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Inquirer Daily News

Archive: August, 2008

POSTED: Friday, August 29, 2008, 12:26 PM

  Dollar Financial Corp., the Daylesford-based high-risk lender, check casher and pawnbroker with 1,400+ stores in Canada, the U.S., Britain and Ireland, watches the "real economy" of low-wage workers closely.
  "Our customers, who primarily work service sector jobs, have thus far fared better than other areas," CEO Jeff Weiss told investors in Thursday's quarterly conference call. But he's worried that layoffs at hotels and tourist centers "could bleed over into our customer base." So he's slowing expansion, cutting loan limits, closing 70 stores (mostly in the U.S.) by Sept. 30, and stepping up debt-collection efforts. 
  Dollar's businesses are controversial and depend on shifting laws. Dollar's Money Mart chain in Canada, its biggest market, feels under attack in several provinces. CFORandy Underwood told shareholders it's responded by cutting back advertising (because that brings out more critics in times of adverce publicity), while also boosting its government-lobbying efforts.
  Dollar stock rose $1 this morning to around $17.65, but it's still trading at roughly half its 2006 high.

Joseph N. DiStefano @ 12:26 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Friday, August 29, 2008, 11:50 AM
  Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, John McCain's vice-presidential pick for the Republican ticket this fall, has some key conservative credentials -- she's a corruption-fighting, pro-life NRA-member - and some real ground-breakers -- she's a mom with five kids, married to an Inuit fisherman and oil worker.
  But she's also from Alaska, a highly socialist place despite its libertarian poses, where government controls most of the land and what's done with it, and public officials exhibit the usual resulting entanglements with special interests.
  Palin wasn't above packing the state agricultural board with her loyalists, in a doomed attempt to artificially prolong government control of the state-owned Matanuska Maid dairy in Wasilla, her hometown, when other officials tried to pull the plug. Clearly there's room on her agenda for taxpayer support of failing industries. Check out Anchorage Daily News coverage here.
Joseph N. DiStefano @ 11:50 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Friday, August 29, 2008, 10:07 AM
  Story by the Inquirer's Bob Fernandez on Comcast's digital TV push was the second-most-visited link on Bloomberg.com this morning. Bob's other story on Comcast setting internet use limits got more hometown traffic on Philly.com.
Joseph N. DiStefano @ 10:07 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Friday, August 29, 2008, 9:31 AM
  CEO Richard Dahl of digital-power tech maker International Rectifier, El Segundo, Calif., tells Vishay founder Felix Zandman and CEO Gerald Paul that Vishay's $1.6 billion, $21.22/share takeover offer "is inadequate, opportunistic and not in the best interests" of shareholders. Release and Dahl letter here.
Joseph N. DiStefano @ 9:31 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, August 28, 2008, 2:44 PM

  Developer Brian O'Neill says he paid $17.5 million for a 66-acre Limerick Township, Montgomery County property owned by heirs to the late trailer-park owner and real estate investor James Overstreet, which he plans to develop as "Sanatoga Springs".
  The ground, O'Neill says, surrounds Simon Property Group's half-million-square-foot Philadelphia Premium Outlets shopping center. "Simon Property Group put in roads, sewer and water. Now we own the doughnut around them, and our site is fully prepared to develop."
  How'd King of Prussia-based O'Neill Properties Group LP get around Simon? O'Neill says he goes way back with the owners' family:  Overstreet was an investor in National Penn Bank of Boyertown, one of O'Neill's early financiers. Simon, based in Indianapolis, is part-owner (and might soon be majority-owner) of the King of Prussia Mall. Simon officials didn't return calls.
  "We'll probably spend $150 million by the time we're finished," O'Neill said. His draft proposals call for a cinema, a hotel, stores. No apartments? "We are considering a residential component," O'Neill said. "Age-targeted, for young professionals, and over 55." That means one- or two-bedroom.
  Would these be five-story buildings, like the ones he built at the Lofts at Valley Forge, and the ones that burned at his RiverWalk in Conshohocken earlier this month? No, says O'Neill: "These would be three- and four-story buildings."  

    

POSTED: Thursday, August 28, 2008, 11:06 AM

  UPDATE: Making sense of the SEC's push for Euro accounting rules in the U.S.: Link to PhillyDeals column here.
  ORIGINAL: The Securities and Exchange Commission, under pressure to ease any rule that makes it tougher for financiers to do business in the U.S. vs. less-restrictive Europe and other countries, has proposed to phase out Made-in-USA Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) in favor of looser International Financial Reporting Standards. The switch would take place in stages, under the next President.
  Is this really better for investors, or is it SEC chairman Christopher Cox's economic development program to help Wall Street win back lost business from London and other, looser financial centers? SEC release here

POSTED: Thursday, August 28, 2008, 9:27 AM

  Boeing, which makes helicopters at its sprawling Ridley works, wins a $4 billion military helicopter contract. Inquirer story here. Steelmaker ArcelorMittal, which runs the former Lukens plate mill in Coatesville and the Alan Wood plant in Conshohocken, negotiates a new United Steelworkers contract in a rush to avoid a strike. Inquirer story here.

POSTED: Thursday, August 28, 2008, 4:38 PM

  The Musser Group, headed by octagenarian Warren "Pete" Musser, who ran Safeguard Scientifics for 48 years and through several investment cycles until he left amid the dot.com bust of 2000-01, has beefed up its staff, and publicist Alisa King says the Wayne-based firm is spreading cash -- it won't say how much -- to a string of Web and tech start-ups. Musser still holds breakfast meetings at the Radnor Hotel. It's almost like the 1990s never ended.
  New hires include Main Line physician Robert J. Kreb 3d, accountant Michael R. Holly, and attorney James L. Murray. Investment examples include CeeLite, developer of a low-power "lighting technique", run by old Safeguard hand Howard E. Goldberg (ex-ceo of InterDigital Communications Corp.) from an office in Blue Bell, with most operations in Taiwan; LotandHome.com, "a website of only new construction homes" that was "developed by Fred Catona who also was one of the founders of Priceline.com"; and College Fanz Sports Network, "a website for mostly college, but also professional, sporting information," chaired by ESPN founder Bill Rasmussen and run by University of Delaware baseball player-turned-real estate investor Darren Pulito from an office in Mt. Laurel.

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.

Joseph N. DiStefano
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