archived april 9, 2007

Consumer confidence fell in March

The Conference Board

DELRAY BEACH — Concerns over the current strength of the economy caused consumer confidence in Florida and the nation to drop significantly in March, according to separate reports released Tuesday.The University of Florida’s consumer confidence index for the state fell six points to 86; The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index fell four points to 107.2.Chris McCarty, director of the Florida survey, cited declines in the housing market, the bumpy stock market and rising gasoline prices.“Our expectation is that confidence will stay low and perhaps decline further through the second quarter,” McCarty said. “Our expectation is that housing values in Florida will continue to decline at least throughout he second quarter and probably the third as well.  This along with rising gasoline prices and volatility in the stock market will result in consumer confidence levels in the low to mid 80 level.”Lynn Franco of the Conference Board, a nonprofit business group, said the March decline doesn’t necessarily indicate a weakening economy."Apprehension about the short-term future has suddenly cast a cloud over consumers' confidence," Franco said. "The recent turmoil in financial markets coupled with the run-up in gasoline prices may have contributed to consumers' heightened sense of uncertainty and concern. The direction of both components over the next few months bears watching to determine whether this decline is just a bump in the road or something more substantial."

Personal income in Florida continued to lagged nation in '06

DELRAY BEACH — Personal income in Florida continued to lag the nation in 2006, according to Commerce Department data released Tuesday.Personal income per capita nationally jumped 5.3 percent to $36,276 in 2006 from $34,471 for 2005. In Florida, personal income increased 5.3 percent to $35,798 from $34,001 a year earlier. Florida ranked 20th among the states in both 2006 and 2005.




% change




+ 5.3




+ 5.2

Personal income includes income from all sources, including wages, investments and transfer payments, by all people.Connecticut had the highest personal income per capita at $49,852 in 2006 and $47,388 in 2005.Mississippi had the lowest personal income per capita in 2006 at $26,535.

Vanguard placed into liquidation

TALLAHASSEE — Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry P. Lewis has ordered Maitland-based Vanguard Fire & Casualty Co. into liquidation, effective Monday. Vanguard has 57,000 homeowners policies.The Department of Financial Services has asked the court to allow Vanguard customers to be offered coverage through the Royal Palm Insurance Co. or the Security First Insurance Co. Customers also could choose other companies as well.In the meantime, putting Vanguard into liquidation will allow the state to pay policyholder claims through the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association. “Our top priority is to take care of policyholders and ensure their claims are paid,” said CFO Alex Sink.The DFS was named receiver in January for purposes of rehabilitation, and has paid more than $6 million in claims using company assets, but has determined the company’s cash and reserves are not enough to keep up with claims.Questions relating to Vanguard policy, coverage and claim issues should be directed to Vanguard at 1-866-830-6423.  Policy-related questions should continue to be directed to Vanguard until further notice. Beginning Monday, claimants who need to check on the status of an current claim, or report a new claim, should call the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association at 1-866-928-4310.

Eclipsys faces Nasdaq delisting for delayed filing of annual report

DELRAY BEACH — Eclipsys Corp. has received notice from Nasdaq that it faces delisting for failing to file its 2006 annual report with the Securities and Exchange Commission.Eclipsys, like many companies, has delayed filing the 10-K because of an internal review of whether any stock options granted company employees and directors were improperly backdated. The company review is focusing on the period between August 1998 and July 2002.Eclipsys, in a disclosure document filed with the SEC, said it has appealed the matter and a hearing will be held in early May. Company shares will continue to list on the Nasdaq National Market System in the meantime.

Asian Food Fair attracts thousands to downtown Delray Beach

By Palm Beach StaffDELRAY BEACH — Chinese. Burmese. Indian. Pakistani. Bengali. Korean and Japanese.Dancing. Singing. Fashion. Food and fun. That in a nutshell was the 14th annual Asian Food Fair and Cultural Show held Saturday and Sunday at Old School Square in Delray Beach. The event, organized by the Bangladesh Association of Florida, has become a fixture in the city.

Officials of the Bangladesh Association estimated total attendance to be between 7,000 and 8,000 over the two days. Photos, story here...


Asian Food Fair and Cultural Show this weekend at Old School Square

getting ready for the asian food festival Getting Ready: Volunteers and participants prepare Friday evening for the annual Asian Food Fair and Cultural Show Saturday and Sunday at Old School Square in Delray Beach.

The event, conducted by the Bangladesh Association of Florida, features music, dancing, food and fashion highlighting Bengali, Indian, Pakistani, Philippine, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Burmese cultures and more.

The festival opens each day at 11:30 a.m. and runs to 8 p.m. on Saturday and 10 p.m. on Sunday. Admission: $7; Children under 5 are free. Below, one of the many dance groups scheduled to perform this weekend rehearse their routine.



Used-home sales dropped in Feb. but prices continued to stablize

ORLANDO — Florida’s used-home sales continued to slow in February while prices showed more signs of stabilizing, according to data released Friday by the Florida Association of Realtors.The number of homes sold statewide in February declined 23 percent to 10,779 from 14,080 a year ago, while the median price fell 3 percent to $235,500 from $242,500.Miami-Dade County continued to see some price gains, picking up 3 percent to $381,400 from $368,700 a year ago. The number of homes sold dropped 31 percent to 417 from 603 a year earlier.In Broward, the median price gained slightly, to $362,200 from $360,800; the number of homes sold dropped to 498 from 622, a decline of 20 percent.In Palm Beach County, the median price dropped 4 percent to $374,300 from $391,000 a year earlier; the number sold dropped to 560 from 707, a decline of 21 percent.


Homes Sold February 2007

Homes Sold February 2006

Median Price February 2007

Median Price February 2006
















Palm Beach





"If you're thinking of buying a house, there's probably not much to be gained by holding out at this point," says Wayne Archer, director of University of Florida's Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies. "It doesn't look like prices are going to fall anymore. We see that as a benchmark. When prices maintain the same level as inflation, then we're probably in some kind of equilibrium. It indicates the market is stabilizing."

GEO Group raises $226 million

BOCA RATON — The GEO Group Inc., the private prisons company, said Friday that it has raised $226.3 million through a public stock offering.The money will be used to pay down about $200 million in debt and for other general purposes. GEO sold 5.5 million shares of stock at $43.99 a share. It will reduce the company’s total debt to about $315 million.“This infusion of capital will improve our financial position and enhance our ability to pursue new growth opportunities through the potential expansion of existing facilities as well as new business development projects,” said company chairman and CEO George Zoley.

Federal court convicts Miami businessman for bilking Medicare

MIAMI — A federal jury has found a Miami businessman guilty of five counts of Medicare fraud for participating in a scheme that took the government for more than $20 million.Ricardo R. Aguera, owner of three Miami medical equipment companies, is set to be sentenced on June 12. Four other defendants, all related to each other, have pleaded guilty in the case.According to authorities, the five paid patients for use of their Medicare cards and signed receipts for delivery of drugs they did not need, paid doctors to sign fraudulent prescriptions and paid medical equipment companies to recruit patients to deliver the bogus prescriptions to pharmacies the defendants owned.The defendants also  illegal manufactured aerosol drugs.

Pediatrix could have shares delisted for failing to file report

FORT LAUDERDALE — Pediatrix said Thursday in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it has received notice from the New York Stock Exchange that it could face delisting for failing to file its annual report with the SEC.The NYSE said it also could give Pediatrix an additional six months to make the filing.Pediatrix has delayed filing its 2006 annual report because of improperly backdated stock options granted company employees. The company said it will restate earnings from its inception in 1995 through the first quarter of 2006. The total amount of the restatement is not expected to be more than $28 milllion.

Spirit Airlines begins Haiti flights

FORT LAUDERDALE — Spirit Airlines Thursday inaugurated non-stop service from Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Service will be offered three times weekly to Port-au-Prince and will increase to daily service on May 1.“We are excited to be launching our newest route from Fort Lauderdale and we are thankful to have this opportunity to serve the many Haitian-Americans living in Broward County,” said Barry Biffle, Spirit’s Chief Marketing Officer. “Our new service to Port-au-Prince will now offer Haitians and Haitian-Americans living in the US with a low fare option for travel.”Spirit Airlines will serve Port-au-Prince, Haiti with its new fleet of Airbus planes, the youngest in the Americas.

Fed holds line on interest rates

WASHINGTON — Short-term interest rates will remain right where they are for the time being. The Federal Reserve Wednesday said it will hold its federal funds rate at 5.25 percent, given mixed economic signals and the slumping housing market. However, it signaled a willingness to raise rates if inflation emerges as a problem. Read the Fed statement here.

Hialeah businessman gets prison sentence for defrauding Medicare

MIAMI — A federal court judge has sentenced a Hialeah businessman to four years in prison for billing Medicare $2.2 million for medical equipment that patients never received.Rene Rodriquez, owner of DC Medical Services, also will serve three years of supervised release and repay Medicare $2.2 million.According to court documents, DC Medical submitted claims to Medicare for medical equipment never ordered by doctors and never received by patients.

Claire's Stores finds a buyer in mega firm Apollo Management

claire's store in boynton beach

The Claire's Store at the Boynton Beach Mall.

PEMBROKE PINES — Mega buyout firm Apollo Management has agreed to buy Claire's Stores Inc. for $3.1 billion, Claire’s announced Tuesday.The offer translates to $33 a share."The decision to sell the company that our father founded was reached after an enormous amount of soul searching over time and brings our strategic review to a successful conclusion,” Claire's co-chairwomen and co-CEOs Bonnie Schaefer and Marla Schaefer said in a joint statement. “After reviewing the final bids, our Board of Directors unanimously concluded after in-depth consideration, that this transaction with Apollo is in the
best interests of our shareholders.“We also believe that a partnership with Apollo will create an abundance of opportunities to leverage the strong U.S. brand that we have created over the years and to continue its evolution into an even stronger global brand.”The Schaefer family has agreed to vote in favor of the sale. Claire’s operates more than 3,000 stores worldwide.

Delray businessman gets prison for failing to file income tax returns

WEST PALM BEACH — Federal Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley has sentenced a Delray Beach businessman to 18 months in prison for failing to file income tax returns.Perry Silver, who pleaded guilty to three counts of failing to file federal income tax returns, also received one year of supervised release and was ordered to pay the IRS $327,093 in restitution.Silver failed to file returns for tax years 2000, 2001 and 2002. Silver earned more than $1.1 million in 2000,  $2.1 million in 2001 and $1.1 million in 2002.

Holy Cross receives $20 million donation for outpatient center

FORT LAUDERDALE — Dr. M. Lee Pearce has donated $20 million to Holy Cross Hospital to help establish a comprehensive off-campus ambulatory/outpatient services center.The donation, announced Monday, is the largest ever made to Holy Cross.Holy Cross has acquired 19 acres with more than 200,000 square feet of medical buildings at the Oakridge Medical Complex site, plus related clinical equipment.Pearce, mostly through The Dr. M. Lee Pearce Foundation, Inc., which he established in 1984, has donated to about 50 nonprofits, including the University of Miami, Coral Gables; The Metropolitan Opera; the historic Bonnet House in Fort Lauderdale; the Mayo Clinic; and the Harvard Medical School.

Broward women plead guilty to participating in mortgage fraud ring

FORT LAUDERDALE — Two Broward County women have pleaded guilty to federal fraud and identity theft charges for their involvement in a $10 million mortgage fraud scheme called Operation Whose House.Megan McGuire of Miramar faces a maximum of five years in prison after pleading guilty to fraud and aggravated identity, and Christine A. Brown faces two years after pleading guilty to aggravated identity theft. Both are scheduled to be sentenced in May.U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta said the two women used straw buyers and used false documents to obtain loans. In some cases, they used real names and documents of identity theft victims. McGuire and Brown are the sixth and seventh Operations Whose House defendants to plead guilty.

Carnival Corp. sees Q1 profit rise

MIAMI — Carnival Corp. Friday reported first quarter profits of $293 million, or 36 cents a share, on revenue of $2.7 billion, compared with profit of $251 million, or 31 cents a share, on revenue of $251 billion.The company projected second quarter profit of 45 to 47 cents a share, compared with the 46 cents earned a year ago. For the year, Carnival continues to project revenue of $2.90 to $3.10 a share compared with the $2.77 earned a year ago.Carnival Corp. chairman and CEO Micky Arison said the first quarter continued the trend seen in recent quarters of strong growth in cruise revenue yields from the company's European cruise brands offsetting pricing weakness in the Caribbean."The Caribbean remains the world's top cruising region," Arison noted. "Despite a soft pricing environment in this segment, we'll carry a record number of guests to the Caribbean this year."

Delray marks the past and future at 'building busting' ceremony

DELRAY BEACH — Carver Estates took one beating from Hurricane Wilma 18 months ago.It took another Thursday at the hands of sledge hammer-wielding city officials, developers and former residents who took turns doing their best to turn a concrete block wall into a pile of rubble. Story, photographs here.


Citrix Systems to restate earnings

FORT LAUDERDALE — Citrix Systems Inc. said Wednesday that it will restate earnings because of improperly granted employee stock options.The company did not provide any indication of the scope of the restatement, saying its audit committee continues to investigate the matter. It added that there is no indication of any intentional wrongdoing by any current company executive to this point.Citrix, which made the announcement after the close of trading, said it will also delay filing its 2006 annual report with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Businessmen face prison time, fines after pleading guilty to fraud

MIAMI — Two Miami businessmen have pleaded guilty to conspiracy and mail fraud charges in connection with a scheme that ripped off more than 700 investors of more than $2 million through an Internet investment scheme.Lazaro J. Rodriquez and Frederick Ira Wolfe, executives of The Firm Financial face 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines after pleading guilty in federal district court.  According to the indictment, The Firm offered investors guaranteed returns as high as 300 percent within 3 months, depending on the amount of money they invested. The Firm claimed it could generate that level of return by investing the money in real estate, commodities and initial public stock offerings. However, Rodriquez and Wolfe spent the money instead.

Legislators protest Nova move

TALLAHASSEE — A bipartisan group of lawmakers joined with 10 displaced maintenance workers from Nova Southeastern University  urging Nova President Ray Ferrero and the Nova board to rehire the workers.Nova terminated a contract it had with Unicco Services, with about 100 workers losing their jobs as a result. Workers say the move came after they voted to join the Service Employees International Union. The National Labor Relations Board has issued a formal complaint against Nova."We were told that the University did not want those of us who were active in the union, said Fritz Hector, a displaced landscaper, "but we will not stop fighting for our jobs, or for a future that lifts us out of poverty."Lawmakers who agreed to support the workers by appearing at a press conference Wednesday included: :Sen. Tony Hill, D-Jacksonville; Sen. Alex Villalobos, R-Miami; Rep. Ronald Brise, D-North Miami; Rep. Joe Gibbons, D-Hallandale Beach; and Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale.

Senate insurance panel OKs consumer advocate measure

TALLAHASSEE — The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee Tuesday approved Senate Bill 1884, which would expand the powers of the Office of the Insurance Consumer Advocate. The bill would give the office the right to intervene as a party in legal and administrative proceedings. It also gives the office access to the public model for hurricane loss projections, investigate insurance schemes or practices, appeal any action taken by the Office of Insurance Regulation, and hire staff to cover health and life insurance issues. “This bill puts consumers on more equal footing with insurance companies and gives them a louder voice,” Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink said.The bill has one more committee stop before heading to the Senate floor.

Geo Group plans stock offering, gets new Indiana prison contract

BOCA RATON — The Geo Group Tuesday said it plans to issue nearly 5 million shares of common stock into order to pay down nearly $200 million in debt.The company filed a registration statement for the offering with the Securities and Exchange Commission earlier in the day. Lehman Brothers and Banc of America Securities will handle the offering.Meanwhile, also announced that has signed a contract with Indiana’s Department of Corrections to house an additional 1,260 inmates at the New Castle Correctional Facility. The company provides services for more than 1,000 inmates at the prison.Geo expects that its new contract will generate about $11 million in additive revenue during 2007 and about $16 million annually. That translates into additional earnings of 3 cents a share, increasing, the company’s pro forma third quarter earnings estimate to 53 to 57 cents a share, and revenue between $228 million to $233 million. For the year, the company is projecting  additional earnings of 6 cents a share.

archived march 23, 2007

Nabi reorganizes, considers sale of part or all of the company

BOCA RATON — Nabi Biopharmaceuticals, Florida’s largest biotech, said Monday that it is reorganizing itself into separate companies and is considering a sale of part or all of the company.The division into Nabi Biologics and Nabi Pharmaceuticals is intended to “provide business clarity to the investment community, improve operating and financial performance,” the company said.Also Monday, Nabi reported a fourth quarter loss of $4 million, or 7 cents a share, on revenue of $30.3 million, compared with a loss of $75.6 million, or $1.25 a share, on revenue of $26.5 million for the same period a year ago.For the year, Nabi posted a loss of $58.7 million, or 96 cents a share, on revenue of 89.9 million, compared with a loss of $128 million, or $2.15 a share, on revenue of $94.1 million for 2005.The company is in the midst of replacing Thomas McLain as CEO. McLain resigned in February."The board of directors and new management team have put our new strategy into place to more rapidly and effectively unlock the true value of the company's assets and to give both businesses a competitive advantage,” said interim president and CEO Leslie Hudson. “We believe that this strategy will enhance the on- going strategic alternatives process, clarify our business and operating strengths and enable a range of outcomes including significant redirection of our business and the possible sale of part or all of the company.”Nabi shares gained 13 cents to $4.83 in regular trading. Nabi continued to gain after hours, hitting $5.

Burger King moves into Poland

MIAMI — Burger King Europe, a subsidiary of Burger King Corp, has awarded development rights for Poland to American Restaurants Sp. z.o.o., a subsidiary of AmRest Holdings N.V. AmRest is based in Wroclaw, Poland.The first Burger King restaurant in Poland is scheduled to open during the second quarter and will be situated in Warsaw’s new premium mall, Zlote Tarasy, one of the largest multi-use developments under construction in Europe.  Additional openings are scheduled over the next five years.AmRest employs more than 6,100 people and manages 200 restaurants, including 138 in Poland, 44 in the Czech Republic and 18 in Hungary.

WebUnited opens Delray data center

DELRAY BEACH — Deerfield Beach-based WebUnited, a commercial Internet service provider, said Monday that it has opened a 3,000-square-foot business-class data center in Delray Beach. The facility will be ready for customer occupancy well before the onset of the 2007 hurricane season.The new facility expands WebUnited’s data center reach to all three South Florida counties — Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach. The new Delray Beach data center includes specialized computer room cooling equipment, emergency backup power generator, dual security access controls, video surveillance and multiple fiber and tier one bandwidth providers.The facility, part of an effort to expand WebUnited’s presence in South Florida, will be monitored around the clock by WebUnited’s local  staff.WebUnited opened a 23,000-square-foot data center in Miami Gardens last October, and has long operated a 7,000-square-foot center in Deerfield Beach.

Worker confidence gains in Florida

FORT LAUDERDALE — Employee confidence in Florida rebounded in January from a slight decline in December and reaching its second highest level in the past year, according to the monthly Spherion Employment Report.The index gained increased 0.5 points to 65.5 in January as workers gained confidence about their personal job situation and the jobs market overall.The number of workers confident in their ability to find a new job situation gained 7 points to 75 percent. The percentage of workers reporting that more jobs are available increased four percentage points from December to 38 percent in January.However, the number of workers who believed the economy is strengthening dropped to 22 percent from 35 percent in December."Workers feel good about their personal employment prospects," said Spherion branch manager Paula Franco. "The Florida job market remains one of the strongest and this is evident when we see the unemployment rate consistently being lower than the national average. That being said, the shortage of finding qualified workers will remain a challenge for local businesses.”


Poll finds Floridians supporting cut in communications services tax

TALLAHASSEE — A new poll released Wednesday by shows that 87 percent of Florida voters support cutting the state’s communications services tax by 1.17 percentage points.

The tax is now at 9.17 percent. is a national organization; its founding members include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Black Chamber of Commerce.

Of those surveyed, nearly 75 percent said the tax is too high and the revenue is used for purposes other than communications.

"Florida currently has the third highest wireless tax rate in the
nation," said Kimberly Kuo, executive director of "Reducing this tax to 8 percent would save Florida consumers about $185 million in the first year alone.”

McLaughlin & Associates, and Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates  surveyed 800 likely voters in Florida via phone between Jan. 22-24 on behalf of

Delray commemorates black business district revitalization

By Palm Beach Staff

DELRAY BEACH — The city celebrated a piece of its history recently with a ceremony officially reopening the historically black NW-SW Fifth Avenue business district. Full story, photos here.

Survey finds brighter outlook for local accounting, finance jobs

WEST PALM BEACH — It should be a good spring accounting and financial professionals looking for work or to change jobs.The Robert Half Financial Index for West Palm Beach shows chief financial officers in the area lare ooking to add staff at higher rate than in the first quarter. Ten percent of CFOs surveyed say they plan to hire during the quarter — 1 percentage point higher than the first quarter and 3 percentage points higher than the national average.

 Meanwhile, two percent say they plan to cut jobs.In Broward and Miami-Dade counties, 10 percent said they planned to hire; 5 percent planned cutbacks. "Companies are eager to take advantage of new business opportunities," said Robert Half chairman and CEO Max Messmer. "Corporate growth, combined with the ongoing need to address regulatory and governance mandates, is resulting in demand for accounting and finance staff."Robert Half surveyed 200 CFOs in the  West Palm Beach area.

Seminoles complete Hard Rock deal

HOLLYWOOD — The Seminole Tribe of Florida said Monday that it has finalized  its $965 million deal for Hard Rock International and related properties.The Rank Group Plc agreed to the sale in December.The deal includes 124 company-owned and franchised Hard Rock Cafes in 46 countries, the Hard Rock brand and the company’s collection of music memorabilia. The Seminole Tribe already owns Hard Rock hotels and casinos in Hollywood and Tampa. Hard Rock is believed to be the first major international corporation to be owned by an Indian tribe.

CITRIX says it will delay filing 10-K

FORT LAUDERDALE — Citrix Systems Inc. said Friday that it will delay filing its annual report with the Securities and Exchange Commission until later this month because of the company’s ongoing investigation of its stock options program.The move extends the due date for the 10-K until March 16.The company’s audit committee, which is conducting the investigation into backdating, has found errors with options granted between 1996 and 1998 but has reached no conclusions. The investigation has not found any evidence of “intentional wrongdoing by the company’s current executives.”

BankAtlantic completes sale of Ryan Beck to Stifel Financial

FORT LAUDERDALE — BankAtlantic Bancorp said Thursday that it had completed the sale of its Ryan Beck brokerage unit to Stifel Financial Corp. for $125 million.BankAtlantic p received 2.4 million shares of Stifel and about $2.5 million in cash. BankAtlantic is to receive five-year warrants to buy 480,500 Stifel shares of Stifel at $36 each. If Stifel shareholders do not approve the warrants, BankAtlantic will get $19.2 million in cash.BankAtlantic could receive more depending on how certain employees perform.“This transaction gives us the opportunity to combine Ryan Beck with a larger, successful public company which has the scale to achieve greater operating efficiencies and strong leadership,” BankAtlantic CEO Alan Levan said.Levan said BankAtlantic has no immediate plans to sell its Stifel shares, but it does anticipate gradually reducing its stake as market conditions warrant.

Suits claim insurers failed to pay for building permits on roof repairs

BOCA RATON — The Hurricane Law Group Wednesday said it has file separate suits against Florida’s three largest home insurers, alleging that they failed to pay for building permits on homes with roof damage from Hurricane Wilma.The suits seek class action status. Defendants are Allstate Floridian Insurance Co. — sued in Hendry County;  Citizens Property Insurance Corp. — sued in Miami-Dade County and State Farm — sued in Broward County.Each suit includes the same allegation, hat the insurance company failed to get a building permit before beginning roof work.As many as 200,000 homeowner could be affected, according to the law firm.“It is common knowledge that a building permit is required for roof replacement in Florida,” said Paul Berger, managing attorney of the Hurricane Law Group. “A building permit can cost anywhere from $100 to $1000 or more. By failing to pay for 200,000 building permits, we estimate that (insurers) profited perhaps as much as $100 million at the expense of the citizens of this state.”

Pediatrix to restate earnings

FORT LAUDERDALE — Pediatrix Medical Group Inc. Wednesday said it will restate earnings to account for the intentional backdating of stock options by a company executive before 2001.The restatement will not exceed $28 million, though the amount has not been determined. The company also filed a statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission saying that its earnings statements from 1995 through 2006 should not be relied upon.Pediatrix also said it is delaying filing its 10-K annual report with the SEC because of the restatement.

Used home sales fall in Florida but prices show signs of stabilizing

DELRAY BEACH — Used home sales in Florida continued to slump in January, but prices continued to show some signs of stabilizing, according to the Florida Association of Realtors’ monthly report on the market.The number of homes sold in Florida dropped 27 percent in January to 9,382 from 12,906 a year ago. The median price fell 2 percent to $239,300 from $243,200 a year ago.Sales in South Florida dropped as well but not as precipitously, and prices actually rose in Miami-Dade.In Broward, sales dropped 17 percent to 458 from 552 a year ago; the median price dropped 2 percent to $364,500 from $370,500.In Palm Beach County, sales dropped 15 percent to 496 from 586, but the median price dropped only 1 percent to $388,000 from $393,700.In Miami-Dade, sales dropped 9 percent to 528 from 580; the median price actually gained 5 percent to $395,9000 from $376,300."Home sales may appear weak in comparison with the record surge in 2005, but they will be sustained at historically high levels that are in line with long-term demand," says National Association of Realtors Chief Economist David Lereah.

Consumer confidence rises in February, hits 5-and-a-half year high

DELRAY BEACH — Consumer confidence in Florida and the nation rose February, fueled by economic growth and a better jobs market, according to separate reports released Tuesday.The University of Florida’s consumer confidence index for the Sunshine State rose two points to 91 — four points higher than a year ago — while the Conference Board’s national index rose 2.3 points to 112.5 — its highest reading since August 2001.UF survey director Chris McCarty said there competing forces at work, making it difficult to read much into the February numbers.“On the positive side, gas prices are still relatively low, although they are heading back up,” McCarty said. “The stock market hit a new high in February, although it is down from that. Employment remains solid.“On the down side is housing, the focus of everyone’s attention.”Said the Conference Board’s Lynn Franco: “All in all, it appears that the pace of economic growth exhibited in the final months of 2006 has carried over into early 2007 and may have even gained a little momentum."

Delray Housing Authority names Auburn to redevelop Carver Estates

DELRAY BEACH — Auburn Development Group will work with the Delray Beach Housing Authority to address the city's affordable housing needs. More.

RailAmerica hires new chief exec

BOCA RATON — RailAmerica Inc. Friday announced that Charles Swinburn will retire after 11 years with the company as a board member and for the last two-and-a-half years as CEO. John E. Giles will assume Swinburn’s responsibilities immediately.

“I am extremely proud of what RailAmerica has achieved over the past several years,” Swinburn said. “With the successful completion of the Fortress transaction, RailAmerica is well positioned for a new era of growth and expansion. I thank all employees of the company nationwide for their hard work and support during my tenure as CEO. I ask them to give the same support to John as he assumes his new responsibilities.”

Giles has more than 35 years of railroad and transportation industry. Giles was president and CEO of Great Lakes Transportation LLC, and before that served in many roles for CSX Transportation.

Also, RailAmerica said Donald D. Redfearn will step down as president and chief administrative officer, and Michael J. Howe will step down as chief financial officer. Redfearn has been with the company and its predecessor for 21 years, Howe seven.

Carnival sells Windstar Cruises

MIAMI — Carnival Corp. said Thursday that it is selling its Windstar Cruises brand to Ambassadors International Inc. for $100 million in cash and assumed debt.Windstar Cruises, which operates three sailing ships, is a subsidiary of Carnival’s Holland America Line."Windstar is an outstanding and unique cruise product and has garnered an extremely loyal following, however, Carnival’s growth strategy is focused on expanding our core growth brands and opening new markets," said Carnival chairman and CEO Micky Arison. "We made the decision to exit from the niche cruise business some time ago and the sale of Windstar is in line with that strategy.”Windstar Cruises' three ships include the 312-passenger Wind Surf and the 148-passenger Wind Star and Wind Spirit.Carnival expects the transaction to close in the second quarter.

Florida counties oppose tax reform package that caps local revenue

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Association of Counties said Wednesday that it will oppose any plan that will put a cap on the amount of revenue local governments may raise.The statement came in response to a  proposal by House Speaker Marco Rubio to eliminate property taxes while making up for the lost revenue by raising the sales tax to 8.5 percent. The proposal also would limit the amount of revenue a local government may raise."Such a cap would force counties to make deep cuts to programs and services that our citizens want and expect, and could harm quality of life  in our communities,” the statement says."Florida's counties recognize that there are Floridians who need property tax relief. But in attempting to craft relief, the Legislature must avoid creating a second crisis by forcing cuts in essential county programs and services that Florida's citizens depend on.”

United Real Estate buys 154 acres in Delray Beach zoned for new homes

DELRAY BEACH — Key Biscayne-based United Real Estate Venture in partnership with The Crimson Ibis Cos. and
Ascot Development Group has bought has 154 acres in Delray Beach called Whitworth Estates.The land is zoned for 380 single-family homes, and was recently appraised at $80 million. Ascot Development Group is advising UREV/Crimson for developing or selling the property. "This is a great investment and a great project for UREV," said UREV CEO John Devaney. "There are only a limited number of development sites left in Palm Beach County, and Delray Beach is one of the prized areas."Whitworth Estates will be a community of homes built around nine lakes (25 acres combined), and will include a three-acre, 10,000-square-foot club house. The community will be adjacent to the planned Delray Marketplace, a 325,000 square foot upscale shopping and lifestyle center scheduled to open in 2008.

archived early march

Ion agrees to allow NBC Universal to transfer right to buy major stake

WEST PALM BEACH — Ion Media Networks Inc. said Tuesday that it has agreed to allow NBC Universal to transfer to Citadel LP its right to buy a majority of the company’s voting stock.Ion also said it has received a proposal from a majority of one class of preferred shareholders for restructuring the company’s finances. The proposal includes possibly filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, but Ion said such a move is not necessary.NBC Universal has had a stake in Ion for years. In November 2005, NBC and company founder Lowell “Bud” Paxson negotiated a deal allowing the network giant to buy a majority stake in what was then called Paxson Communications.Ion owns the largest group of broadcast television stations in the nation capable of reaching 90 million television households. Despite the impressive reach, the network has struggled to develop an audience.

FPL Group endorses Global Round Table's statement on climate change

JUNO BEACH — FPL Group Inc. said Tuesday that it has endorsed the joint statement of the Global Roundtable on Climate Change to reduce greenhouse gases while improving energy efficiency.The Global Roundtable includes more than 150 “stakeholders” — including corporate and governmental leaders and nongovernmental organizations — exploring areas of consensus regarding scientific, technological and economic issues shaping public policies on climate change.The statement calls for scientifically set targets for reducing greenhouse gas concentrations while meeting energy needs globally.It also outlines cost-effective technologies available today and others that could be developed and deployed to improve energy efficiency and to help reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.Endorsers of the Joint Statement include representatives from energy, government, air transport, manufacturing, banking, insurance, technology, religious and other sectors.“Solutions to climate change go well beyond our industry and our nation’s borders,” FPL chairman and CEO Lew Hay said. " … FPL Group knows how important it is to balance the need to provide reliable, low-cost power with the desire to minimize our impact to the environment.”  

Aventura firm plans Miami towers

MIAMI — Cabi Developers of Aventura and the U.S. subsidiary of noted Mexican developer GICSA, are teaming to build two towers that take their cue from New York’s Chrysler and Empire State buildings.The complex, called Capital at Brickell, will include a 53-story tower and a 57-story tower. Cost of the project, which is expected to be completed in 2010, is more than $500 million.Plans include 834 residences, plus 127,000 square feet of office space and 47,000 square feet of retail. The architectural firm Fullerton-Diaz did the design work. “Capital at Brickell in particular will reflect the grandeur and cosmopolitan tradition of New York City skyscrapers," said Jacobo Cababie of Cabi Developers.

No Joke! Property insurers cut rates

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation Friday approved the first proposed rate cut made in response to the state’s recently passed property insurance reform bill.American Strategic Insurance Company will reduce rates by a statewide average of 11.4 percent effective on March 1 for new customers and May 1 for renewals. OIR also has received filings from Royal Palm Insurance Co. requesting a 20.7 percent reduction and Security First Insurance Co. seeking a 22.3 percent cut.  Both companies also reported that they will no longer rely on credit scores when determining insurance rates. Under the reform bill passed in January, insurers must file new rates that incorporate savings generated by the newly enacted reforms.  The Office is required to calculate what those savings will be by March 15th, and insurers must then file new rates to become effective for new and renewal business on or after June 1.Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty said ASI, Royal Palm and Security First did not want to wait to reduce rates.  “These companies wanted to get the savings into their policyholder’s pockets as soon as possible, and we certainly do not want to stand in the way of that.”

Housing starts fell in January

DELRAY BEACH — Housing starts in January fell 14.3 percent to an annualized rate of 1.4 million, the Commerce Department said Friday.The January rate was 37 percent below the year-earlier rate of 2.3 million.In the South, housing starts declined 11.8 percent in January, according to the Commerce Department.Meanwhile, the Labor Department reported the producer price index, a measure of inflation at the business level, fell 0.6 percent last month after rising 0.9 percent in December and 1.8 percent in November. The decline in energy prices was one factor.

Nabi CEO McLain resigns; Hudson, Cox appointed in the interim

BOCA RATON — Thomas H. McLain has resigned as CEO of Nabi Biopharmaceuticals, Florida’s largest biotech. The company appointed Leslie Hudson, a director of the company since 2005, interim CEO and Geoffrey F. Cox, a director of the company since 2000, as board chairman."We would like to thank Tom for his leadership of Nabi. Since he joined the company, he has made a significant contribution and, most recently, has managed a tremendous amount of change in our business," Cox said.Nabi shares were up 18 cents to $5.92 in Friday afternoon trading.Hudson will serve as interim CEO for six months while the board looks for a permanent replacement.Hudson has been a director of the company since August 2005. He is the founder of G&M Princeton Associates, a pharmaceutical commercial development practice. He has held senior positions at Pharmacia Corp. and at Glaxo, where he served as vice president of research. Most recently, Hudson was CEO of DOV PharmaceuticalCox has been a director of the company since December 2000. He has been chairman, president and CEO of GTC Biotherapeutics. From 1984 to 1997, he was employed by Genzyme Corp., a biotechnology company, last serving as executive vice president.He is a member of the Biotechnology Industry Organization board and the Massachusetts
Biotechnology CouncilThe change in leadership caused Nabi to delay the release of its fourth-quarter and full-year results until March 12.

Palm Beach County housing market hammered hard during 4th quarter

DELRAY BEACH — The housing market in Palm Beach County took a beating during the last three months of 2006, according to date released Thursday by the Florida Association of Realtors.The number of used homes sold dropped 25 percent to 1,750 from 2,325 during the same period a year earlier. The median price dropped 12 percent to $367,900 from $415,800 during the quarter.The market didn’t take quite the hit in Broward, with the number of homes sold dropping 10 percent to 1,814 from 2,015 a year earlier. The median price fell 5 percent, to $359,600 from $377,300 a year earlier. In Miami-Dade, homes sold in the fourth quarter dropped 1,828 from 1,878, a decline of 3 percent; the median price dropped 1 percent to $370,400 from $375,900.Statewide, the number of home sold fell 28 percent to 37,177 from 51,310; the median price fell 1 percent to $242,100 from $245,600.

Jennings joins FPL Group board

JUNO BEACH — FPL Group said Thursday that former Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings has been elected to the company’s board of directors. Jennings, 57, was the first woman to have held that office.Jennings spent 20 years in the state senate and served two terms as senate president. She also served two terms in the Florida House of Representatives.Jennings also ran Jack Jennings & Sons, a family-owned construction business in Orlando. She is a member of the Brown & Brown board of directors. Brown & Brown is a publicly traded insurance agency based in Daytona Beach and Tampa.“We are pleased to add Toni to our board of directors and look forward to drawing upon her business expertise and experience, as well as her vast knowledge about Florida,” said  FPL chairman and CEO Lew Hay.

RailAmerica sale to Fortress Investment now a done deal

BOCA RATON — RailAmerica 15-year ride as a public company officially ended Wednesday as the Fortress Investment Group’s $630 million buyout of the company became official."We are pleased to complete this transaction," said Charles Swinburn, Chief Executive Officer of RailAmerica. "I am particularly grateful for the support we have received from our people who have worked hard to deliver outstanding performance over many years. This merger opens a new and exciting chapter in RailAmerica's history.” Under the terms of the agreement, RailAmerica shareholders will receive $16.35 in cash for each share of RailAmerica common stock held. RailAmerica will apply to delist its shares from trading on the New York Stock Exchange.RailAmerica, founded when Boca Raton Capital Corp. bought a Michigan-based short line railroad, went public in 1992. The company eventually owned short line railroads in Australia, Chile, the U.S. and Canada.

Office Depot reports profit increase

DELRAY BEACH — Office Depot Wednesday reported fourth quarter profit of $135 million, or 49 cents a share, on revenue of $3.8 billion, compared with profit of $106 million, or 35 cents a share, on revenue of $3.7 billion for the same period a year ago.For the year, Office Depot reported profit of $516.1 million, or $1.83 a share, on revenue of $15 billion, compared with profit of $273.8 million, or 88 cents a year, on revenue of $14.3 billion for 2005.“We are pleased with the performance of our business in the fourth quarter,” said chairman and CEO Steve Odland. “The strategic initiatives that we have implemented have led to sales growth in each of our divisions as well as lower operating expenses and expanded total company margins.”Shares of Office Depot were down $1.16 to $36.35 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Watsco's 4th quarter earnings fall

MIAMI — Watsco, the distributor of heating and air conditioning equipment, Tuesday reported fourth quarter profit of $11.5 million, or 44 cents a share, on revenue of $387.6 million, compared with profit of $14.1 million, or 54 cents a share, on revenue of $416.2 million for the same period a year ago.For the year, Watsco earned $82.4 million, or $3.15 a share, on revenue of $1.8 billion. That compares with profit of $70 million, or $2.69 a share, on revenue of $1.7 billion a year earlier.The company said the ’06 fourth quarter results “follows a blockbuster 2005 comparison …  which included unusually strong sales volume.”Watsco shares fell $1.94 to $52.21.


Legislative panel hears calls for immediate property tax reform

LAKE WORTH — What do they want? Property tax reform. When do they want it? Now. That, in short, was the message that more than 90 Palm Beach County residents and business owners delivered to a panel of lawmakers Monday morning at the Duncan Theatre on the Lake Worth campus of Palm Beach Community College."They're outraged," said Rep. Adam Hasner, R-Delray Beach. "What they're demanding is meaningful tax relief sooner rather than later."Photographs, full story here .

Foreclosures still soaring in Florida

SACRAMENTO — The bad news is that foreclosures in Florida are still through the roof. The good news is that there are some signs that the numbers might be leveling off.There were nearly 11,500 foreclosures in Florida in January, most in the Southeast, according to That compares with 9,473 foreclosures a year earlier.In Broward County, the number increased to 1,546 from 1,225 a year ago. But in Miami-Dade, the number fell to 2,067 from 2,201 a year ago; the number also fell in Palm Beach County, to 1,244 from 1,498.“The numbers sound bleak. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” says Alexis McGee, president of “As I’ve said before, the worst is over. Markets have bottomed. We’re just not through yet with the aftereffects of all the people who used creative financing to buy homes beyond their means — especially in coastal and resort areas in the Southeast. “Now payments on those creative mortgages have ballooned; home prices stagnated, and homeowners’ equity eroded. Many overextended homeowners are left with little option but foreclosure.” Nationwide, reported 103,075 filings in January — nearly a quarter in California alone.

RailAmerica shareholders OK deal

BOCA RATON — RailAmerica Inc., the short line railroad company, said Monday that its stockholders have approved the proposed sale of the company to Fortress Investment Group LLC for $630 million.Under the terms of the deal, RailAmerica stockholders will receive $16.35 in cash for each share of RailAmerica common stock held. The deal is expected to close on Wednesday.Morgan Stanley & Co. as financial advisor to RailAmerica in connection with the transaction. Houlihan Lokey Howard & Zukin Financial Advisors provided an opinion to the RailAmerica board that the amount offered is fair to RailAmerica's shareholders. Holland & Knight LLP acted as legal advisor to RailAmerica and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP acted as legal advisor to Fortress.

Worker confidence index lags in manufacturing and construction

FORT LAUDERDALE — The Employee Confidence Index for U.S. workers in industrial, manufacturing and construction fields declined 1.7 points to 53.0 in the fourth quarter of 2006, according to the latest Spherion Employment Report.The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Spherion, was fueled primarily by a six-percentage-point increase in workers who are not confident in the future of their employers and a five-percentage-point increase in those who feel fewer jobs are available.The sector continues to lag the overall U.S. Employee Confidence Index, which rose 2.3 points in
the same period, with the gap widening to 6.6 points in the fourth quarter.Ralph Henderson, senior vice president of staffing services for Spherion, said the drop was not surprising. "Manufacturing growth has slowed or stabilized, although we are still seeing demand for workers across the country,” Henderson said.

Labor Department sues Miami firm over alleged retirement plan abuses

MIAMI — The Labor Department has sued Miami-based X-Ray Equipment Co. and its owner for improperly lending more than $1.5 million in retirement plan funds to third parties and failing to collect repayments."Workers' retirement plans are not to be treated as cash machines for management's convenience," said Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao. "This legal action on behalf of the retirement plan's participants seeks to recover more than $1.5 million, ensure the plan's future integrity and prevent the defendants from ever again being in a position to plunder employee benefits."The suit, filed in Miami federal court, alleges that X-Ray Equipment and its president, Colen Carter, violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act since Sept. 30, 2000 by failing to collect $1,156,800 in loans, plus interest owed to the plan and by failing to forward to the plan $427,021 in loan payments made by participants and third-party borrowers.The loan repayments were co-mingled with the general assets of the company and used to pay company expenses.The company and Carter, who was the plan trustee, also allegedly failed to prudently invest plan assets when they concentrated a majority of plan
investments in notes and mortgages without investigating their financial.These investments allegedly resulted in losses to the plan that impaired its ability to pay benefits. The suit seeks a court order requiring that all losses be restored with interest and to appoint a new fiduciary to oversee the plan.

Boca law firm sues Citizens over Hurricane Wilma window claims

BOCA RATON — Hurricane Law Group Wednesday said it has filed suit against Citizens Property Insurance Corp. in Miami-Dade county, alleging the state’s insurer of last resort ignored building code requirements and underpaid claims stemming from Hurricane Wilma in 2005.The suit seeks class-action status for Miami-Dade and Broward County residents insured by Citizens and whose home sustained window damage during Wilma.The complaint alleges that Citizens failed to pay homeowners to replace damaged windows with high-impact glass or install hurricane shutters as required by the Florida Building Code. The law firm alleges that “tens of thousands” of homeowners underpaid as a result.“This is a public safety issue that impacts all of South Florida,” said Paul Berger, managing attorney of the Hurricane Law Group. Citizens spokesman Rocky Scott said the state-sponsored insurer could not comment on the lawsuit because it has yet to be served.

Apollo's Jacuzzi deal now official

WEST PALM BEACH — Apollo Management’s $1.25 billion deal for Jacuzzi Brands is now official.The deal became official Wednesday, with trading in Jacuzzi shares to cease at the close of the markets. Jacuzzi’s shareholders will receive $12.50 in cash for each share of company stock they own. Jacuzzi shareholders will receive a letter with instructions on how to cash in their shares.Jacuzzi CEO Alex P. Marini will continue to play a role managing both Jacuzzi Bath and Zurn Industries. George M. Sherman, a co-investor with Apollo in the deal, is now company chairman.

Royal Caribbean posts profitable 4th; profit outlook for 2007 is flat

MIAMI — Royal Caribbean Monday reported fourth quarter profit of $46.6 million, or 22 cents a share, on revenue of $1.2 billion, compared with a loss of $3.6 million, or 2 cents a share, on revenue of $1.03 billion for the same period a year ago.For the year, the cruise company reported profit of $634 million, or $3.01 a share, on revenue of $5.2 billion, compared with profit of $716 million, or $3.22 a share, on revenue of $4.9 billion for the same period a year ago.Royal Caribbean is projecting relatively flat earnings growth for 2007, with earnings per share falling in a range of $3.05 to $3.20.

Ryder System reports higher profit

MIAMI — Ryder System reported fourth quarter profit of $65.8 billion, or $1.08 a share, on revenue of $1.6 billion, compared with profit of $58.8 million, or 92 cents a share, for the same period a year ago.For the year, Ryder earned $249 million, or $4.04 a share, on revenue of $6.3 billion, compared with profit of $226.9 million, or $3.52 a share, on revenue of $5.7 billion.For 2007, Ryder is forecasting earnings between $4.30 a share and $4.40 a share, and between 80-84 cents a share for the first quarterRyder shares closed Friday at $53.76, down $1.68.

Worker confidence hits new high

FORT LAUDERDALE — Worker confidence level hit a new high in January as the number of people believing good jobs are plentiful and in the stability of their current employers increased, according to Spherion’s Employee Confidence Index released Friday.The index gained 1.1 points to a reading of 60.5 in January. The index, conducted for Spherion by Harris Interactive, has risen four of the past five months. The index is 1.6 points higher than a year ago.The survey found 28 percent of workers believe that more jobs are available, compared to 26 percent in December, while 60 percent say they are confident in their ability to find a new job, up two percentage points from December.Spherion CEO Roy Krause said the rise in confidence makes sense given what’s happening in the economy."First, the economy is starting its sixth consecutive year of growth and it continues to expand at a solid pace despite the housing slowdown,” Krause said. “Secondly, job growth was steady in 2006 and the low unemployment rate suggests that most people who want to work are doing so. And finally, people are earning more money, with hourly wages up four percent in the past year."

State regulators order Citizens to roll back homeowners rates

TALLAHASSEE — Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty on Thursday issued an order rescinding Citizens Property Insurance Corp.’s rate hike that would have become effective Jan. 1. McCarty also ordered Citizens to roll back rates to Dec. 31 levels, as mandated by Florida’s recently passed insurance reform law. Citizens’ rates would have increased by a statewide average of about 56 percent.“The governor and Legislature recognized that Floridians needed immediate rate relief by passing the 2007 statutory reforms,” McCarty said. “The Office (of Insurance Regulation) has taken immediate steps to implement these lower rates.”Citizens is Florida’s insurer of last resort and also its largest homeowners carrier.



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