Shares of Tasty Baking Co. traded below $2 for the first time in 28 years Monday after the Tastykake-maker told investors that its accountants felt "substantial public doubt about the company's ability to continue as a going concern."
Tasty also said it was delaying its annual report because it had been too busy looking for a buyer, or new investors, to pay off creditors.
That search is three months old. Tasty said in January that its banks, state agencies, landlord Liberty Property Trust, and other creditors agreed to give it until June 30 to refinance or pay off more than $80 million in debts. That's after the company failed to meet savings targets at its state-subsidized $78 million bakery at the South Philadelphia Navy Yard.
Is Tasty having a hard time luring a buyer?
Mexican-owned Grupo Bimbo (whose U.S. operations, including Stroehmann, Entenmann, and other familiar brands, are based in Montgomery County) and Georgia-based Flowers Foods (which has been in Tasty Baking merger talks before) are among Tasty's possible buyers.
Cuts at Beneficial
Beneficial Mutual Bancorp, the biggest bank still based in Philadelphia, plans an "expense management reduction program" that will "reduce its workforce by approximately 4 percent during the first quarter," and "consolidate" five branches into other locations, the bank told investors.
Beneficial employs around 900; about 30 to 40 jobs will be cut. Boss Gerry Cuddy has said Beneficial faced a tough time growing out of the recession because Philadelphia-area business has been slow to recover.
Banks on trial
A film version of the Ayn Rand potboiler novel Atlas Shrugged may be the best-promoted film about capitalism at the movies this spring - but that doesn't mean it will be the most realistic.
Keith Fisher, Washington-based banking lawyer at Philadelphia corporate law firm Ballard Spahr, plays a bank lawyer defending the hard-to-defend - not poor people, but Wall Street banks - in a movie named for a real-world case: Cleveland vs. Wall Street.
The independent film, screened at the last Cannes Film Festival and due to open in the United States on April 8, dramatizes a forlorn lawsuit the subprime-lending-ravaged City of Cleveland filed against 21 banks that made, approved, financed, and foreclosed bad loans that Cleveland residents failed to pay. It all leaves the postindustrial city more vacant than ever.
The suit didn't make it to trial. "The causation theory of the City of Cleveland was a thin one, and it was dismissed" in federal courts, as Fisher told me.
The film, by Swiss director Jean-Stephane Bron and producers Robert Boner and Philippe Martin, portrays what might have happened. Most of the actors are real people - city officials, homeowners, foreclosees - who were part of the case.
But lawyers for the banks didn't sign on. So the filmmakers sent e-mail appeals to banking lawyers generally. "We checked out the director using contacts at Swiss banks. Word came back he's the real deal. So I e-mailed him," Fisher said.
Fisher, no actor, thought he'd maybe be a consultant. But Bron, over dinner, asked him to represent the banks' defense. "It was fun. But it was an enormous amount of work," Fisher told me. "These actors put in 14 and 16 hours a day. We were paid nominally."
Did Fisher see himself as a defender of banks, of capitalism, of his profession? He said Bron told him "to convince the jury and the audience that this story is a lot more nuanced than 'Wall Street has been responsible for these foreclosures.' "
Fisher was disappointed some of his best lines "ended up on the cutting-room floor."
"Images were manipulated and taken out of context to make me appear to be a hired gun from out of town," Fisher said.
But, to Fisher's delight, "the French loved the film. They loved that I gave them something to think about. It became clear to them there was a lot more to this story."
How long can Best Buy Co. Inc., which survived a death struggle with rival Circuit City not so long ago, keep building more barnlike stores as computer and phone buyers move online?
Best Buy needs to think about a "more aggressive store-closure strategy," Janney Capital Markets analyst David Strasser told clients in a report last week. That was after watching Best Buy shares sink below $29 last week, down from $48 a year ago, on disappointing sales and a buildup of unsold personal computers and other inventory.