archived june 11, 2007

FPL Energy and partners breaks ground on Colorado wind plant

PEETZ, Colo. — Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter today joined FPL Energy, Xcel Energy, Invenergy Wind and about 300 guests in Peetz, Colo., to break ground at the 400 megawatt wind generation facility that will be the nation’s second largest.Ritter was joined by Mike O’Sullivan, senior vice president of development at FPL Energy and Karen Hyde, managing director of resource planning and acquisitions at Xcel Energy.“Colorado’s Eastern Plains boast some of the best wind resources in the nation,” Ritter said. “With the addition of this new wind farm, Colorado increases its supply of clean, non-polluting energy sources.”FPL Energy and Invenergy Wind LLC jointly developed the 400 megawatt Peetz Table project. Earlier this year, Invenergy Wind transferred control of its share to FPL Energy in exchange for a continuing economic interest in the project. FPL Energy will operate the facility and will sell 100 percent of the output to Xcel Energy under a long-term contract.When complete, the Peetz Table Wind Energy Center will be capable of generating enough electricity to power nearly 120,000 homes. Construction of the 267 General Electric wind turbines at the wind farm began this spring and is expected to be completed by the end of 2007. FPL Energy is also constructing a 78-mile-long transmission line to connect the Peetz Table facility to the power grid at Xcel Energy’s Pawnee substation near Brush.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush gets a nice pay day as Tenet board member

By DAVID SEDORE, Palm Beach Staff

MIAMI — Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush made $1,386.68 Tuesday without lifting a finger. He could lose that much — or more — Wednesday.Bush’s little windfall came from the modest 4 cents per share gain in the price of Tenet Healthcare stock during Tuesday’s trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock opened at $6.93 and closed at $6.97. MORE.

Florida homes sales plummet, but prices continue to stabilize

DELRAY BEACH — The number of used homes sold in Florida dropped dramatically in the first quarter, but prices showed signs of stabilizing.According to the Florida Association of Realtors reported 33,748 homes were sold during the quarter, down 26 percent from the same period a year ago. The median price, however, fell only 3 percent to $237,000 from $243,500 a year ago.In Palm Beach County, the number of homes sold dropped 20 percent to 1,781 from 2,222, while the median price fell to $378,200 from $392,900, a decline of 4 percent.In Broward County, homes sold dropped 21 percent to 1,557 from 1,978; the median price gained slightly to $366,900 from $366,300.In Miami-Dade, homes sold fell 26 percent to 1,579 from 2,125, while the median price gained 2 percent to $386,300 from $376,900.FAR said there are signs that  residential construction in the state may have bottomed out, a positive sign for the market. Low mortgage rates also contribute to the market.

World Orchid Conference coming to South Florida in January

MIAMI — The World Orchid Conference is coming to Miami this January, and the South Florida host committee announced Tuesday that registration for growers and vendors is open. About 200,000 are expected to attend. The event will be held at the Sheraton Miami Mart Hotel and Convention Center Jan. 23-27. Event sponsors include the Delray Beach-based American Orchid Society, the Boca Raton Society, the Deerfield Beach Orchid Society, the East Everglades Orchid Society and the Jupiter/Tequesta Orchid Society.“The lush, tropical setting of South Florida is the perfect backdrop for the World Orchid Conference,” said co-chairman Robert Fuchs, president of South Florida Orchid Society. “With international vendors, experts, lecturers and visitors in attendance, this event will be the epicenter of the world for casual orchid lovers and professional horticulturists alike.”The world conference is held every three years and is the largest gathering of orchid enthusiasts, hobbyists, growers, hybridizers, and scientists.

NCL Corp reports wider losses

MIAMI — NCL Corp., parent of Norwegian Cruise Line, Tuesday reported a first quarter loss of $61 million on revenue of $491 million, compared with a loss of $29 million on revenue of $427 million for the same period of year ago.NCL cited higher interest expenses, the falling dollar and price problems in the Hawaii market for the widening loss.

Citrix continues to face delisting

FORT LAUDERDALE — Citrix Systems Inc. said Monday that it has received a second notice that it could be delisted for failing to file financial reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission.Citrix has delayed filing any financial reports with the SEC because of an ongoing internal investigation into the backdating of stock options granted employees.Previously, Nasdaq notified the company that it was delinquent for failing to file its 2006 annual report with the SEC on time. The second notice is for the first quarter ended March 31.Citrix has asked for a hearing on the matter. Citrix said it will file the reports after completing its internal investigation.

Royal Caribbean names cruise industry's first female ship captain


Profit drops at World Fuel Services

MIAMI — World Fuel Services Friday reported first quarter profit of $14.8 million, or 51 cents a share, on revenue of $2.7 billion, compared with profit of $15 million, or 52 cents a share, on revenue of $2.5 billion for the same period a year ago.The Miami-based firm sells aviation, marine and land fuels. "The company delivered strong growth in volume and profitability in our marine and land segments as well as strong volume in our aviation segment this quarter," said chairman and CEO Paul H. Stebbins. "However, our aviation segment results were significantly impacted by a rapid decline in jet fuel prices in the early part of the first quarter. And although fuel prices rebounded late in the first quarter, the benefit of this increase was not fully realized until the early part of the second quarter.”Shares of World Fuel were down $7 to $39.58 in late morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Pediatrix reports revenue increase, appoints new board member

FORT LAUDERDALE — Pediatrix Medical Group Inc. Thursday reported limited financial results for the three months ended March 31, including revenue growth of 14 percent over the same period a year ago.The company delayed releasing full results because of the ongoing internal review of its employee stock options program.Pediatrix reported revenue of $214.5 million for the quarter, compared with $187.7 million for the comparable 2006 period.The company attributed the increase to internal growth, plus neonatalogy practices bought over the past year.During the quarter, Pediatrix spent $12 million buying neonatal physician group practices based in San Francisco and Munster, Ind.Separately, Pediatrix appointed Manuel Kadre to its board of directors. Kadre, 41, is vice president and general counsel of the de la Cruz Cos., which distributes Eagle Brands beverages in South Florida and bottles Coca-Cola products in markets throughout the Caribbean.Kadre sits on the board of Equity Media Holdings and the board of trustees of the University of Miami and Miami Children’s Hospital. He was a member of Gov. Charlie Crist’s transition team.

Fed holds the line on interest rates

WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee has decided to keep the short-term federal funds rate at 5.25 percent, citing the slowing economy and the “adjustment” in the housing market.In a statement, the Fed said the economy should continue to expand at a moderate pace and that core inflation is “somewhat elevated.”“In these circumstances, the committee's predominant policy concern remains the risk that inflation will fail to moderate as expected,” the Fed said.

Archived June 10, 2007

The Scene: Business card exchange at the historic Sundy House.

The Scene: Networking with a Keys theme Wednesday evening at Making Waves in downtown Delray Beach.

The Scene: Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce's March business card exchange.

archived may 21, 2007

ommunications lost 52 cents to $30.12.The Bloomberg South Florida stock index fell 0.35; the Bloomberg Florida index gained 0.62 points to 145.13.

Fortress group to buy Florida East Coast Industries for $3.5 billion

JACKSONVILLE — Fortress Investment Group said Tuesday that it is buying  Florida East Coast Industries Inc., owner of the FEC Railroad, for $3.5 billion. Fortress, which bought Boca Raton-based RailAmerica earlier this year, will pay FEC shareholders $84 a share for the company. That figure represents a 13.3 percent premium over FEC’s closing price Monday on the New York Stock exchange.FEC’s board has approved the deal, but it still faces regulatory approvals and a vote of shareholders."Our focus has always been about maximizing shareholder value,” FEC CEO Adolfo Henriques said. “The value created by this transaction is a direct result of our employees' dedication, commitment and hard work over many years. We look forward to working together with Fortress to continue to build our businesses."The deal is expected to be completed in the third quarter.Besides its railroad operation,  Florida East Coast operates Flagler Development, commercial real estate arm, that owns 8.6 million square feet of Class A office and industrial space in Florida. It also owns 1.9 million square feet under construction.Major markets include Jacksonville, Orlando and South Florida counties
of Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade.Flagler also manages 10.5 million square feet of space for other owners.

Cleveland Clinic workers sentenced in scheme to defraud Medicare

MIAMI  — A former Cleveland Clinic employee who stole patient data in order to make fraudulent Medicare claims has been sentenced to more than 7 years in federal prison for health care fraud, computer fraud and identity theft.Fernando Ferrer Jr. used the names, birth dates, Social Security numbers of more than 1,100 patients at the Cleveland Clinic and Health Management Associates to fraudulently bill Medicare for more than $2.5 million. He convinced  a cousin, Isis Machado, to use her access to the Cleveland Clinic computer system in order to steal the data.U.S. District Court Judge James I. Cohn sentenced Ferrer to 87 months in prison, three years supervised release and ordered to pay more than $2.5 million in restitution.Machado received three years probation, including six months of home confinement, and ordered to pay $2.5 million in restitution.

Worker confidence recovers slightly in April despite economy

FORT LAUDERDALE — Worker confidence recovered somewhat in April despite continuing concerns over the strength of the economy, according to the monthly Spherion worker confidence index.The index gained 0.7 points to 57.8 in April after dropping 3.3 points to 57.1 in March.The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Spherion, shows that workers remained confident about the future of their current employers and personal job prospects, but also that 35 percent intend to seek new jobs within the next year.Driving the rise in overall optimism, the percentage of workers who believe the economy is strengthening increased two percentage points from 17 percent in March to 19 percent in April. "The job market has remained relatively strong throughout the first part of the year, despite other economic concerns such as the recent housing slump and rising energy costs,” said Spherion CEO Roy Krause. “Though the overall outlook has improved in recent weeks, workers are still feeling the economic affects of the housing decline and higher prices for food and fuel. The one area that the vast majority of workers continue to feel secure is in their current jobs and I believe that continued job growth and historically low unemployment rates are fortifying that security. This may help explain the increased discrepancy between last month's macroeconomic and personal confidence indices."

FAU inks drug research agreement with Torrey Pines Institute

BOCA RATON — Florida Atlantic University students and faculty will be able to use compounds developed by the Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies to identify anti-cancer drugs and therapies under an agreement announced Friday. A research team headed by Dr. Ramaswamy Narayanan, associate dean and professor of biology in FAU's Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, has identified a cancer specific gene called SIM2.This gene is specific to colon, prostate and pancreatic cancers.Researchers at FAU will screen thousands of compounds from Torrey Pines' collection or anti-cancer drugs."Florida Atlantic University has the basic research and proof-of-concept in place, and Torrey Pines . . . has the compounds and expertise to help expedite drug discovery," said Narayanan. "This collaboration is a great example of moving important therapies from the lab bench to the patient."Torrey Pines is based in the La Jolla section of San Diego, and is opening a lab in Port St. Lucie.

Lake Worth tax preparer faces prison for tax fraud scheme

WEST PALM BEACH — Louis Wayne Ratfield, a Lake Worth accountant and tax preparer, faces as much as 150 years in prison after being found guilty of 50 charges of tax fraud in federal court.Ratfield, who operated LWR Accounting and Tax Service, claimed taxpayers could save money by deducting ordinary living expenses by setting up “common-law trusts.” Ratfield sold more than 100 trust packages at prices of $2,995 to $5,995 each and prepared at least 252 federal income tax returns in connection with the scheme, according to prosecutors.When IRS began auditing his clients, Ratfield took steps to obstruct the government. In all, according to court records, Ratfield cost the government more than $6.4 million.Ratfield faces a maximum of 3 years in prison on each count, plus 1 year of supervised release, a $250,000 fine and liability for the cost of prosecution. Ratfield also could face prison and fines for criminal contempt.

Cabinet approves insurance rules

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Cabinet has approved two rules for insurance companies, one standardizing the reporting of losses from hurricanes, the other requiring insurance company officers to attest to the accuracy of data when they file for rate hikes.Both rules stem from the massive insurance reform law that the Legislature passed in January."Governor Crist and the legislature promised Floridians insurance reform, and they delivered," Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty said. "The rules adopted . . . will help the Office of Insurance Regulation ensure that hurricane claims are paid in a timely manner and that all future rate filings are signed by company execves swearing under oath that the information in the filings is true and accurate."

Delray Wi-Fi gets city Internet deal

DELRAY BEACH — Delray Beach city commissioners have awarded the city’s wireless Internet contract to a joint venture called Delray Wi-Fi.Under terms of the contract, Delray Wi-Fi will provide wireless Internet connections throughout the city beginning with Atlantic Avenue corridor and eventually spreading throughout the remainder of the city this year. Free outdoor service will be available along the Atlantic Avenue corridor as much as four hours a day.The joint venture will provide free Internet service to 200 families with children living below the poverty line; it will also provide service at a discount to other families below the poverty line. Other residents may subscribe to the service at market rates.Delray Beach Wi-Fi Inc. is a joint venture of e-Path Communications Inc., ATC International Inc. and The Vision Team LLC.

News Corp. bid lifts Wall Street; World Fuel leads S. Florida stocks

DELRAY BEACH — Thank you, Rupert Murdoch. News Corp.’s $5 billion bid for Dow Jones helped lift Wall Street out of what otherwise might have been a day of losses.The Dow Jones industrial average gained 73.23 points to 13,136.14; the Nasdaq composite index gained 6.44 points to $2,531.53; the S&P 500 gained 3.93 points to 1,486.30.Other economic news during the day proved pretty much a wash — the ISM manufacturing index rose to 54.7 in April, its highest point in nearly a year; the National Association of Realtors pending home sales index fell 4.9 percent.Crude oil fell $1.31 to $64.40 a barrel; gasoline futures fell 1.47 cents to $2.2447 a gallon.The Palm Beach Major South Florida Stocks portfolio gained $2.84, thanks largely to a nifty $1.11 gain by World Fuel Services. Also, Lennar gained 73 cents to $43.44; Burger King gained 42 cents to $23.89.On the Dark Side, Bankrate lost 80 cents to $39.57; B/E Aerospace lost 56 cents to $36.09; Carnival Corp. lost 39 cents to $48.50.The Bloomberg South Florida stock index gained 0.63 points to $176.22; the Bloomberg Florida index gained 0.27 points to 142.22.

Ex-Tyco exec faces $2.6 million in penalties for dealer fee scheme

NEW YORK — A Boca Raton resident and former Tyco International executive is facing financial penalties totaling nearly $2.7 million for engineering a fraudulent “dealer connection fee” scheme designed to artificially inflate company income and cash flow.The Securities and Exchange Commission is proposing that Edward Federman, Tyco’s former controller, surrender about $1.7 million in illegal gains from the scheme, pay nearly $800,000 in interest, plus $200,000 in civil fines. The SEC sued Federman in federal district court in New York four months ago, alleging that Federman concocted the sham dealer fee solely to inflate Tyco’s operating income an cash flow by hundreds of millions of dollars. Tyco charged the fee whenever its ADT Security Services subsidiary bought a security company. At the same time, Tyco offset the fee with a credit in the same amount. Federman, who left Tyco in 2001, agreed to settle the suit without admitting or denying any wrongdoing.

B/E Aerospace profit more than doubles during 1st quarter

WELLINGTON — B/E Aerospace, the maker of aircraft interiors, Monday reported first quarter profit of $32.1 million, or 41 cents a share, on revenue of $387.8 million,  compared with profit of $13.8 million, or 18 cents a share, on revenue of $247.2 million for the same period a year ago.B/E raised its earnings projection for the year to $1.55 a share from $1.45 to $1.47 a share.“The first quarter of 2007 came in well ahead of both our internal plan and the consensus estimate, and is being driven by the performance in all five of our segments,” said CEO Amin J. Kourey. “As a result, for the second time this year, we are again raising our full year 2007 financial guidance. We are also on track to exceed our current 2008 earnings and margin expansion targets.”

FPL reports 1st quarter profit

JUNO BEACH — FPL Group Monday reported first quarter profit of $150 million, or 38 cents a share, on revenue of $3.1 billion, compared with profits of $251 million, or 64 cents a share, on revenue of $3.6 billion for the same period a year ago.Figures for the first quarter include $126 million, or 32 cents a share, in accounting losses on fuel hedges.“FPL Group is off to an excellent start in 2007 with another outstanding quarter of earnings growth at FPL Energy coupled with a solid contribution from FPL,” said CEO Lew Hay. “FPL Energy once again posted double-digit adjusted earnings growth and, similar to last year’s first quarter, exceeded the contributions of FPL on an adjusted earnings basis.“FPL also performed well in the quarter and benefited from strong customer growth reflecting the continued attractiveness of the Florida economy, but, similar to recent quarters, usage growth, adjusted for weather, remained weak.”FPL continued to project earnings per share of $3.35 to $3.45 for 2007 and $3.60 to $3.80 for 2008.Shares of FPL were up 64 cents to $64.54 in late afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Publix milk to be free of hormone

LAKELAND — Publix Super Markets Inc. said Monday that its private label milk will be free of rbST, or recombinant bovine somatotropin, a bioengineered hormone that is injected into cows to increase milk production, beginning Tuesday.“As a retailer devoted to customer satisfaction and highest quality of products, we wanted our customers to enjoy the wholesome goodness of milk, without added hormones,” said director of media and community relations, Maria Brous. “Our Publix brand milk is Grade A – pasteurized, certified Kosher and contains Vitamins A&D.”

Cross Match files to go public

PALM BEACH GARDENS — Cross Match Technologies, the biometric security company, is going public.Cross Match on Monday filed a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission for the public offering. The company has yet to price the offering or determine the number of shares to be sold, according to the document.The money raised will be used to pay off a $5 million loan with Silicon Valley Bank and for working capital.Despite the lack of detail about the offering, the document does provide a glimpse into Cross Match itself. The company has tripled revenue since 2002, to $76.9 million in 2006. Over that time, the company has lost money — $11.3 million in 2006, versus a loss of $1.1 million in 2002.The company operates worldwide and sees the market for biometric security devices — equipment that reads fingerprints, palm prints and faces — to be $3 billion.Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC will act as bookrunner for the offering, UBS Investment Bank and Morgan Stanley & Co. will act as co-lead managers and Raymond James & Associates Inc. will act as co-manager.

Burger King back in the black

MIAMI — Burger King Corp. Friday reported third quarter profit of $34 million, or 25 cents a share, on revenue of $539 million, compared with a loss of $12 million, or 11 cents a share, on revenue of $495 million for the same period a year ago.

For the nine months, Burger King earned $112 million, or 84 cents a share, on revenue of $1.6 billion, compared with profit of $37 million, or 34 cents, on revenue of $1.5 billion a year earlier.CEO John Chidsey said the company is on track to meet its financial goals for the year.“Fiscal year 2007 is shaping up to be a great year for Burger King, and we are committed to moving the brand forward by consistently delivering on our development and financial targets.”

Office Depot profit grows despite slowing small business spending

DELRAY BEACH — Office Depot Thursday reported first quarter profit of $155.8 billion, or 57 cents a share, on revenue of $4.1 billion, compared with profit of 129.5 million, or 44 cents a share, on revenue of $3.8 billion for the same period a year ago.Office Depot CEO Steve Odland said the company was able to increase profit despite slow sales early in the quarter caused by Microsoft’s introduction of its new Windows version and late in the quarter by softening spending by small businesses.Same-store sales in North America fell 3 percent during the quarter. “Sales in the second quarter may be similarly affected if the current business conditions persist in North America,” Odland said. “However, we will continue to manage our business to optimize profitable growth.” Office Depot shares were down $1.38 to $35.13 in late morning trading.

Citrix reports Q1 revenue gains

FORT LAUDERDALE — Citrix Systems Wednesday reported first quarter revenue of $308 million, compared with $260 million for the same period a year ago.The company did not report earnings because of an ongoing internal investigation into the backdating of stock options given company employees between 1996 through 2006. Citrix has yet to file its annual report with the Securities and Exchange Commission for 2006.The investigation has found that stock options were improperly backdated but also that there was no intentional wrongdoing. The investigation is ongoing. Also Wednesday, Citrix said it expects second quarter revenue of $317 million to $324 million, compared to $275 million a year ago.

Ryder System reports profit increase for first quarter

MIAMI — Ryder System reported Wednesday that profit for the first quarter totaled $51.3 million, or 84 cents a share, on revenue of $1.59 billion, compared with profit of $47.6 million, or 77 cents a share, on revenue of $1.5 billion for the same period a year ago.The company also reaffirmed per share earnings projections of $4.30 to $4.40 for the year."Although we expect the conditions affecting the commercial rental market to continue for at least the near term, Ryder is well prepared, with our business model improvements and asset management plans in place to adjust through this cycle without losing the momentum of our overall improving performance," said Ryder chairman and CEO Greg Swienton said. Ryder shares were up $1.99 to $53.95 late Wednesday afternoon in trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Consumer confidence falls nationally, holds steady in Florida

GAINESVILLE — Consumer confidence fell nationally in April but remained the same in Florida, according to separate reports released Tuesday.The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index fell 4.2 points in April to 104 from 108.2 in March, as consumers felt less optimistic about the present economy and in the short-term outlook.The University of Florida statewide index held at 86, same as in March and same as in April a year ago. The index was at 92 in February. MORE  

Surprise! Florida ranks 4th among states in technology employment

ORLANDO — Florida has the fourth-highest number of tech workers and is the second fastest growing state in the country, according to AeA,’s Cyberstates 2007 report detailing national and state trends in high-tech employment, wages, and other key economic factors.The report covers all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.Florida's high-tech industry added a net 10,900 jobs for an industry total of 276,400 tech workers in 2005, the most current state data available. MORE

Housing market continues to sag

ORLANDO — The market for used homes in Florida continued to soften in March, with both the number of homes and the median price continuing to drop, according to the Florida Association of Realtors’ latest report released Tuesday.South Florida continued to see declines in the number of homes sold but also showed some signs that prices are stabilizing.In Broward County, the number of homes sold dropped 25 percent to 601 from 804 a year ago; the median price rose to $372,000 from $368,000, a gain of 1 percent.In Miami-Dade, homes sold dropped 33 percent to 634 fro 942 a year ago; the median price essentially was flat at $382,600 from $383,100 a year ago.In Palm Beach County, sales dropped 22 percent to 725 from 929 a year ago; the median price slipped 5 percent to $375,000 from $393,700.Statewide, the number of homes sold dropped to 13,469 from 18,751; the median dropped 4 percent to $236,000 from $244,600."As home sales moderate, overall home prices will be essentially flat this year,” said David Lereah, chief economist with the National Association of Realtors. “The good news is that inventories remain well below the levels experienced during the last housing downturn in the early 1990s, and supplies are close to balance in many areas."

Good grief! Increasing demand could bring $4 a gallon gasoline!

Despite rising prices, there seems to be nothing slowing demand for gasoline, and fuel prices reflect that.According to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report, the national average price for a gallon of unlead regular is $2.852; the Florida average: $2.903. Palm Beach County has the highest price in the state at $2.964 a gallon. Crude oil rose $1.78 a barrel Monday to $65.89; Gasoline futures hit $2.195, up 5.76 cents a gallon.

archived May 5, 2007

FPL asking for renewable, reliable power generating sources

JUNO BEACH — Florida Power & Light Company said Monday that it has issued a request for proposals to identify and select new renewable generation resources.The idea is to find sources that offer fuel diversity and reliability while providing cost-effective power to its customers.“Our goal is to provide our customers with a mix of renewable resources that further augments and diversifies our existing generation portfolio,” said Michael Leighton, FPL’s chief development officer.Today, FPL buys 158 megawatts of renewable energy on a firm basis in addition to approximately 146 MW on a non-firm basis or about one-third of the state’s available renewable energy production.“We’re hoping to identify and tap into new, affordable renewable energy sources that can be in service by 2015, as well as open dialogue with others about technologies and resources that might be available beyond that timeframe,” Leighton said.FPL will hold a workshop in May, with proposals due in July. A short list of vendors will be compiled by November. More information can be found on the FPL web site.

Florida jobless rate remains low

DELRAY BEACH — The job picture in Florida changed little between February and March, with the unemployment rate remaining at 3.3 percent, according to the Agency for Workforce Innovation.That held true in the three South Florida counties.In Palm Beach County, the March jobless rate remained at 3.3 percent, same as in February and same as March a year ago. Broward posted the best numbers, with a jobless rate of 2.9 percent, same as in March and down from the 3.0 percent of a year ago.

In Miami-Dade, the jobless rate was 3.1 percent, same as in February but down from the 3.7 percent of a year ago. County rates are not seasonally adjusted, making the year to year comparisons the more accurate measure of what’s happening in the job market.Statewide, Florida gained 122,000, with most of them coming in professional and business services. Construction lost 3,000 jobs, and manufacturing lost 9,200 jobs.

Earnings, economy lifts investors; South Florida gains are thin

Worker confidence index falls over economy, job market concerns

FORT LAUDERDALE — Increasing pessimism over the strength of the economy and job market caused Spherion Corp.’s Florida Employee Confidence Index to drop to its lowest level since 2005.The index fell 9.4 points to 56 in March, the company said Friday. More

Delray Beach landscaper gets prison sentence for tax fraud

MIAMI — A Delray Beach landscaper has been sentenced to two years and a day in prison for payroll tax evasion.Warren Kowalsky, owner of Customer Property Services Inc. employed at least 20 employees but failed to collect and pay Social Security taxes. Kowalsky pleaded guilty to the charge in federal court last December.Kowalsky paid $140,852.19 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service. He must serve three years of supervised release after his prison sentence.

The Scene: Sun American officially opens Delray Beach branch

By Palm Beach Staff

DELRAY BEACH — Rapidly expanding Sun American Bank officially opened its first Delray Beach office Wednesday evening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.Sun American is expected to open a second office in the city later this year. Story and photos here...

To avoid a media meltdown when disaster strikes, be prepared

By Palm Beach Staff

BOCA RATON — It can happen to any business, any organization anytime.Your product is tainted and someone dies. A shooting occurs on your property. An employee of yours does something really stupid in a really public place. The phone rings and a reporter, the first of many, is on the line. Photo and story here...

Federal regulators ask lenders to work with troubled borrowers

WASHINGTON — Federal banking regulators Tuesday issued a joint statement asking lenders “to work constructively” with borrowers having difficulty paying off their loans.“Prudent workout arrangements that are consistent with safe and sound lending practices are generally in the long-term best interest of both the financial institution and the borrower,” the statement said.On Monday, reported that more than 364,000 homeowners faced foreclosures during the first quarter of the year.

Florida has been particularly hard hit, with about 35,600 foreclosure filings in the first quarter — nearly double the number during the same period a year ago.Regulators cited adjustable rate mortgages that are about to reset at higher interest rates  that might be beyond borrowers’ ability to pay. They encouraged borrowers to contact their lenders or loan servicer to discuss alternative payments. They encouraged lenders to inform borrowers of the availability of counseling if they become delinquent.The agencies that released the statement include: The Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., National Credit Union Administration Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Office of Thrift Supervision.

Quest Diagnostics says it will buy Ameripath for $2 billion

RIVIERA BEACH — Medical testing giant Quest Diagnostics is buying Ameripath Inc. for $2 billion, according to a filing the company made Monday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.The price includes assuming $770 million in Ameripath debt.Ameripath is a pathology practice and diagnostics company headquartered in Riviera Beach. The deal is expected to close later this quarter.

Lauderhill man found guilty in Broward mortgage loan scam

FORT LAUDERDALE — A federal jury has found a 60-year-old Lauderhill man guilty of mortgage fraud in connection with a $10 million scheme to rip off lenders.Ishmael Grant, 60, was found guilty of once county of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft and three counts each of mail and wire fraud. He faces five years in prison on the conspiracy charge and 20 years each on the fraud charges.Grant is the eighth defendant found guilty in connection with Operation Whose House. According to court records, Grant and the others used straw buyers, false records and stolen identification documents to secure more than 30 fraudulent loans on properties in Broward County.One other defendant awaits trial, while two others are fugitives.

Florida foreclosures soar during 1st quarter, Calif. firm reports

DELRAY BEACH — The housing market might be improving but the evidence is scant in Florida, at least in terms of foreclosures.The number of foreclosure filings in Florida nearly doubled during the first quarter of 2007 compared with the same period a year ago, according to, a Sacramento, Calif., firm that tracks foreclosures nationally. Nearly 35,600 foreclosures were filed during the period, up from 18,465 filed a year ago.Miami-Dade County saw filings increase to 6,194 from 3,261 a year ago; Broward filings increased to 4,453 from 2,750; Palm Beach filings increased to 3,438 from 2,499 a year ago."The numbers cast a dark cloud over the American dream of homeownership," said President Alexis McGee. McGee said many of the homebuyers now in foreclosure got into a market that they could not afford. Lenders offered creative financing to get them into their homes, with the hope that prices would appreciate. When the housing bubble popped last year, these buyers couldn’t sell their way out of trouble."Unfortunately for those overextended homeowners it's a cloud that isn't likely to lift any time soon either, especially in light of the recent troubles in the sub-prime lending market," McGee said.

Innkeepers agrees to $1.5 billion deal with Apollo Investment

PALM BEACH — Innkeepers USA Trust, a hotel real estate investment trust, said Monday that it has agreed to be bought by  Apollo Investment Corp. for $17.75 a share. Apollo also will assume Innkeepers’ debt.Altogether, including Innkeeper’s debt of more than $500 million, the deal is worth about $1.5 billion.Innkeepers owns 74 hotels, with a total of 9,808 rooms or suites and one 355-room hotel in which it owns a 49 percent equity interest. Its holdings are spread over 21 states and District of Columbia.Apollo Investment is a publicly traded affiliate of Apollo Management L.P., the mega private investment firm.“We believe this is a compelling all-cash transaction that provides substantial value for Innkeepers’ shareholders,” Innkeepers CEO Jeffrey H. Fisher said. “AIC has a deep understanding of our business and we are looking forward to completing this transaction.”

Fidelity Federal officially now part of Cleveland-based National City

The former Fidelity Federal branch at Military and Atlantic in Delray Beach officially joins the National City network.

WEST PALM BEACH — Fidelity Federal officially is no more.National City Corp. said Monday that all Fidelity Federal offices and  ATMs now bear the National City name. National City bought Fidelity Federal for $1 billion, a deal that closed in early January.Fidelity Federal had 53 offices in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie and Broward counties. Combined with National City’s $1 billion deal for Harbor Federal, completed March 17, the Cleveland-based bank has 95 Florida branches and 119 ATMs.National City plans to add between 20 and 30 branches in Florida over the next three years. National City’s private banking division, which has operations in Naples and West Palm Beach, plans to add three offices.

Unleaded regular hits $3 a gallon

DELRAY BEACH — The price for a regular gallon of gasoline has passed the $3 mark, evidenced by the sign at this Exxon Station at Lake Ida Road and 2nd Ave. According to AAA, unleaded regular averaged $2.95 a gallon in Palm Beach County on Saturday. The Florida average: $2.88; the national average: $2.84.

Pet food scare creates opportunity as owners search for safe brands

By Palm Beach staff DELRAY BEACH — Worried about what to feed your dog or cat these days? Doreen Zic-Hock has the answer: Life’s Abundance, a brand started 9 years ago by New York vet Jane Bicks. More.

Palm Beach businessman gets 5 years prison for bankruptcy fraud

MIAMI — A federal court judge has sentenced a Palm Beach businessman who once controlled nearly 6,000 acres straddling the Martin-Palm Beach County to five years in prison for bankruptcy fraud.William Lawrence LeNeve, 65, also must pay restitution and and serve three years of supervised release.LeNeve was president and director of L&G GP Inc., general partner of Indiantown Realty Partners, which seven years ago bought 5,800 acres of former MacArthur Foundation land from Watermark Communities Inc. A year later, Indiantown was in bankruptcy court and out of the property.According to court records, LeNeve, who controlled more than 20 business entities and routinely shuffled money between them, fraudulently diverted more than $377,000 out of Indiantown Realty.LeNeve pleaded guilty to the charge in December.

DFS to resume My Safe Florida Home hurricane inspections

By Palm Beach Staff

TALLAHASSEE — After a three-month hiatus, the My Safe Home Program is gearing up for a return later this month.The Department of Financial Services earlier this week announced that it has added home 11 home inspection firms to the program, including four in South Florida. The state will resume taking inspection applications April 23, says department spokeswoman Tara Klimek. When fully up to speed, each firm will be doing at least 1,000 inspections a week. MORE.

Fed's inflation concerns sinks market; Lennar shares fall

DELRAY BEACH — The prospect of additional Fed rate hikes even as the economy slows put a chill through Wall Street Wednesday.The Dow Jones industrial average fell 89.23 points to 12,484.62 points; the Nasdaq composite index fell 18.30 points; the S&P 500 dropped 9.52 points.During the day, the Fed released minutes of the March meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee, which indicated that the central bank would raise short-term interest rates if necessary to counter inflationary pressures, even in the face of a slowing economy.Crude oil rose 12 cents to $62.01 a barrel; gasoline futures rose 3.57 cents to $2.1587 a gallon.The Palm Beach Major South Florida Stocks portfolio fell $6.13 to $949.58. Lennar led the Dark Side, losing $1.30 to $40.98; Royal Caribbean lost 94 cents to $41.13; Carnival Corp. lost 93 cents to $44.11; SBA Communications lost 83 cents to $29.83.Ryder System led the winners, picking up $1.20 to $51.25; B/E Aerospace gained 64 cents to $32.60; Cross Country Healthcare  gained 26 cents to $19.26.The Bloomberg South Florida stock index lost 1.13 points to 172.41; the Bloomberg Florida index lost 0.35 points to 139.26.

Wall Street quiet ahead of Fed minutes; Watsco loses ground

DELRAY BEACH — All was quiet on the stocks front Tuesday despite the unofficial opening of the spring earnings season.The Dow Jones managed to pick up 4.71 points to 12,573.85; the Nasdaq composite index gained 8.43 points to 2,477.61; the S&P 500 gained 3.78 points to 1,448.39.Alcoa kicked off earnings season with a better-than-expected 8.9 percent increase in profit. Anticipation of Wednesday’s release of the latest Fed minutes had Wall Street mostly in a holding pattern, however.Oil gained 38 cents a barrel to $61.89; gasoline gained 3.74 cents a gallon to $1.132.The Palm Beach Major South Florida Stocks portfolio fell 63 cents to $956.71. Watsco led the Dark Side plunge, losing $1.26 to $50.70. Also Lennar dropped 63 cents to $42.28; Ryder System lost 47 cents to $50.05.Winners included Bankrate, which gained 68 cents to $35.68; SBA Communications, which picked up 67 cents to $30.65; Cross Country Healthcare gained 49 cents to $19.The Bloomberg South Florida stock index lost 0.23 points to 173.54; the Bloomberg Florida index gained 0.32 to 139.61.

Rinker accepts sweetened offer

WEST PALM BEACH — Those ubiquitous Rinker cement trucks might soon be sporting a new name, or at least a new owner. Cemex SA said Tuesday that Austrialia's Rinker Group Ltd. has accepted the Mexican company's $15.83 a share takeover bid. Rinker, parent of Rinker Materials of West Palm Beach, previously rejected Cemex's $13 a share offer. The bid translates into $15.3 billion. More.

Lockheed Martin delivers on Navy contract for minehunting vehicle

RIVIERA BEACH — A ceremony Friday marked Lockheed Martin's delivery of the first Remote Minehunting Vehicle) to the U.S. Navy. The RMV, produced in Riviera Beach, is a semi-submersible, semi-autonomous, unmanned vehicle that tows a sensor to detect sea mines at a safe distance from friendly ships.In 2005, the Naval Sea Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a contract for three RMVs. In 2006, Lockheed Martin received a contract for four more RMVs. Total contract value is $118 million.

Worker confidence drops in March

FORT LAUDERDALE — Economic confidence levels among U.S. workers dipped in March, according to the monthly Spherion Employee Confidence Index.The index dropped 3.3 points to 57.1 in March, Spherion said Friday. The March survey, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Spherion, found that fewer workers believe the economy and job market is strengthening, but also found that a majority of workers remained optimistic about their personal employment opportunities.The percentage of workers who believe the economy is strengthening dropped 7 percentage points from 24 percent in
February to 17 percent in March. Despite the decline, 80 percent of workers believed their jobs were safe for the next year, unchanged from February.In addition, 58 percent were confident in their own ability to find a new job."While the economy still looks relatively healthy, recent concerns about continued growth, coupled with rising energy prices and stock market volatility has certainly affected workers' viewpoint on the economy and job market," said Spherion CEO Roy Krause. "… It's interesting to note that the survey continues to indicate that workers have remained positive about their own job situations,”  Krause said. “This has held true over the past few years, regardless of economic conditions, showing us that American workers do not necessarily connect short-term macro trends to their personal career decisions."

AutoNation launches program to highlight energy efficient vehicles

FORT LAUDERDALE — AutoNation Inc. said Thursday that it will launch an E-Vehicle program to promote consumer awareness of fuel-efficient cars and trucks online and in showrooms. The program begins Tuesday. To qualify, vehicles must produce at least 28 miles per gallon or deliver 10 percent better fuel efficiency than the average for their vehicle class. AutoNation has partnered with to identify qualifying vehicles."We want to increase consumer awareness of the number of fuel efficient vehicles we offer," said Mike Jackson, chairman and CEO of AutoNation. "Our E-Vehicle program lets them know in as direct a way as possible which vehicles satisfy specific efficiency standards.”AutoNation will also be identifying what it calls "F-Vehicles," cars and trucks that use flex fuel or ethanol-based technology.

FPL makes top 10 in "green" energy sales, according to the DOE

JUNO BEACH — Florida Power & Light Co.’s Sunshine Energy program ranks among the 10 largest residential renewable energy programs in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.FPL ranked third in sales volume, with customers using 302.8 million kilowatt hours. The utility ranked sixth with 28,742 customers participating in the program at the end of 2006.As of February, more than 30,000 FPL residential customers have voluntarily signed up for Sunshine Energy.The NREL rankings, released this week, are determined using 2006 data from more than 600 utilities across the country. NREL ranks the programs in categories such as total sales of renewable energy to program participants and total number of customer participants.“These utilities are the national leaders,” said Lori Bird, senior energy analyst at NREL. “Utility green power sales continue to show strong growth across the country.”

Gray sees active hurricane season

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Blame a weakening El Nino if we get hit with more hurricanes this season.Colorado State University Prof. William M. Gray is increasing his forecast for the upcoming season to 17 named storms from 14, and the number of hurricanes to 9 from 7. “We have increased our forecast for the 2007 hurricane season, largely due to the rapid dissipation of El Niño conditions,” Gray said.  “We are now calling for a very active hurricane season.”Gray is increasing his prediction for the number of “intense” hurricanes, meaning categories 3,4 or 5 storms, to 5 from 3.The chances of an intense storm striking the U.S. east coast, including Florida’s peninsula: 50 percent. The Gulf Coast from Florida's panhandle westward to Brownsville, Texas: 49 percent.

Ten Miami-Dade residents indicted for health care fraud scheme

MIAMI — Ten South Florida residents face charges of health care fraud and money laundering in connection with a multi-million dollar scheme to rip off Medicare through a series of medical equipment companies and HIV clinics in MiamiIndicted are Raul Rodriguez, Armando Arias, Carlos Enrique Monteagudo, Alain Rhaf Vega, Marisol Gonzalez-Torres, Edith Balog, Leonel Galdos, Jr., William Balladares, Yulen Arderi and Jannette Morales. The indictment, unsealed Tuesday in federal court, alleges the defendants submitted to Medicare more than $12.5 million in false claims for medical equipment and HIV treatments.

The indictment also alleges the group operated an HIV clinic called Coral Way Professional Health Services and recruited and paid patients to attend the clinic. Instead of receiving prescribed drugs, the patients received saline injections. Medicare, however, received  bills as if the treatments were the real thing.

Doctor in Mutual Benefits scam sentenced to 10 years in prison

FORT LAUDERDALE — A medical doctor who took part in the massive Mutual Benefits Corp. viaticals scam has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to fraud charges in federal district court.Federal Judge Paul C. Huck also ordered Clark Mitchell to serve three years of supervised release and pay $355 million in restitution to the Mutual Benefits.Mutual Benefits took more than $1 billion from 30,000 investors worldwide. Viaticals are legitimate investments, where a company will buy the life insurance policies of the terminally ill, paying them a portion of the face value of the policy. When patients die, the viaticals company collects from the policy.Mitchell acted as an “independent” medical consultant to the company, signing off on fraudulently low life expectancies of patients from whom Mutual Benefits bought life insurance policies, a crucial factor in making viaticals work.Mitchell also pleaded guilty to health care fraud, admitting that he and others at a Broward AIDS clinic inflated bills submitted to Medicare.

Sink, Milligan push for bans on use of education, income by insurers

TALLAHASSEE — Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and Consumer Advocate Bob Milligan say they would support legislation that would prohibit auto insurers from using customer income and education as factors in setting rates.The Office of Insurance Regulation on Monday released a report stating that some major insurers in Florida, including GEICO, Liberty Mutual and AIG use income and education as factors when determining how much as customer should pay for coverage.In fact, according to the report, a customer with a low-paying job and a high school education pay more for coverage than a higher-paid college graduate even if he or she has a better driving record.The practice, though legal, disproportionately hurts minorities.Said Sink: “Just because something might be legal doesn’t make it right.  I don’t see how someone’s job reflects on how they drive or what rates they should pay. Rates should be fair and based only on actual risk.”Said Milligan: “I will support the efforts of the Office of Insurance Regulation as they move to fix this egregious situation through quick legislative action and appropriate rulemaking.”

Home foreclosures still high in Fla.

DELRAY BEACH — The flood of foreclosures that have swamped the housing market for the past year may have crested and begun a slow retreat in February, according to The outlook in Florida, however, is not quite as sanguine. The Sunshine State was No. 2 in the nation in terms of foreclosures; Miami-Dade County ranked fifth in the nation among counties. More.

Royal Caribbean adds ship to fleet

MIAMI — Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. said Monday that it has exercised an option to build a second ship as part of its "Genesis Project." The ship , to be built at the Aker Yards in Finland, will be the 24th in the Royal Caribbean International fleet and is projected for delivery in August 2010.The ship, at 220,000 gross registered tons, will carry 5,400 passengers, and will be built at a cost of $260,000 per berth.The first Project Genesis ship is to be delivered in the fall 2009.

Florida's jobless rate holds steady

TALLAHASSEE — The jobless rate in South Florida’s three counties fell in February, while holding steady statewide, according to Florida’s Agency for Workforce Innovation.Broward County had South Florida’s lowest rate at 2.9 percent, compared with 3.2 percent in January and 3.2 percent February a year ago.Miami-Dade County saw its jobless rate fall to 3.1 percent from 3.4 percent in January and 3.7 percent a year ago.Palm Beach County saw its rate fall to 3.3 percent from 3.6 percent in January and 3.4 percent a year ago.The statewide rate was 3.3 percent, unchanged from January and down slightly from the 3.4 percent reported a year ago.The Florida rate is seasonally adjusted. County rates are not seasonally adjusted, making month-to-month comparisons less meaningful than year-over-year.

Worker confidence index for Florida drops slightly in February

FORT LAUDERDALE — Confidence among Florida workers was relatively unchanged in February, according to the latest Spherion Employment Report. The monthly survey, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Spherion, shows that the Florida Employee Confidence Index fell 0.1 points to 65.4 in February, but is still 5.1 points higher than a year ago. Spherion attributed the decline to fewer workers having confidence in their personal employment situation and job availability."The employment situation in Florida is very healthy," said Paula Franco, Spherion’s Florida branch manager. "Although local jobless rates rose in most of South Florida's counties last month, the Florida job market continues to produce a steady amount of jobs. We still see the hunt for qualified workers heating up.”Highlight from the Florida Employment Report:— Fewer workers believe more jobs are available. Specifically, 34 percent of workers reported that more jobs are available, decreasing four percentage points from January.— The percentage of workers reporting that the economy is getting stronger increased by nine percentage points to 31 percent.— Sixty-seven percent of workers are confident in their ability to find a new job, compared to 75 percent in January.


MIAMI — Burger King Wednesday said it is taking measures to limit cruelty to animals based on six years of discussions with animal rights group PETA and the Humane Society of America.Burger King' said it would:— Immediately begin buying 10 percent of its pork from suppliers that do not use metal enclosures that confine sows and are so restrictive that the animals cannot even stretch a limb or take a step, and double that amount by the end of 2007. — Immediately begin buying 2 percent of its eggs from hens who are not confined to tiny wire "battery cages" and more than double that amount by the end of 2007. It will give preference to egg suppliers who do not use the cages.— Give preference to poultry suppliers who use "controlled-       atmosphere killing," the least cruel method of poultry slaughter."Burger King's new plan helps reduce some of the worst factory-farming and slaughterhouse abuses and will send a shockwave through the meat and egg industries," said PETA Vice President Bruce Friedrich.

Federal Reserve OKs Bank of America's deal for U.S. Trust

WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve Tuesday approved Bank of America’s proposal to buy private banker U.S. Trust from Charles Schwab for $3.3 billion.The Fed said the deal will have “no significant adverse effect” on any of the 16 markets in which the two banks do business, including Palm Beach County and Miami-Fort Lauderdale.U.S. Trust is the 32nd largest bank in Palm Beach County, with 115.4 million in deposits. Bank of America ranks second, with $5.9 billion in deposits.Bank of America is the No. 2 bank in the U.S., with $1.5 trillion in assets.




archives logo