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Inquirer Daily News

Archive: February, 2013

POSTED: Thursday, February 28, 2013, 2:10 PM
Sheri DiCicco was picking up dinner from the express case at the expanded Wawa at 17th and Arch on Thursday. "Believe me, I wish we could find more sites to do what we did at Arch Street," Wawa's chief says. (Elizabeth Robertson / Staff Photographer)

The Farm Labor Organizing Committee, an Ohio-based farmworkers' union that claims 10,000 members in the Midwestern fields that supply Campbell's Soup tomatoes, Vlasic pickle cucumbers and other farm produce, sent a delegation of organizers and allies to Wawa Inc. headquarters in Delaware County today to petition the 600-store chain and its supplier, McLane Co., to use their clout as major distributors of Reynolds American tobacco products to demand higher wages and improved working conditions for "exploited" laborers on tobacco farms in North Carolina and neighboring states. 

The group met with Wawa executive relationship manager Barbara Ennis, who promised the company would review its petition, said FLOC organizer Justin Flores.

He said the union is also pressuring the Kangaroo and 7-Eleven chains to push for better tobacco worker conditions. McLane and clients like Wawa account for more than one-quarter of Reynolds' U.S. sales, Flores said.Wawa spokeswoman Lori Bruce did not return a call seeking comment.

POSTED: Thursday, February 28, 2013, 4:50 PM
Clay Armbrister, president of Girard College, outside of the school on Jan. 9, 2013. (APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer)

"We're not moving. We're not closing. Everything else is on the table," says Girard College headmaster Clarence Armbrister of the North Philadelphia boarding elementary and high school established by pioneer trader and industrialist Stephen Girard in his 1831 will.

"Everything" could include, for example, a moratorium on accepting new students for a year or two, or ending the residential program and becoming a day school, or restoring the seven-day boarding program (currently down to five), or starting a capital campaign for an estimated $100 million in overdue renovations; or more than one of the above; or something else cooked up by Girard's consultants...

Childless Girard, who sold opium to China, American foodstuffs to English-blockaded Napoleon and gunpowder to South American revolutionists, among much else, bought and sold the first U.S. central bank, financed the War of 1812, and developed the Pennsylvania coal, railroad, commercial farming, port and shipbuilding industries, intended the walled 43-acre campus, its columned stone buildings, and an eternity of trade-schooled or college-prepped Philadelphia orphans (originally, at Girard's insistence, all-white and -male, now mostly African-American, and co-ed) to be his monument after death.

POSTED: Wednesday, February 27, 2013, 11:40 AM
Rutgers University Law School professor and antitrust textbook author Michael Carrier.

In my column in today's Philadelphia Inquirer, I question how U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder can keep his pledge to "effectively and efficiently manage large investigations" in the Antitrust Division after shutting 4 of 7 regional offices, and losing 14 of 15 antitrust lawyers (mostly to the private sector or retirement) here in the Philly office, which opened in 1948 and closed last month.

Rutgers University Law School professor and antitrust textbook author Michael Carrier, writing from a broader perspective, says Obama's and Holder's department has actually stepped up antitrust enforcement compared to the George W. Bush administration. Writes Carrier:

"The shutdown of the Philly office is disappointing, but I think the big picture here is that there is modestly increased enforcement as compared to the previous administration.

POSTED: Wednesday, February 27, 2013, 11:16 AM
PNC Bank President William Demchak has been promoted to CEO. He replaces James Rohr.

PNC Financial Services Group Inc. "is sticking to short-term investments in its fixed-income portfolio to avoid losses when interest rates climb," CEO-elect William Demchak tells Bloomberg News, in a story warning that junk-bond ("high-yield") values could tumble quickly, here.

Demchak added that long-term rates will likely rise before the Federal Reserve reverses and starts boosting rates: "'The long end of the curve could get out of their control. That’s everybody’s fear. I think that’ll happen sooner than people expect.”

POSTED: Wednesday, February 27, 2013, 11:07 AM

UPDATE: Monetate's new $15 million, from "new and existing investors," will be used "to grow our team and expand into new verticals and geographies," says boss David Brussin in a brief statement.

EARLIER: Monetate, First Round Capital-backed, West Conshohocken-based retail Web tools and "Big Data insights" provider, says it's raised $15.2 million of a projected $17 million in a new private offering, from unnamed investors.

Monetate employs 140 -- engineers, designers, salespeople -- and is hiring for 40 additional open positions, says spokeswoman Marifran Manzo-Ritchie. Monetate raised $20 million in previous offerings in 2011.

POSTED: Wednesday, February 27, 2013, 10:53 AM
GlaxoSmithKline had offices in One Franklin Plaza (left) and Three Franklin Plaza. (Michael S Wirtz / Staff Photographer)

As my colleague Michael Armstrong writes today, one of Center City's big landlords, Mass.-based CommonWealth Real Estate Investment Trust, which owns Philly's BNY Mellon, PNC, Centre Square (ex-CoreStates and Comcast) and One Franklin Plaza (ex-Glaxo) towers, says it's talking to a potential tenant for a part of the vacant Glaxo complex (the whole place used to cover 800,000 sq ft, including 600,000 sq ft of CommonWealth property).

Read Mike's story, which also focuses on a CommonWealth shareholder revolt,here.

Who's hunting for a big chunk of Philly office space these days? As I noted Feb. 4, citing Jeff Seligsohn-Peter Soens' SSH Real Estate's annual report: 

POSTED: Tuesday, February 26, 2013, 8:19 AM

UPDATE 2/28: Chronically troubled Royal Bank of Scotland, after reporting a pre-tax 2012 loss of more than 5 billion U.K. pounds, confirms plans to sell shares of Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania and its other U.S. banking operations in a typically rosy-scented corporate report to shareholders today. Read it here, open "Partial Results, Part 1," search on "Citizens." Excerpt: 

"The Board has decided it is now the right time to begin work on a partial flotation of Citizens, our U.S. banking business, targeted probably at around 2 years from now.

"Citizens is a good business, serving around 5 million customers in the north east of the United States where it is has a strong market position.

POSTED: Tuesday, February 26, 2013, 4:34 PM

Real estate investment trusts (REITs) typically don't borrow as cheap as solvent citizens taking out 30-year mortgages.

Hersha Hospitality Trust, the hotel group run by Philadelphia-based brothers Jay and Neil Shah, has set a record by selling $75 million in Series C Perpetual Preferred Stock at just 6.875%, a full 1% below some recent issues and the lowest recorded on a list of 20 hotel preferreds complied by  Teresa Hee, managing director at Wells Fargo Securities, the bookrunning manager of the sale, in a note to clients today.

She credited "investors' desire to reach for yield" and "strong technicals" for the Hersha issue for "breaking the coupon barrier" with the low yield.

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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