Tuesday, May 26, 2015

POSTED: Monday, April 20, 2015, 11:48 AM

DuPont Co. keeps up its near-daily propaganda blitz against billionaire activist Nelson Peltz (Trian Funds Management) and his slate of insurgent would-be directors, who are contesting the Wilmington-based bio/chemical company's board elections May 13.

In February, I noted Peltz's firm's ties to the California teachers' pension fund (CalSTRS) and Legg Mason, which together with Trian owned about 3.4% of DuPont. Peltz hasn't made clear he has support from other investors (what will Vanguard do? It backs management, usually.)

For its part, DuPont today sent shareholders quoting support from these investors and analysts:

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 11:48 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, April 20, 2015, 10:48 AM

It's Spring. The economy has speeded up a bit. Time to think about buying or upgrading that Shore home?

Albert Slap (son of the late Matt Slap, once Philly's top auto dealer) and Bob Hubbell, long-ago Penn grads, have started a service in Florida they hope buyers and lenders will consult before signing off on 30 years of payments, in these times of rising waters. In some Shore neighborhoods, it could be a real estate buzz-killer.

Slap, a onetime public-interest lawyer (and later Phila. city attorney) whose Sierra Club lawsuit curbed Philadelphia's sewage dumping way back in 1979, and Hubbell, past spokesman for the accounting firm KPMG, own Coastal Risk Consulting L.L.C., which projects how much flooding a Shore property is likely to suffer over the life of a 30-year mortgage. Financial backers include Geronimo Ventures, Aspen, Colo.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 10:48 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, April 20, 2015, 9:58 AM

General Electric seems primed to return to its roots as an electrical and industrial manufacturer, now that boss Jeffrey Immelt has put forth plans for unwinding most of GE Capital, which under past CEO John F. Welch Jr. accounted for more than half the company. GE says it will send billions in proceeds from financial asset sales back to shareholders, while also buying additional industrial assets like France's Alstrom, an electric power turbine maker.

I visit GE's last Philly-based business -- GE Water & Process Technology, in Trevose -- and ask Welch, who retired in 2001 to join wife Suzy as a business and personal career guru (he was in town pushing his latest book: The Real Life MBA), if it might have made more sense for GE to keep its Philadelphia turbine factories running in the first place instead of shutting the last of them in 2001. Read about GE and Welch in my Sunday Inquirer column here. 

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 9:58 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Friday, April 17, 2015, 3:41 PM
Comcast shares fell 2.4 percent to $58.26 at 3 p.m. in New York. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

"Staff attorneys at the Justice Department’s antitrust division are nearing a recommendation to block Comcast Corp.’s bid to buy Time Warner Cable Inc., according to people familiar with the matter," Bloomberg's David McLaughlin and Todd Shields report here. 

Also: "Attorneys who are investigating Comcast’s $45.2 billion proposal to create a nationwide cable giant are leaning against the merger out of concerns that consumers would be harmed and could submit their review as soon as next week, said the people. The final decision about the deal will be made by the division’s senior officials.

"Comcast shares fell 2.4 percent to $58.26 at 3 p.m. in New York, while Time Warner Cable fell 4.9 percent to $150.41."

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 3:41 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Friday, April 17, 2015, 9:44 AM
A commuter emerging from a Septa station with Philadelphia City Hall in the background. The transit system offers up a poetic rhythm all its own. (Megan Ritchie Jooste)

A reader (my son the engineer) who takes Septa subway-surface trolleys to work most days asks: "Why do all the trolleys have their own [password-protected] WiFi networks named VSSEPTA****, where **** is the 4 digit trolley number?

"There are parts of the underground where they have no cell service, and if the radio communication doesn't work (which it didn't last night) they could use that WiFi to communicate with the command center," he added. Asked the operator -- and found he "didn't know what I was talking about. If they at least told the drivers the network passwords they could maybe get some use out of them. Why are the networks there? Why aren't they used? Will they ever be used?"

Septa spokesperson Jerri Williams looked into it, and found: "VSSEPTA**** is for internal Septa use only and it does not connect to the Internet. It’s being installed in advance of the Septa Key new payment technology system and will be used for internal Septa operational functions to capture data related to the vehicle." No plans to extend this to the public:"We don’t have WiFi at the trolley stations," Williams noted.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 9:44 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Friday, April 17, 2015, 9:28 AM

Analysts at Moody's Investors Service have again downgraded New Jersey's general obligation bonds, this time to A1, from A2, and have threatened to cut the rating yet again ("negative outlook"). The state was already rated second-worst in the nation; only Illinois had a lower rating. Both states face large pension obligations they have relentlessly failed to fund. Unless New Jersey cuts pension spending or boosts pension funding, Moody's expects the state pension system will run out of money in the next 9-12 years.

Lower ratings are supposed to reflect higher likelihood that a borrower won't pay what it owes; debt issuers with lower ratings are often forced to pay higher interest rates to get investors to buy their bonds.

"The downgrade to A2 was driven by the lack of improvement in the state's weak financial position and large structural imbalance, primarily related to continued pension contribution shortfalls," Moody's analysts told clients in a report. "We expect liquidity and structural balance to remain very weak through fiscal 2016," and won't improve without "economic growth and further pension reforms," which Moody's considers "uncertain."  

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 9:28 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, April 16, 2015, 2:12 PM

The day after Tax Day, I got this from a Montgomery County Republican activist: "Our government has a spending addiction.  Tax Freedom Day in Pennsylvania is Saturday, April 25.  Until then, we are all working for the government.  It is in debt by $18 trillion.  If millions, billions and trillions are incomprehensible, consider that the share for each man, woman and child is nearly $60,000 and growing every minute."

I wrote back, quoting Oscar Wilde: "A cynic is 'a man who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.' To give your statement meaning, I need a sense of what we are getting for our taxes (and our debt) and why (or by how much) it’s not worth it (or mostly worth it).

"Federal taxes, last I checked, go roughly one-quarter for Social Security, more than one-quarter for health care (mostly for old people), one-quarter for national defense, and less than one-quarter for everything else together (highways, FBI, national parks, federal prisons, food inspections, etc.) State and local taxes support your local police, local roads, schools, jails, programs for the poor and mentally ill." (Highlights of Obama's 2015-16 U.S. budget here.)

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 2:12 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, April 16, 2015, 11:32 AM

EU Services (stands for Envelopes Unlimited), a Moorestown full-service direct-mail company, has acquired Sisk Mailing Service Inc., Stevensville, Md. EU shut Sisk's plant and moved the work to existing EU locations in Moorestown and in Rockville, Md., CEO Clif McDougall said in a statement. (Revised)

EU is one of a small number of commercial printing related businesses to expand -- as many print clients move to digital services -- by taking over accounts from regional firms that have gone out of business. More on EU affiliate Com-Pak (commingled mailing) and its growth under EU and Com-Pak owner, the Connecticut-based buyout firm Maidstone Capital, here. See also IBS Direct, King of Prussia; Nick Maiale's Inserts East, Pennsauken; the GaLitho/SED combination, Philadelphia.

EU also says it has added three Muller Martini roll-to-roll forms presses to handle the new work, and plans to hire more than 50 additional staff to work the presses for former Sisk accounts and other new business. "The Muller Martini presses are proven workhorses that fit our needs well," said Russ Stewart, chief operating officer.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 11:32 AM  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