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Inquirer Daily News

Archive: September, 2012

POSTED: Friday, September 28, 2012, 1:08 PM

New Jersey now has the second-highest rate of home foreclosures in the US, at around 8% (1 in 12) mortgages -- worse than Nevada (where Las Vegas was hit so hard by the credit crisis) or any other state except Florida, writes Moody's analyst Vito Galluccio, citing data from the Mortgage Bankers' Association. (By contrast, about 4% of Pennsylvania homes are in foreclosure, or about 1 in 25.)

And it's getting worse: The percentage of "seriously delinquent" mortgages in New Jersey rose again in the second quarter, "despite declining nationally" and in other hard-hit states (such as Florida and Nevada). 

NJ foreclosure rates will stay high -- not just because of teacher layoffs due to taxpayer refusal to pay higher property taxes, or casino layoffs from Atlantic City's uncompetitive betting halls -- but because New Jersey is one of the states that forces foreclosure actions through the courts, "a slow and cumbersome process" that results in "steep discounts" which "threaten to keep real estate prices down for years."

POSTED: Friday, September 28, 2012, 10:06 AM

Moody's Investors Service on Thursday night downgraded the rating on Albert Einstein Healthcare Network (AEHN) and its bonds to Baa2 from Baa1, on the eve of the scheduled opening of the Philadelphia hospital group's new suburban hospital in East Norriton Township, Montgomery County.

The rating leaves Einstein just two notches above junk-bond status, the level at which many insurers and other conservative investors won't buy bonds, forcing borrowers to pay higher rates on variable and future debt -- though it's little threat to an institution, like Einstein, that has already borrowed at fixed rates and doesn't plan to borrow again soon.

The rating affecting $133 million of outstanding bonds, issued with backing form the Pennsylvania Economic Development Financing Authority. 

POSTED: Friday, September 28, 2012, 9:49 AM

Amid its latest round of corporate cutbacks, Bank of America Corp. plans to close the daycare centers at its Delaware credit card operation, a benefit left over from Charles M. Cawley's former MBNA America Bank, which BofA bought after Cawley's departure in the mid-2000s.

BofA still employs more than 6,000 people in the Wilmington area, though it's down from MBNA's peak of around 10,000. Wilmington News-Journal tells the story here.

POSTED: Thursday, September 27, 2012, 11:56 AM

Blaschak Coal Corp., owned by Radnor-based buyout firm Milestone Partners, has hired 40 mine-equipment operators and other staff to handle higher production as its surface mines in the old Eastern Midfield anthracite field as production has increased in the past two years, and plans more hires this year, says chief executive Greg Driscoll (corrected).

Across Pennsylvania, historically the major producer of hard, smokeless anthracite coal, surface-mine production rose to 3.6 million tons in 2011, up from 3 million tons the year before, according to state data here. 

Blaschak, based in Manahony City up in Schuylkill County north of Reading, employs 150 at surface mines near Primrose, Hazleton and Centralia, and recently acquired another mine site and processing plant at Lattimer, Pa. The company's mine-run production will total 800,000 tons by year's end, up from 642,000 last year, Driscoll told me. 

POSTED: Thursday, September 27, 2012, 11:11 AM

There's ethane, a raw material for plastics and chemicals, and propane fuel, in large quantities, alongside the natural gas in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale fracking zone.

Some will be piped north to the giant petrochemical plants of Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. Some will be shipped southwest to Shell's proposed state-aided jobs-producing ethane cracker in Butler County.

And, as my colleague Andrew Maykuth notes here, some will be shipped through Sunoco's idled, 110-year-old Marcus Hook oil refinery on the Delaware River, reviving some of the hundreds of jobs lost when it shut last year.

POSTED: Thursday, September 27, 2012, 5:00 PM

Pennsylvania, Home of Too Many Governments, is rated Aa2, "one notch below the average U.S. state," by Moody's Investors Service. 

The 428 rated local governments and 240 rated school districts owe investors $73 billion. They're being downgraded 4X as fast as they're being upgraded by Moody's, so far, this year.

Harrisburg, the state capital, and Scranton, the old coal center, have famously defaulted on bonds after borrowing millions with more than the usual municipal stupidity, with full state, local and Wall Street approval. No one gets indicted. And the state insists PA towns don't declare bankruptcy so the debt machine can keep turning.

POSTED: Wednesday, September 26, 2012, 2:24 PM

UPDATED: Crusader Servicing Corp., a Jenkintown tax-lien manager, "pleaded guilty today to participating in a conspiracy to rig bids" for unpaid tax accounts auctioned by towns across New Jersey in 1998-2006, the U.S. Department of Justice says in this statement today.

The government has recommended the court fine Crusader $2 million, payable over five years, according ot the plea agreement, provided by Crusader's owner, Royal Bank. (PDF: Read the plea agreement here.)

Crusader has already reserved that sum for the payment of the fine, Royal spokesman Marc Sanders told me. The penalty "does not include a restitution order," since civil penalties "potentially provide for a recovery," according to the settlement.

POSTED: Wednesday, September 26, 2012, 12:25 PM

National Penn Bank says it's adding a second Center City branch, at 2040 Market St., with 20 staffers, including some new lenders, by March, to serve a growing number of industrial borrowers, buyout firms, company owners and other manufacturing and investment clients, says Scott Gamble, head of the bank's Philadelphia region.

Nat'l Penn's existing office at 1617 JFK Boulevard, will also stay open.  

"We want to continue to increase our footprint in the Philadelphia market," even as it reduces its branch network upstate, Gamble told me. National Penn is also financing deals by Philadelphia investors in distant cities "if it's a sponsor we know in an industry we have experience with." It's also looking to expand its trust, wealth management and capital-management services to company owners: "We have very good relationships with accounting firms and law firms" who refer clients.

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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