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Corporate Report

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  • | 6:00 p.m. April 20, 2007
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Corporate Report

by Sean Roth | Real Estate Editor

Chico's reports strong March sales, comparables

Fort Myers-based specialty retailer Chico's FAS Inc. (NYSE:CHS) reported that its March sales results for the five-week period ended April 7 increased 22% to $191.2 million from $156.8 million reported for the five-week period ended April 1, 2006. Comparable store sales for the company-owned stores increased 5.2% compared to the same five-week period last year ending April 8, 2006.

For the nine-week period ended April 7, total sales increased 19.3% to $304 million from $255 million reported for the nine-week period ended April 1, 2006. Comparable store sales for company-owned stores increased 1.5% for the nine-week period ended April 7 compared to the nine-week period last year ending April 8.

NCircle lands deal with Bert Smets Productions

NCircle Entertainment, an Alliance Entertainment Corp. division, entered into an exclusive multi-year distribution agreement with Bert Smets Productions, an integrated content provider of television programs for Belgium and other international markets.

Under the agreement, NCircle will become the exclusive broadcast and merchandising representative, as well as the home entertainment distributor, for the popular animated children's series Hopla for the United States and Canada.

Created by Belgian illustrator Bert Smets in 1999, Hopla is a 3-D CGI animated production for children under five. Broken out into five-minute episodes, the series tells the ongoing exploratory story of a curious rabbit and his friends.

Launched in Belgium in 2000, Hopla has enjoyed great success in the international broadcast and home video markets. The series has expanded internationally to Canada, France, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Finland, with future plans to enter the rest of Scandinavia.

Currently there are 104 episodes already produced and there are plans for 26 new titles per year through 2010. In Belgium alone, Hopla's home entertainment titles have sold more than 300,000 copies, and the book-related merchandise has garnered sales close to 700,000.

"The Bert Smets Productions partnership represents our most far-reaching deal, especially with the addition of broadcast, consumer products and publishing rights," said Debbie Ries, senior vice president and general manager in a press release. "Hopla is an important addition to our growing library of quality family-friendly entertainment. The creative educational series further rounds out our diverse children's offerings."

Alliance Entertainment Corp. is a subsidiary by Bonita Springs-based Source Interlink Cos.

TIB Financial, Bank of Venice set to close April 30

Naples-based TIB Financial Corp., parent of TIB Bank, has received all of the necessary regulatory and shareholders approvals to close its acquisition of the Bank of Venice on April 30.

Bank of Venice has two branches in the city of Venice. As of Dec. 31, Bank of Venice reported total assets of $66.3 million, total loans and leases of $58.5 million, total deposits of $52.6 million and total equity of $8.6 million. The company has 19 employees.

TIB Financial Corp. itself has $1.3 billion in total assets and 16 full-service banking offices throughout the Florida Keys, Homestead, Naples, Bonita Springs and Fort Myers.

Javien Digital licenses NeoMedia's qode

McLean, Va.-based Javien Digital Payment Solutions has entered into a license agreement for the qode platform with Fort Myers-based NeoMedia Technologies Inc.

NeoMedia's qode product offering includes qode reader and qode window, designed to offer One Click to Content e-connectivity for products, print, packaging and other physical objects to link directly to specific desired content via the mobile Internet devices.

The qode reader works with camera enabled phones, letting users select two-dimensional smart codes for a direct connection to desired multimedia information, advertising, promotions and content. The qode window lets users enter a key word, slogan, barcode number or other unique identifier, for similar connection.

Javien Digital Payment Solutions will incorporate the NeoMedia qode platform into its Total Commerce Solution product allowing for a billing, couponing and acquisition offering.

NeoMedia in turn will earn $0.05 per click and expects each transaction to generate up to four clicks.

"Online and brick and mortar merchants are looking for ways to maximize sales and bridge the digital world to the physical world, and qode will allow us to expand our services to markets and customers in the physical world," Leslie Poole, Javien's CEO, said in a press release.

Raymond James shuffles board members

St. Petersburg-based Raymond James Financial's subsidiary Raymond James Bank named Jeff Julien chairman of the board and appointed Gordon Johnson and Court James to the board of directors. Julien joined Raymond James Financial in 1983. Julien was promoted to chief financial officer in 1987 and continues to hold that position. He has been a member of the board of Raymond James Bank since it was formed in 1994. Julien replaces Tom James as chairman.

Johnson is the former Pinellas County president of Bank of America. Currently, Johnson is president and co-owner of Highway Safety Devices, a Tampa-based provider of contracted services specializing in the installation and repair of signals, guardrails, signage and lighting on highway and road construction projects.

James is the director of Human Resources at Raymond James Financial, the parent company of the bank.

GeoPharma completes $12.5-million equity deal

Largo-based GeoPharma Inc. has closed a $12.5 million debt and equity financing deal with Whitebox Pharmaceutical Growth Fund Ltd. Of the $12.5 million gross proceeds, GeoPharma issued $10 million of convertible debt, $2.5 million of equity and warrants.

GeoPharma officials say the company plans to use the funds to strengthen the its cash position, support sterile injectable and other ongoing generic pharmaceutical expansion including plant infrastructure, equipment expansion, research and development and related generic drug working capital needs. Rodman & Renshaw LLC acted as the exclusive placement agent and was paid $750,000.00 in cash and a warrant to purchase up to 143,403 shares of the company's common stock at an exercise price of $5.23

"This financing will strengthen GeoPharma's ability to expand its generic drug platform, allowing us to file more ANDA's (Abbreviated New Drug Applications) in not only the oral dosage market but the sterile injectable markets," Mihir Taneja CEO of GeoPharma said in a press announcement of the placement. "This opportunity for rapid growth should position us as a dominant player in the specialty niche pharmaceutical markets."

GeoPharma Inc. is a pharmaceutical company specializing in the manufacturing and distribution of over-the-counter, nutritional, generic drug and functional food products.


Paradise promotes Solutions

St. Petersburg-based Paradise Advertising & Marketing signed a one-year contract with Deerfield Beach-based Home Finishing Solutions, a full-service home finishing company currently serving the wholesale/commercial market and gearing up to launch a new division to serve the retail/consumer market.

Paradise's marketing efforts will focus both on the retail and wholesale divisions including initial, comprehensive brand development for the retail side.

HFS currently operates seven branch locations in Florida and Virginia. For nearly 10 years, HFS has focused primarily on serving commercial-end homebuilders, developers, and contractors.

Sirion raises $45 million

Sirion Therapeutics Inc., a Tampa biopharmaceutical company, has raised $45 million in a Series B private equity financing led by Aisling Capital. In addition to Aisling, Sirion Therapeutics received financing from Investor Growth Capital, Atlas Venture, Advent International and Bear Sterns Healthcare Value Partners. Previous Series-A equity investor NovaQuest also participated in the Series B round.

Barry Butler, president and CEO of Sirion Therapeutics, said that the proceeds from this raise would be used to advance the company's pipeline of products.

"We are obviously delighted to be partnered with such high caliber investors and appreciate their confidence in our technology, management team and strategic direction," Butler said in a press release. "This investment will allow us to reach critical milestones in several of our development programs."

Sirion Therapeutics focuses on developing and commercializing products to treat, cure or detect diseases of the eye.


March Sales Percent Increase

(dollars in millions) Comparable Store Sales

Fiscal 2007 Fiscal 2006 Total Sales Fiscal Comparable

$191.2 $156.8 22.0% 7.3% 5.2%

Year-to Date Sales Percent Increase

(dollars in millions) Comparable Store Sales

Fiscal 2007 Fiscal 2006 Total Sales Fiscal Comparable

$304 $255 19.3% 4.9% 1.5%

Golfer Morgan Pressel signs endorsement with Gemesis

Sarasota's Gemesis Corp. has reached a deal with golf star Morgan Pressel on a multi-year endorsement contract.

"We are pleased to have such a fine and talented young professional associated with our diamonds" Gemesis CEO Stephen Lux said in a press release. "Her youthful style and elegance fits right in with the Gemesis corporate image."

Pressel, who was born in Tampa, is a quick rising star on the LPGA Tour. In 2005, Pressel won the 2005 US Woman's Amateur Championship and turned pro.

This year, the 18-year-old won the Kraft Nabisco Championship to become the youngest women ever to win an LPGA major.

Gemesis is a producer of cultured diamonds.

Persystent product in GSA

Persystent Technologies announced that its flagship product, Persystent Enterprise, has been included in the General Services Administration Schedules Program. Under the program - also known as Multiple Award Schedules and Federal Supply Schedules - a wide range of local and federal government agencies can purchase Persystent Enterprise at a pre-negotiated, government-wide price.

The new contract vehicle is expected to makes it easier for government agencies to buy software from Persystent. Agencies can acquire the software and services via the contract or by adding the solution to an existing IT project.

Prior to being included in the GSA Schedules Program, Persystent provided solutions to government agencies through other purchasing vehicles including the Procurement of Computer Hardware and Software (Peaches) contract.

Persystent Technologies develops software products that solutions to automate desktop availability and compliance.

ConnectWise adds COO

ConnectWise, a Tampa Web-based professional-services automation software company, has named Santo Cannone chief operating officer. Reporting to ConnectWise's CEO Arnie Bellini, Cannone will oversee the company's day-to-day operational activities including expansion of its educational and consulting programs.

Prior to joining ConnectWise, Cannone was senior vice president, real-time banking systems, for Fidelity Information Services a provider of information technology for the financial industry. In addition to his experience at FIS, Cannone was vice president, consulting operations, for Tampa-based IDEAL Consulting, a software consulting firm specializing in mid-tier solutions. Cannone was also a managing director with Electronic Data Systems, where he oversaw the development and delivery of the first enterprise-class client/server system in its market.

World Energy purchases Sol-Gel

St. Petersburg-based World Energy Solutions Inc. signed a letter of intent to purchase up to 20% of the outstanding membership interests of Sol-Gel Solutions LLC. At the same time, World Energy Solutions will be given an option to purchase up to 50% of the issued and outstanding membership interests of Sol-Gel.

"We are very excited about adding Dr. Mazyck and his team to the research and development capability of World Energy Solutions," Ben Croxton, CEO of World Energy Solutions said in a press release. "Working in conjunction with Dr. Mazyck and the University of Florida allows us to substantially speed up commercial exploitation of the Pure Air Technology system for which we acquired the worldwide rights from the University of Florida, Dr. Mazyck and the UF team last year. We expect to deliver the most State of the Art air purification system for homes, commercial, industrial, government and military markets within six months."

World Energy Solutions Inc.'s primary business focus is the development of technology for lowering electrical, gas and water usage.

Smith president of Outback

Jeff Smith has been appointed president of the Outback Steakhouse brand by OSI Restaurant Partners Inc. At the same time, Steve Erickson has been promoted to senior vice president of national operations for the brand.

Smith began his career with OSI in 1989, training at the original Outback Steakhouse restaurant on Henderson Boulevard in Tampa. His most current role has been vice president of national operations for Bonefish Grill, a position he has held since 2004. Erickson first joined Outback Steakhouse in 1990, and served as vice president of national operations for Outback Steakhouse.

Smith and Avery have worked together since 1989 when Avery was managing partner of an Outback Steakhouse in Palm Harbor.

International Realty name-change

Naples-based International Realty Consultants Inc, has changed it name to IRC International Realty Corp. Going forward, IRC International Realty Corp. will focus on planning, building and managing commercial properties; brokerage of high-end residential real estate; management of its existing real estate portfolio, and investing funds in new properties and future projects.


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