Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

POSTED: Thursday, October 9, 2014, 9:45 AM

Philadelphia's dominant high-rise office landlord has been tapped by Campbell Soup Co. to develop an office park and other possible projects on 13 acres south of Admiral Wilson Boulevard (NJ 38) in depressed Camden, N.J. Brandywine Realty Trust will cooperate with the Camden Redevelopment Authority in planning the "Gateway District," Campbell said in a statement this morning.

Brandywine, which operates six of Philadelphia's 10 largest office buildings and has also been the dominant office developer in University City and Radnor, where it's based, "has consistently demonstrated a clear focus on high-quality, well-designed urban development,” said Richard Landers, Campbell’s Vice President of Tax and Real Estate, in this statement. Landers said the Gateway project should "create jobs and spur economic growth.”

The former industrial city, whose worn rowhouse neighborhoods are home to many poor people and immigrants, has struggled to attract employers, even with extensive state aid for city government, Cooper Health System expansion, state colleges, public and charter schools, and Delaware River waterfront projects. Office vacancies in Camden County are double the empty-office rate in neighboring Burlington County, according to data compiled by Wolf Commercial Real Estate. It took $82 million in 10-year state tax incentives to lure the NBA 76ers to promise offices and a practice facility in Camden earlier this year.  

POSTED: Wednesday, October 8, 2014, 7:17 PM

Since India-born Satya Nadella took over as CEO of Microsoft last winter from Steve Ballmer, shares of the software giant best known for Windows, Excel and Exchange have gained $100 billion on the stock market. The company is now worth nearly $400 billion, as much as Google; among American companies, only Apple and ExxonMobil are worth more. Nadella's oracular, Jobs-like lines excite investors; some highlights from Microsoft's summer conference call:

Our industry does not respect tradition. It only respects innovation.

Over the next five, ten years, I see a world where computing is ubiquitous and all experiences are powered by ambient intelligence.

POSTED: Wednesday, October 8, 2014, 10:58 AM

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia has started publishing an ingenious new "Partisan Conflict Index" that measures the intensity of political fights in Washington by word-searching a Dow-Jones Factiva database of stories in major national and some regional newspapers and comparing them over time.

The index shows roughly that partisan fighting rose and fell while Congress was in session under Reagan and Clinton, generally decreased under George W. Bush, and has jumped as much as 50% under President Obama and the current Congress in which Republicans control the House of Representatives and each side pushes bills the other blocks.

Citing earlier research, the Fed notes that a high degree of political partisanship has been associated with consumer and business uncertainty, which in turn slows the economy. The Index isn't presented as a forecasting tool, but as a data-based indicator of the level of partisan fighting. Readers already inclined to dislike Obama might blame the President for conflict, or they might blame intense opposition by Republicans, for gridlocking Congress and possibly slowing the economy.

POSTED: Tuesday, October 7, 2014, 1:19 PM
The Biddle Building at 1217 Sansom St., Philadelphia. (Photo from pernafrederick.com)
Investor Leonard Thylan's 8-story Biddle Building, the newly-updated former jewelry factory at 1217 Sansom in a block of Center City Philadelphia that was prematurely projected as the back end of a Hotel Indigo that didn't happen, has won new life as home to three hopeful young digital-economy companies, totalling 11,200 sq ft and $1.25M/year, with similar tenants in the works, says brokerage PernaFrederick. 

Enterprise-mobility software-maker CloudMine, once a tenant at the Inquirer's digital incubator, is taking the sixth floor: PF's Dan Gummel (well known to N3rd St. tech tenants) rep'd CloudMine. Boutique branding agency At Media is taking half the fourth floor: PF's Joe Viturello and Mike Anderson rep'd them. Ark Ideas, a retailing ad-and-marketing agency, is taking the rest of the fourth floor; Keith Kiner represented landlord and tenant. Another tech and another creative company are in the works for the remaining vacancies, Kiner told me: "The building could be fully occupied by the end of the year." 
  
Midtown Village, best known as a residential neighborhood, "has become an office submarket, all to itself," said Kiner, who previously represented Goldman Properties. He added that the Biddle's high barrel-vaulted masonry ceilings and other historic features appeal to "mid-sized arts, cultural and technology businesses." 

This is not just a cheap alternative to Brandywine Realty Trust's Market Street West towers where rents have been rising lately, Kiner insisted: "I leased 100,000 sq. ft. around the corner at the Phliadelphia Building [and nearby buildings] at rents north of $24 a sq. ft." for Goldman, he told me. "We're getting similar rents at Biddle. This is a demographic, it's a culture, it's these creative loft funky-cool spaces." 

POSTED: Tuesday, October 7, 2014, 11:37 AM
(Photo from YouTube.com)

Two Philadelphia-area-based marketing agencies have sold to out-of-town firms:

- Cognizant, the Teaneck, N.J.-based info tech consulting company, said Tuesday that it has acquired 12-year-old Cadient Group, a King of Prussia-based marketing agency that employs 140 "digital specialists" focused on drug, biotech, hospital and medical-device firms and other employees in King of Prussia (105) and Pune, India (35). Financial backers who will share in the payout -- which the buyer and seller won't disclose -- include Edison Partners of Lawrenceville, N.J.  

"There was a clear signal from our customers that a different form of a digital agency was needed for life sciences," chief executive Stephen Wray, who joined the company in 2004, told me. "Our customers are looking for social and mobile to really rethink their business model," to help targeted customers "understand new science" before they buy drugs. In the past, he says, Cadient was hired to help drugmakers reach customers digitally "as pure communications. We have evolved" to help drugmakers acquire "the three I's: innovation, technology integration, multi-channel implementation." An independent agency "can't fulfill all three. Cadient as part of publicly-traded, well-financed Cognizant company "is the first in life sciences to answer that call." 

POSTED: Tuesday, October 7, 2014, 11:28 AM
(Photo from Amquip.com)

Clearlake Capital Group LP, Santa Monica, says it has agreed to buy Trevose-based crane-leasing giant AmQuip Holdings LLC, which employs more than 200, at offices from Boston to Dallas, managing 500 constructoin derricks for jobs like the now-bankrupt Revel casino in Atlantic City, Philadelphia high-rises, and Sunoco Logistics' conversion of its Marcus Hook refinery into a natural gas shipment center. AmQuip sales total around $150 million a year. The buyers won't say what they are paying.

Seller is a group led by New York-based Altpoint Capital Partners LLC, which bought the firm in 2007 with help from Lehman Bros., Bard Capital Group LLC, and Joseph L. Wesley Sr., who founded AmQuip in 1967. AmQuip CEO Albert Bove will join Clearlake founding partner Joseph Feliciano and two of his Clearlake colleagues on the board.

The deal was funded by Wells Fargo Capital Finance (lead arranger; admin agent) with PNC and CIT (lead arrangers) and Capital One. AmQuip was advised by Oppenheimer & Co. and RBC Capital Markets.


POSTED: Monday, October 6, 2014, 2:58 PM

It's not what it used to be, but Siemens Health Services (f/k/a Shared Medical Systems) remains one of the western suburbs' big tech employers. Will new owner Cerner Corp. keep it that way?

NEW 10/7: Sure, says the buyer: "Cerner plans to maintain the Malvern location, which has a talented group of associates and a high-quality data center that's complementary" to Kansas City-based Cerner's existing center, spokeswoman Kate O'Neill Rauber tells me.

When Siemens AG bought SMS, one of the Philadelphia area's pioneering info-tech companies, and its 7,600 employees, 3,850 of them at its Great Valley headquarters off US 202 near Malvern, back in 2000, the German tech giant paid $2.1 billion for the medical information systems maker, enriching founder R. James Macaleer's family to the tune of $70 million. By the time Cerner, of Kansas City, agreed to buy Siemens Health in August, 14 years later, the price had dropped to $1.3 billion. The deal includes somewhere between 5,000-6,000 Siemens "associates," plus "the buildings at the Malvern campus," Siemens spokeswoman Kelly Bocich told me. 

POSTED: Monday, October 6, 2014, 9:07 AM

UPDATE: Shares of Unisys Corp. fell as much as 12 percent, to around $21, in trading today after the board of the Blue Bell-based computer services and systems company said it has ousted CEO J. Edward Coleman, six years after he took the helm of the 23,000-worker firm, which counts the U.S., Pennsylvania, airlines, financial institutions and tech firms among its clients. 

In a statement, lead independent director Paul Weaver said directors have decided it's time to find new leadership. Revenues have fallen in each of the past 10 years, as Unisys left old business lines and struggled to replace sales with new products. Weaver lauded Coleman for stabilizing the company after the recession of 2008-09, slashing debt and interest expenses, and working to prepare it for the rapid changes that have overcome the information technology business. Unisys has begun an executive search but has not announced any candidates. 

Coleman summarized the problems facing Unisys and other business computing companies in a July conference call with investors, after announcing disappointing sales and profits: "The information technology industry is going through major transition, driven by the disruptive trends of cloud, mobility, big data, social computing and increasing cybersecurity threats," and the "shift from labor-based services to software-based and enabled services, from on-premise computing to hybrid clouds," he said at the time.

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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