Smart Money magazine's annual broker survey named St. Petersburg-based Raymond James as the nation's top full-service brokerage, edging out perennial competitor and last year's winner, Edward Jones. Raymond James outperformed Wall Street and banking giants Wells Fargo Advisors, UBS, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in the survey. How? Superior stock picking made much of the difference. Smart Money said the firm was "one of only two in our full-service survey with model portfolios that beat Standard & Poor's 500-stock index for the year." Fidelity was ranked tops among discount brokers.
* * *
Progress nuke details on the way
Progress Energy chief executive Bill Johnson recently told analysts that more details should be made public next month about the repairs on the Crystal River 3 nuclear power plant in Citrus County, shut down since September 2009. The power company in March discovered a second delamination, or gap, in the plant's concrete containment building during the late stages of retensioning the building. That prompted an engineering analysis and review of the new delamination. Once concluded, repair options will be evaluated. "We are well along in this evaluation process and should complete it over the next several weeks, and we'll be able to provide more detail at that time," Johnson said. Analyst Michael Worms of BMO Capital Markets asked Johnson if the company has considered a "permanent shutdown" to the plant "given all the issues." Replied Johnson: "We certainly include that as a possibility when we go through the range of options. But that is not where our focus is." Crystal River 3's current operating license expires in 2016. The company applied for a 20-year renewal of that license in 2008. "Our current intention is to return this nuclear unit to service, because it's an important part of providing power to our customers from a diverse portfolio of baseload generation," Johnson said. "However, we cannot estimate a return to service ... or cost to repair at this time."
* * *
Publix unloads Crispers chain
Turning the page on its fast-casual restaurant venture, Publix Super Markets Inc. has sold its 36-store Crispers chain to a Miami investment firm. Price and terms paid by Boyne Capital Partners for the soup-salad-flatbread sandwich chain often likened to Panera Bread were not disclosed. Publix invested with the chain's Lakeland founders in 2004, bankrolling expansion from 13 stores to 42 before taking controlling interest in 2007. In 2008, the New Jersey consultant Publix brought in to be CEO was sentenced to two years in prison for stealing $400,000 from his employer, about $250,000 of which he spent on a Florida condo. Since then a recession cut into all restaurant sales and a half dozen Crispers stores were closed. "We (originally) bought it because of shared values with the founders and to learn restaurant industry best practices," said Maria Brous, a spokeswoman for Publix, the Lakeland-based supermarket chain. "It's different than our core supermarket business where we are concentrating our focus."