PhillyDeals: Confetti - and top seats - for Phils' parade

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At American Express Co. headquarters in New York, a worker did some sign repairs earlier this year. Yesterday, the company said it would cut 7,000 jobs in a bid to cut costs during the current financial crisis. Story, Page D7.

When the Phillies parade past the Market Street skyscrapers today, the neighborhood's biggest landlord plans to place large men at key places, to keep the crowd and the World Series winners supplied with one of the basic ingredients of any citywide championship celebration.

No, not beer.

"The windows don't open. So we're putting people on the roofs to dump confetti," said David J. Campoli, regional boss at HRPT Properties Trust.

HRPT owns the twin Centre Square towers, pyramid-topped Mellon Plaza, and black-glass-fronted 1600 Market St. (popularly known as the Darth Vader building).

Above the street, landlords and tenants will hold parade-watching parties from street-fronting suites.

They're the best seats in town, if you want to observe ecstatic street life but stop short of messy full participation.

And you don't have to pay ballpark prices. Just know somebody.

That's Philly.

Job cuts

Looks like the billions the U.S. government has shoveled into financial companies have eased the financial crisis. Interbank interest rates are down. Companies are finding buyers for their debt.

But the real economy lumbers along long after the financial markets. And plenty of Philadelphia-area companies may have to cut costs before they'll grow again.

"We need to reduce expenses and get ourselves into lean fighting shape," new Unisys Corp. chief executive officer Edward Coleman, former head of Gateway Inc., told investors after announcing a $35 million third-quarter loss on weak government and bank sales.

Coleman is praising workers to boost morale while laying plans to reorganize and pare business units.

"The first area we're going after is discretionary spending. It's not employee-related," said Janet Haugen, the chief financial officer. "As of right now, we have no plans for a large restructuring charge."

What of Unisys' headquarters move to Philadelphia's Liberty Place, proposed by Coleman's predecessor, Joseph McGrath? "That decision hasn't been made," said spokesman Jim Kerr.

Health-insurer Cigna Corp., stung by a slump in employee coverage and losses from an investment unit it sold eight years ago, might leave vacant jobs unfilled, curb travel, and consolidate office space as the economic slowdown trims profits, spokesman Chris Curran told me.

Cigna chief financial officer Michael Bell told investors yesterday that the Philadelphia company might take a charge in the fourth quarter. Curran said the company didn't expect that would come from layoffs. Cigna employs about 2,700 in Philadelphia, Horsham, Voorhees, Wilmington, Media and other local sites.

While Cigna shares fell to a five-year low, Legg Mason Inc. shares rose after the Baltimore investment company reported lower profit as asset values plunged. Legg "identified $50 million in cuts" by the end of this year, said chief executive Mark Fetting.

Legg Mason Capital Markets, also in Baltimore, will eliminate about one-third of its 150 jobs, spokeswoman Mary Athridge told me. She said she didn't know whether jobs also would be lost at Legg's Philadelphia unit, Brandywine Global Investment Management L.L.C., or its Wilmington affiliate.

American Express Co. said it would cut 7,000 jobs as it set aside an extra half-billion dollars to cover expected new loan losses. That doesn't affect Philadelphia directly, but it's a signal one of the region's key industries is getting squeezed - alongside its customers.

Like AmEx, lender Advanta Corp., of Spring House, reported higher losses, as have Bank of America Corp.'s and JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s credit card units, which are two of the top three corporate employers in Wilmington.

At least, during recessions, card companies tend to hire more collectors.

As we reported earlier this week, SAP America Inc., Newtown Square, has implemented a hiring freeze, while the Vanguard Group Inc., Malvern, says it may leave jobs vacant but doesn't expect layoffs, despite cuts at Fidelity Investments and other big rivals.


Contact staff writer Joseph N. DiStefano at 215-854-5957 or jdistefano@phillynews.com.