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Archive: June, 2012

POSTED: Wednesday, June 27, 2012, 9:21 AM

Update: More from Brandywine boss Jerry Sweeney in my column in today's print Inquirer here.

Earlier: Brandywine Realty Trust, the Radnor landlord that controls half the high-end office towers in Center City, plans to fill vacant city and suburban space with apartments (more on the lack of office demand here):

1) "1919 Market, which is owned through a 50/50 joint venture with [Independence Blue Cross] will include 292 market-rate apartments and 55,000 sq. ft. of retail, and is expected to be delivered by 4Q’14," writes Daniel P. Donlan, real estate analyst at Janney Capital Markets, in a report to clients this morning after Brandywine bosses met with investors.

POSTED: Tuesday, June 26, 2012, 2:39 PM

The days when Americans could avoid state sales taxes by buying online from are drawing toward a close.

"By the end of 2012, five additional states will force Internet sellers to collect taxes:" Texas and Utah in July, Pennsylvania and California in September, Georgia in October, reports analyst David Strasser of Janney Capital Markets in a report to clients.

By year's end Internet sales tax will apply in states covering three-eights of the nation (measured by GDP), up from one-eighth last year. New York, Arkansas (home of Amazon rival Walmart), Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, North Dakota, Vermont and Washington already have Internet tax collection requirements. New Jersey, Tennessee and Virginia are scheduled to start collecting Internet sales tax next year, Indiana and Nevada in 2014, South Carolina two years later.

POSTED: Tuesday, June 26, 2012, 10:14 AM

The gap between what state pension plans have promised retired workers and the money they have set aside to pay them is about to start looking worse -- twice as bad, for major PA and NJ pension plans -- now that the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) is belatedly trying to impose standard reporting on the wildly differing state and city pension systems, says a group of pension scholars at Boston College.

GASB's new pension reporting standards -- approved in a vote yesterday though detailed guidelines won't be issued til later this year -- are expected to reduce the gap between what pension plans own and what they owe, as used by investors and ratings agencies to calculate state solvency and rate financial risk.

Read the BC study estimating just how much state pension funded ratios are going to fall under GASB proposals, here.

POSTED: Tuesday, June 26, 2012, 4:09 PM

Was the Bush-Obama General Motors Corp. bailout "one of the great turnarounds in American business history," as Wharton School management Prof. Michael Useem says?

With GM's (32% US taxpayer-owned) shares slipping below $20 (back to last year's lows, from $39 in early 2011), the electric Volt and European sales losing mone, the job's still not done, admits vice chairman Stephen Girsky. But the fact GM is profitable, still in business, and boosting sales is, he says, sufficient justification: "Failure would have been catastrophic." Instead, "we earned $9 billion last year," employ more than 200,000 (some called back to work after plants re-opened), and are expected to stay profitable this year and next.

Girsky won his million-dollar-plus-per-year job through an unlikely route: He was a stock analyst at Morgan Stanley covering GM and its more-profitable rivals, cheering its shutdowns and layoffs, in the 1990s and early 2000s. Later, as an auto consultant, he was United Autoworkers' union head Ron Gittelfinger's pick to serve on the GM board as it veered toward bankruptcy and near-collapse; he got along well wth GM's new boss, Dan Akerson; in 2010 he was named Vice Chairman-Corporate Strategy and Development, responsible for product planning, purchasing, supply chain, European division Adam Opel, and wireless communications wing OnStar, among other businesses.

POSTED: Monday, June 25, 2012, 2:31 PM

Real estate isn't the only asset whose value has plunged, and stayed low, since the 2008 financial crisis.

1) "Bankers are putting to sea and seizing ships to protect the value of their loans to struggling shipowners," reports Reuters here.

"The nominal resale value of a supertanker, used to transport crude oil, has fallen to around the $90 million level from $162 million in 2008.

POSTED: Monday, June 25, 2012, 12:54 PM

"Investors hoping that Rite Aid might be Walgreen's next target were disappointed" by this announcement "that Walgreen will purchase Alliance Boots," Europe's largest pharmacy chain, for $6.7 billion in cash and stock, writes bond analyst Kim Noland in a report for Gimme Credit LLC.

"This risky move likely rules out purchase of even part of the Rite Aid chain," adds Noland.

Why so risky? Because it will leave Walgreens deep in debt -- just like Rite Aid's ill-timed 2007 purchase of Brooks Eckerd, which forced years of store consolidations and closings from which Camp Hill, Pa.-based Rite Aid has only recently graduated to slow, steady growth, thanks partly to Walgreens' fight with pharma supplier Express Scripts, a dispute that is pushing some customers to Rite Aid.

POSTED: Monday, June 25, 2012, 12:42 PM

We know ExxonMobil as Big Oil: the largest U.S.-based oil company, the bossiest of the global Seven Sisters, and, often, the most-valuable U.S. stock (when it's not Apple Computer.) 

So the "30%-below-consensus oil price forecast for 2013" is bad for Exxon, no? Actually, not so very bad: Exxon's huge chemical works turn out to be "an excellent hedge for declining commodity prices," writes Pavel Molchanov, oil analyst at Raymond James & Associates.

Counted as a "standalone company," Exxon chemical sales totalled $4.4 billion last year -- "82% larger than Dow Chemical ($2.4 billion), 26% larger than DuPont ($3.5 billion), and more than half" as big as the biggest chemicals-only company, BASF ($8 billion.)

POSTED: Monday, June 25, 2012, 10:10 AM

 NextDocs, the growing pharmaceutical clinical-testing compliance software company founded by Microsoft veteran Zikria Syed nine years ago, is leaving its offices at Brandywine Real Estate Trust's 500 North Gulph Rd., King of Prussia and moving with around 100 employees to 30,000 sq ft at Oliver Tyrone Pulver Corp.'s Six Tower Bridge in Conshohocken, according to CBRE svp Scott Miller, who represented NextDocs.

"NextDocs chose the property due to its centralized location" closer to Philadelphia and the "live-work-play lifestyle," as well as "the quality of the building," according to Miller. 

Like other landlords, Brandywine is weighing upgrades to its suburban properties as regional vacancies rise.

About this blog

PhillyDeals posts interviews, drafts and updates that Joseph N. DiStefano writes alongside his Sunday and Monday columns and ongoing articles about Philadelphia-area business.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn. He taught writing and research at St. Joe’s. He has written for the Inquirer since 1989, except when he left a few times to work at Bloomberg and elsewhere. He wrote the book Comcasted, and raised six kids with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at, 215.854.5194, @PhillyJoeD. Read his blog posts at and his Inquirer columns at Bloomberg posts his items at NH BLG_PHILLYDEAL.

Reach Joseph N. at or 215 854 5194.

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