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VOL. 123 | NO. 44 | Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Daily Digest

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Cumberland Presbyterian To Move Headquarters

     Cumberland Presbyterian Church has acquired a pair of 8,500-square-foot, unfinished buildings on Varnavas Drive in Cordova for its new headquarters and archives.
     The structures formerly were owned by Mark S. Matthews, who last year defaulted on loans through an entity called MSM PD Holdings I LLC. That company lost the property to INSOUTH Bank at a foreclosure auction in November.
     Memphis-based Cumberland Presbyterian Church Inc. acquired the buildings for $1.3 million via quitclaim deed from INSOUTH. The deal closed Friday.
     Cumberland also took out a $1.3 million loan from the church's general assembly to build out the structures, which are southeast of Germantown Parkway and Interstate 40 and which Matthews never completed.
     "We're going to start in the next few days building them out for office spaces and the archives of the denomination," said Robert Rush, the stated clerk for Cumberland's general assembly. "We hope to move everything no later than July 1. It's going to be exciting. It's a good area, and it's to our benefit because we won't have to retrofit. We can take something and build it the way we want it."
     Rush said Cumberland is in the process of selling its current headquarters at 1978 Union Ave. in Midtown to Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A. The prospect of a Chick-fil-A restaurant is being opposed by Memphis Heritage Inc., but Rush said he expects the roughly $1.3 million sale to go through.
     He said the church will use some of the money from that transaction to fund the build-out of the new space. Cumberland, which has about 800 churches worldwide, employs 30 people in its Memphis headquarters. The move is not expected to create new positions, Rush said.
      Source: The Daily News Online & Chandler Reports

GTx Drug Reduces Hot Flashes In Men With Prostate Cancer

     Memphis-based biopharmaceutical company GTx Inc. announced Monday that 80 milligram doses of its experimental drug toremifene citrate reduced hot flashes in men with prostate cancer on androgen deprivation therapy.
     ADT is a standard medical treatment for patients with advanced, recurrent or metastatic prostate cancer. It works by reducing blood levels of testosterone, a growth factor for prostate cancer.
     One of the most common side effects of ADT patients is hot flashes, with up to 80 percent of men on ADT reporting it as a side effect, according to GTx. The toremifene citrate reduced the number of hot flashes by an average 4.7 hot flashes per day compared to a reduction of 1.6 per day for patients taking a placebo.
     The reduction in hot flashes marks a secondary endpoint in GTx's Phase III drug tests. The company previously announced data from the Phase III trial demonstrate the drug reduces some vertebral fractures and increases bone mineral density, among other things.
     Memphis-based GTx develops and commercializes small molecules that target hormone pathways to treat a number of diseases, including cancer. 

 Metropolitan BancGroup Acquires Bancsouth Financial

     Metropolitan BancGroup Inc. has concluded its acquisition of Bancsouth Financial Corp. and its subsidiary, Bank of the South. The bank also has completed its acquisition of a Tennessee state bank charter.
     The acquisitions were closed Thursday and Friday, respectively. With the transactions, Metropolitan has the ability
     to operate full-service offices in Tennessee and Mississippi. Both transactions had been announced and were completed after receiving regulatory approvals.
     As of the completion of the acquisitions, Metropolitan BancGroup has total assets and capital of approximately $125 million and $45 million, respectively. With the addition of Bank of the South's 25 associates, Metropolitan will begin operation with a combined associate roster of 42.
     Metropolitan will begin full-service operations in Mississippi and Tennessee this month. In Memphis, the bank currently maintains a temporary location at Clark Tower in East Memphis while its permanent office and Tennessee headquarters is being built at 1661 Aaron Brenner Drive. Metropolitan expects to occupy the office in May.
     The company will operate primarily in the central Mississippi and Memphis markets. Bank of the South, which will serve as the community banking group for Metropolitan, will continue to operate under that name in Copiah County, Miss.

Construction Spending Plunges By Most in 14 Years

     Construction spending took its biggest nosedive in 14 years and manufacturing activity contracted, fresh trouble signs for a struggling economy.
     The Commerce Department reported Monday that construction spending plunged by 1.7 percent in January. Builders slashed spending on residential projects, but the weakness spread beyond that ailing sector. There were cutbacks in spending on, among other things, hotels and motels, highways and various projects by state and local governments.
     Another report showed fallout from housing and credit problems cutting deeper into manufacturing.
     The Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing index clocked in at 48.3 in February. That was the weakest reading in nearly five years. A reading above 50 indicates expansion. Anything below that shows contraction. Still, the reading was a bit better than the 48.1 economists were forecasting.
     The latest showing on construction activity was worse than economists were expecting. They were forecasting a smaller decline of around 0.8 percent.
     The 1.7 percent plunge in total construction spending came after a 1.3 percent decline in December. It was the largest drop since January 1994, when construction spending plummeted by 3.6 percent.
     "Housing poses the biggest downside risk to our economy," Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said Monday in a speech to the National Association for Business Economics. He said the administration's efforts to help distressed owners at risk of losing their homes are making progress.
     Monday's construction report showed that private builders cut spending on housing projects by 3 percent in January, the most since October.
     Spending by private builders on a range of commercial construction projects, including transportation facilities, communications facilities, and hotels and motels, dropped by 1.2 percent in January. That was the largest decline since June 2005.
     Government spending on public works projects dipped 0.2 percent in January. All that weakness, however, represented cutbacks in spending by state and local governments. The federal government boosted spending.

Fitch Cuts SunTrust Rating Outlook

     Fitch Ratings has affirmed SunTrust Bank Inc.'s investment-grade rating, but said a downgrade may be likely because of deteriorating credit quality.
     Fitch reiterated its "A+" rating on the regional bank. It also cut the outlook on that rating to "Negative."
     The agency said it expects "further deterioration in SunTrust's asset quality, and that problem loans and credit costs will continue to rise."
     If that happens, the Atlanta-based bank will be forced to raise capital, and new debt is one likely method. If the company's ratings are lowered, it will have to pay more to borrow money.

City Reps To Discuss Elderly Tax Freeze

     With property tax increases threatening to take a bite out of homeowners' budgets later this year, senior citizens may have some relief at hand.
     The city of Memphis has a new tax freeze program for which anyone older than 65 with an annual income less than $32,590 is eligible. In an effort to help those qualified taxpayers apply for the program, the staff of the city's treasury office will be on hand at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library on Poplar Avenue Friday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
     To apply for the program, taxpayers are asked to bring proof of age, driver's license, Medicare card or birth certificate, proof of income and a 2007 income tax return.

23 Indicted On Federal Firearm Charges

     For three years, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives worked undercover with other federal agents as well as state and local law enforcement in an investigation of those selling firearms in the Memphis area. The investigation surfaced last week with the announcement of the indictment of 23 people on federal firearms charges.
     The indictments were returned by a federal grand jury Feb. 20 and sealed until last week's announcement.
     The charges include selling handguns to felons, being a felon in possession of a gun, selling sawed-off shotguns and selling guns without a federal firearms dealer's license.

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