea is to put the small firms that dominate small-business appraisals out of business by offering so much data -- and regular valuation reports, and factor analysis, smartly presented, developing in realtime -- that dealmakers, banks, owners and investors will have little need to look elsewhere.

POSTED: Wednesday, October 15, 2014, 1:18 PM

"Business as usual is over" for U.S. retailers, even at Wal-Mart, which is finally putting the brakes on new-store construction as shoppers stay home and order over mobile phones and other devices, writes analyst David Strasser in a report today to clients of Janney Capital Markets in Philadelphia.

At the same time, Wal-Mart is building more big warehouses to ship goods straight to consumers -- and the Lehigh Valley warehouse district, on the free Interstates linking East Coast ports and markets, has emerged as one of the company's favorite shipping points. On Wednesday Wal-Mart said it would hire 300 workers for a second 1.2 million ft2  "e-commerce fulfillment center" in Bethlehem, in a state "Special Development Zone" (ex Beth Steel mill), which gives the company a $2,100/worker tax break for each of the next 10 years, said state spokesman Steve Kratz. Last year the company announced its "largest ever" warehouse (also 1.2M ft2) and 350 jobs nearby. Total cost: $96 million.

Wal-Mart is playing catch-up with Amazon, which already uses east-central Pennsylvania and nearby Delaware as a warehouse and shipping base. For Wal-Mart, more warehouses = fewer new stores: Wal-Mart store construction has slowed "from about 120 Supercenters this year, to about 60-70 next year," plus just "200 Neighborhood Market store openings... well below our 500 estimate," and "nil" for the dollar-store-sized Wal-Mart Express initiative, Strasser noted.

POSTED: Tuesday, October 14, 2014, 3:32 PM
Jean Tirole, winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. (AP)

"U.S. consumers might be paying less than they are for cable and Internet access if regulators had followed the guidance of [this year's Nobel Prize for Economics winner] Jean Tirole in promoting industry competition," argues the Associated Press here. 

“He has given us an instruction manual for what tool to use in what market,” Torstetin Persson of the Nobel prize committee said of Tirole, a French economist who studied at MIT. “Politicians would be stupid not to take his policy advice.” 

But they didn't, says a scholar AP talked to: "Joshua Gans, management professor at the University of Toronto, says U.S. regulators didn’t follow Tirole’s advice to require cable and phone companies to sell competitors access to 'the last mile' of cable connecting homes to telecommunications networks. Instead, giants such as Comcast and Time Warner now control the last mile." 

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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