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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Monday, Jun. 25, 2007 13 years ago

Coffee Talk

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Ray Jay in play? Nay, they say: Shares of regional retail brokers shot up earlier this month in response to Wachovia Corp.'s announced deal to buy A.G. Edwards for $6.8 billion, creating the nation's No. 2 regional broker.Gulf Coast bank deal nearly complete: The sale of one Sarasota's most successful community banks is one step closer to being complete, as federal regulators have approved the $77 million deal between People's Community Bank and Birmingham, Ala.-based Superior Bancorp.Allen to the rescue, and make it quick: In its biggest acquisition to date, Naples-based software company Allen Systems Group completed the purchase of Mobius Management Systems for $211 million.Hip restaurant chain still might hit Sarasota: Coffee Talk hears that P.F. Chang's, the trendy Chinese bistro chain, will be coming to the Sarasota market after all - only not to Pineapple SquareMotley Fool takes aim at Jabil Circuit: The financial performance at Jabil Circuit, the St. Petersburg-based electronic products solutions company, drew the attention of one of the writers for the Motley Fool personal finance website recently.NCH Healthcare sells lab company: Naples-based NCH Healthcare, responding to competitive pressures on hospital services, sold off DSI Laboratories to LabCorp, the laboratory testing giant.Go ahead, befriend your colleagues: It turns out executives are comfortable with employees becoming friends with co-workers while on the job

Coffee Talk

+ Ray Jay in play?

Nay, they say

Shares of regional retail brokers shot up earlier this month in response to Wachovia Corp.'s announced deal to buy A.G. Edwards for $6.8 billion, creating the nation's No. 2 regional broker.

Speculation as to which firm would be the next takeover target sent shares of St. Petersburg-based Raymond James higher by 7.3% on seven times the daily average volume, while shares of Jefferies Group and Piper Jaffray gained 4.7% and 5.7% respectively.

One of the financial blogs says, "While Raymond James seems especially ripe for a takeout move - the CEO of one regional firm who spoke anonymously believes, 'In the end, there will be four or five firms. You don't need 30 choices.'"

Raymond James CEO Tom James denied his company had plans to be acquired, saying, "Raymond James has consistently proven that remaining independent has rewarded our clients, employees and shareholders."

James believes "the long-term benefits [to shareholders] will be achieved by staying the course."

+ Gulf Coast bank

deal nearly complete

The sale of one Sarasota's most successful community banks is one step closer to being complete, as federal regulators have approved the $77 million deal between People's Community Bank and Birmingham, Ala.-based Superior Bancorp.

With the June 19 announcement that the Office of Thrift Supervision signed off on the deal, the only step left is for People's stockholders to have their say, and vote. That is scheduled to happen at the bank's July 3 stockholders meeting.

Superior bought People's Jan. 19, pending regulatory approvals. The bank paid 2.9 shares for each share of People's stock, at a rate of about $11 a share. What's more, the deal was worth 3.2 times book value, an above-average rate when compared to a previous deal involving a Sarasota/Manatee market community bank founded in 1999-2000, as People's was.

Superior executives say they will use People's to continue its Florida growth plan. The bank, with $2.4 billion in assets, already operates 12 branches in the Tampa area, under the First Kensington name. Meanwhile, many of the top People's executives, including founder - and 2007 Review Entrepreneur of the Year runner-up - Neil McCurry Jr., will remain with the bank. McCurry signed a five-year contract with Superior to run the institution's Gulf Coast offices earlier this year.

+ Allen to the rescue, and make it quick

In its biggest acquisition to date, Naples-based software company Allen Systems Group completed the purchase of Mobius Management Systems for $211 million.

But ASG needs to move fast to keep Mobius' business from eroding much more, according to analysts with Gartner Inc., a technology consulting firm.

In its most recent quarter, Mobius reported a net loss of $1.7 million on revenues of $19 million. ASG's purchase of the company for $10.05 per share was a 35% premium to Mobius' price the day before the deal was announced on April 11. ASG, a privately held firm, reported $181 million in revenues in 2006.

Now ASG, has to turn around Mobius' business to fend off much larger rivals such as IBM, Gartner says. Mobius' software will let ASG compete better for business in the rapidly consolidating field of document management. Mobius' strength is developing software to manage digital records, documents, images and transactions for large companies.

"Some customers and partners have found Mobius difficult to deal with and its products expensive. If ASG cannot rectify both problems quickly, this deal will be of little strategic value, given the greater competition and consolidation ahead," wrote Gartner analysts Kenneth Chin, Toby Bell and Karen Shegda.

+ Hip restaurant chain

still might hit Sarasota

Coffee Talk hears that P.F. Chang's, the trendy Chinese bistro chain, will be coming to the Sarasota market after all - only not to Pineapple Square, the mixed-use project of condos, stores and restaurants being developed in downtown Sarasota. That was where insiders initially thought the restaurant might end up.

Instead, talk is that the restaurant will find a home at Park Place, the lifestyle shopping center Sarasota-based Benderson Development is planning to put together in southern Manatee County, near the Sarasota County border and the University Parkway exit of Interstate 75.

Officials at Benderson and P.F. Chang's didn't return phone calls seeking comment, but Pineapple Square Properties chief executive John Simon did confirm that P.F. Chang's is no longer a possibility for his project.

Simon also told Coffee Talk that Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse, an upscale Beachwood, Ohio-based chain which signed on to the project last month, would be the first, and only, restaurant to be part of the retail phase of the project.

There are currently 12 P.F. Chang's in Florida, including one in Tampa at the Westshore Plaza, one in Naples at Granada Shoppes and one in Fort Myers, at the Gulf Coast Town Center.

+ Motley Fool takes

aim at Jabil Circuit

The financial performance at Jabil Circuit, the St. Petersburg-based electronic products solutions company, drew the attention of one of the writers for the Motley Fool personal finance website recently.

Anders Byland wrote June 19 that Jabil missed Wall Street's targets four quarters in a row, by as much as 46% in the latest period.

"I don't think it's a case of optimistic analysts - after all, it sells to gadget-makers such as Nokia, 3Com and Quantum, all of which have been caught up in various permutations of a soft market for high-end devices and pricing issues stemming from oversupply," Byland wrote.

"No, those are not conditions that inspire inflated expectations. Thusly, I'd have to place the responsibility for Jabil's underperformance at management's own feet. Judging by the revenue and earnings growth dichotomy, I'd say the company is chasing sales growth in places it shouldn't," he added.

"Hometown heroes or not, Jabil doesn't look good to me. Something smells fishy, and I don't think it's the red tide at Clearwater Beach," he wrote.

+ NCH Healthcare

sells lab company

Naples-based NCH Healthcare, responding to competitive pressures on hospital services, sold off DSI Laboratories to LabCorp, the laboratory testing giant. Terms were not disclosed.

The move reflects the strategy by Allen Weiss, NCH's new president and CEO, to focus on inpatient care at the hospital. Increasingly, entrepreneurial firms and doctors have started offering services such as laboratory work and have successfully taken business away from hospitals.

Rather than compete directly with doctors and entrepreneurs, Weiss' strategy is to focus on those procedures that can only be performed in a hospital. That strategy stands in contrast to other hospitals in the region, which are competing with doctors and entrepreneurs for outpatient and other services.

+ Go ahead, befriend

your colleagues

It turns out executives are comfortable with employees becoming friends with co-workers while on the job - to a point. A survey commissioned by Accountemps, a temporary staffing agency for finance and accounting professionals, reports that 57% of polled executives say that office productivity improves when co-workers are friends with each other outside of the office. Almost two-thirds, 63%, of employees polled for the survey agreed.

The rub comes in the just how comfortable the senior managers are: Out of the 57% that responded positive, only 2% said they have a "very positive" opinion of how friendship between co-workers impacts productivity. More than 150 senior executives from human resources, finance and marketing departments were polled for the survey.

+ Tech Data takes a

larger bite out of Apple

Clearwater-based technology distributor Tech Data said recently it plans to distribute rack-mounted enclosure cabinets for Apple Xserve servers from GizMac Accessories.

It was Tech Data's second major Apple-related move in recent weeks. The $20 billion distributor in May disclosed plans to sell selected Macintoshes with Windows XP preinstalled.

One commentator on a financial blog recently noted: "I'm not suggesting that Apple can dominate servers or desktops. But the trends are clear: Apple continues to gain momentum - on desktops and servers - among technology consultants seeking reliable, intuitive alternatives to traditional Windows- and Linux-based systems."

+ Lee County manager

fends off criticism

A feisty Lee County Manager Don Stillwell took the stage in front of more than 100 real estate executives, bankers and others recently and fended off criticism of the county's spending record.

Instead of a speech, Stillwell accepted questions from the audience gathered at a meeting of the Real Estate Investment Society in Fort Myers. In response to one question, Stillwell says recent reports that the county has excessive cash reserves were inaccurate and that most of the money is designated for a specific purpose, such as libraries.

While most of the questions focused on spending, absent were any questions about the additional taxes on builders. The county tripled taxes on new construction for roads and commissioners are discussing another tax on new commercial and residential construction to pay for affordable housing.

Tampa Electric

expands efficiency

Tampa Electric has filed for approval from the Florida Public Service Commission to expand its current offerings of energy efficiency programs to include new conservation programs.

They include:

• An energy planner program that allows customers to make energy consumption decisions based on energy prices by using a programmable thermostat.

• A low-income program that provides no cost items to low-income families to help them conserve energy.

• An energy awareness pilot program that partners with area schools at the eighth grade level to teach energy efficiency at home and school.

The company filing also includes plans to add new features or enhancements to its existing residential and commercial energy conservation programs.

Almost 400,000 customers have participated in Tampa Electric's conservation programs to date, which has resulted in the company paying energy conservation incentives to about 270,000 customers.

"Tampa Electric understands that renewable energy and energy efficiency programs are more important than ever, and we are continually working to offer as many options as possible to help our customers understand and take control of their energy use," says Chuck Black, Tampa Electric president.

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