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VOL. 124 | NO. 31 | Monday, February 16, 2009

Daily Digest

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Hilton Garden Inn To Rise in Cordova

A Hilton Garden Inn is coming to the vacant land behind Countrywood Crossing shopping center on North Germantown Parkway in Cordova. TomBo Properties Inc. has sold a 2.76-acre parcel for $1 million to Globus Partnership to build the hotel on Market Plaza Drive, the road perpendicular from Germantown that splits Countrywood Crossing between Kohl’s and Kirkland’s Home.

John B. Maxwell is the trustee who owns a 53-acre parcel adjacent to Interstate 40 and near Bellevue Baptist Church property. Maxwell transferred the entire 53-acre parcel to his company, TomBo Properties, in a $3.3 million deal, and then sold the smaller parcel to Globus for the hotel site.

The Shelby County Assessor of Property’s 2008 appraisal of the entire 53 acres was $5.9 million. It is part of the Galleria of Memphis Planned Development.

Maxwell said work soon will begin on extending Market Plaza Drive, and that the hotel would be situated on the south side of the extended road. Attempts to reach the hotel developer and the architect for hotel details were unsuccessful by press time.

Maxwell said TomBo had two contracts on parcels of the larger piece of land that were about to close. Of the 53 acres, Maxwell said about 30 acres remain, while 15 acres are in the Fletcher Creek floodplain and cannot be developed.

Source: The Daily News Online & Chandler Reports

JPMorgan, Citi Halt Foreclosures

JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. are halting home foreclosures while the Obama administration develops its plans to help the U.S. housing market.

JPMorgan Chief Executive Jamie Dimon said the New York company plans to halt new foreclosures for owner-occupied home loans through March 6. Dimon made the pledge in a letter to U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, who released it on Friday.

Citigroup’s foreclosure moratorium applies to all “Citi owned first mortgage loans that are the principal residence of the customer as well as all loans Citi services where we have reached an understanding with the investor” until

President Barack Obama’s administration has finalized the details of the loan modification program or March 12, whichever is earlier, according to a company release. New York-based

Citi’s action expands on a similar effort that it started in November.

Frank earlier last week called on the mortgage industry to enact such broad foreclosure moratoriums.

The administration is working on a plan to spend $50 billion on foreclosure prevention and establish national standards for modifying home loans.

Government-controlled mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac suspended foreclosure sales during the winter holidays and have halted evictions from foreclosed properties until next month. And earlier last week, John Reich, director of the Office of Thrift Supervision, urged the more than 800 thrift institutions nationwide to do the same.

Meanwhile, the administration is considering spending taxpayer dollars to cut monthly payments for homeowners on the verge of foreclosure.

The administration also is expected to back a push in Congress – but opposed by the mortgage industry – to let bankruptcy judges alter the terms of primary home loans. Earlier last week, Obama said it “makes no sense” that judges are not allowed to do so. The mortgage industry argues that this prohibition allows lenders to charge lower rates.

Fiscal Transparency Urged For Churches, Nonprofits

Christian nonprofit groups and churches are being urged to be more forthcoming about the use of donors’ money amid the economic downturn and massive fraud cases involving money managers like Bernard Madoff.

Donors who give money to these groups now more than ever are not just looking for basic financial information, but what impact their giving might have in achieving the groups’ missions.

Craig Parshall, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Religious Broadcasters, said the economy is definitely on the minds of its nearly 1,400 members who were attending the group’s annual convention in Nashville last week.

He said members are tightening their belts, with some reporting donation declines by as much as 25 percent.

Financial transparency is important especially in times like these, Parshall said, when the public is more skeptical of institutions in general and closely scrutinize where they’re putting their money.

Circuit City Seeks To Auction Properties

Electronics retailer Circuit City is heading to U.S. Bankruptcy Court to seek approval to auction its remaining properties, including 567 U.S. stores, its corporate headquarters and various distribution centers.

The Richmond, Va.-based company is in the process of liquidating its stores after it failed to find a buyer for what was the second-largest U.S. consumer electronics retailer. Going-out-of-business sales should last through March, after which the stores will be closed.

As of press time Friday, Circuit City was seeking approval to auction the leases for the properties and break leases at locations that are unable to be sold.

The judge also was set to hear a motion from Chase Bank USA requesting to break its credit card program agreement with Circuit City.

FedEx Declares Dividend of 11 Cents

FedEx Corp. said Friday its board declared a regular quarterly dividend of 11 cents.

The provider of transportation and business services said the dividend is payable April 1 to shareholders of record March 11.

Medtronic Case Has Possible Judicial Conflict

A federal judge in Minneapolis who dismissed nearly 700 lawsuits against Medtronic Inc. concerning the Sprint Fidelis heart-device wire did not disclose that the firm his son is a partner in represented the company, according to a Friday report by The Wall Street Journal.

Judge Richard H. Kyle told the newspaper that he did not know his son’s firm, Fredrikson & Byron, had represented Medtronic on other legal matters. The newspaper reported that lawyers for plaintiffs raised the issue in a conference call on Thursday and told the judge they planned to seek his disqualification from the litigation.

“The law firm of Fredrickson & Byron does not represent Medtronic in the Fidelis litigation, nor does it represent the company in any matter before Judge Kyle,” a Medtronic statement said. “Further, Mr. Kyle has not represented Medtronic in any legal matter. This is clearly an effort to remove a well respected federal judge following rulings the plaintiff’s lawyers do not like.”

Medtronic’s Spinal and Biologics Business is based in Memphis.

Children’s Museum Web Site Receives New Design

The Children’s Museum of Memphis has launched a new, professionally designed and updated Web site, www.cmom.com.

The new site, which uses the same address the museum has had since 1996, features a calendar of events, a tour of the museum’s exhibits, games and puzzles for children, and information for members, tourists, donors, media and volunteers.

The museum’s old site received more than 2.3 million hits, 360,000 page views and 180,000 unique visitors each year.

The Web site was overhauled by RCF Design of Cordova.

Collierville Church Gives $18.5K to Agape

Agape Child & Family Services’ Families in Transition program has received an $18,500 donation from Grace Crossing Church in Collierville.

Grace Crossing raises money each year for organizations and chose Agape’s FIT Program as one of its recipients.

Agape’s FIT Program serves homeless, pregnant women and their children by providing housing and job skills training while reconnecting them with their families.

Abercrombie & Fitch Q4 Profit Drops 68%

Teen retailer Abercrombie & Fitch Co., which resisted the steep discounts its competitors offered during the holiday season, said Friday its fourth-quarter profit slid 68 percent as sales slumped.

Adjusted results beat analyst expectations, however, and the New Albany, Ohio-based company’s shares jumped 13 percent. Abercrombie also said it was trying to cut costs and hinted that it was being a bit more flexible about prices.

The company said it used clearance markdowns during and after the weak holiday season to move seasonal merchandise, and it lowered some prices at its Hollister stores and abercrombie children’s stores.

Still, Chairman and Chief Executive Mike Jeffries said even in the weak economy Abercrombie will not be offering deals at the same level as its competitors.

“We are not promotional, and by promotional I mean 50 percent off a category or buy one get 17 free, somebody whispering to you about a secret sale. We don’t do stuff like that,” Jeffries said in a conference call with investors. “We do take clearance markdowns as a natural rhythm of the business and we’re strategic about how we take markdowns.”

While rivals such as Aeropostale Inc. and American Eagle Outfitters Inc. have increasingly focused on offering customers discounts, Abercrombie has stuck to its strategy of keeping prices relatively high to protect its brand. It has also invested in international growth to position itself better for when the economy recovers.

In the meantime, however, its results have suffered. For the quarter ended in January, Abercrombie earned $68.4 million, or 78 cents per share, down from $216.8 million, or $2.40 per share, a year earlier.

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