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Friday, December 31, 2004


Job Hunting
    Economy Continues to Grow says NACM
        Fitch Looks at the Equip. Leasing Industry 2004
            More Leasing Companies “Caving In”
                NorVergence probe examines insider transfers
Classified Ads---Help Wanted
    Bank Insurance Brokerage Fee Income Rises 21.2%
            Survey: Mortgage Banking Profits Slid 40% 2004
                Mortgage Rates Up
IFC Announces Promotions
    BBB Cautions Donors on Tsunami Relief Appeals
        Universal Express/Saudi Arabian Partners
            Richard Newman/GMAC Commercial Finance
                News Briefs---
                    "Gimme that Wine"

###### surrounding the article denotes it is a “press release”

Salvation Army

Providing immediate help in the form of water, food, clothing, medical supplies and temporary shelter, and counseling bereaved people.

--You can designate the money to help people recover

from the disaster in Southeast Asia----


Job Hunting

Here are places to place your resume or to explore to find employment:

www.craigslist.org (available in many cities now, use scroll feature)


Economy Continues to Grow says NACM

COLUMBIA, MD: -- There continues to be slight erosion in month-over-month growth; however, the economy continues to grow, the latest survey by the National Association of Credit Managers, called the Credit Manager's Index (CMI.)

The results reveal stronger December performance this year in the manufacturer sector and slightly weaker results for the service component.

The CMI survey asks credit managers to rate favorable and unfavorable factors in their monthly business cycle. Favorable factors include sales, new credit applications, dollar collections and amount of credit extended. Unfavorable factors include rejections of credit applications, accounts placed for collections, dollar amounts of receivables beyond terms and filings for bankruptcies.

Full NACM Report here:


The CMI, a monthly survey of the business economy from the standpoint of credit and collections, was launched in January 2003 to provide financial analysts with another strong economic indicator.

The National Association of Credit Management (NACM), headquartered in Columbia, Maryland supports more than 25,000 business credit and financial professionals worldwide with premier industry services, tools and information. NACM and its network of Affiliated Associations are the leading resource for credit and financial management information and education, delivering products and services which improve the management of business credit and accounts receivable. NACM's collective voice has influenced legislative results concerning commercial business and trade credit to our nation's policy makers for more than 100 years, and continues to play an active part in legislative issues pertaining to business credit and corporate bankruptcy.



### Press Release ######################

Fitch: Looks at the Equipment Leasing Industry 2004

NEW YORK--The overall Rating Outlook for the U.S. commercial finance and leasing company industry is Stable, according to Fitch Ratings. Fitch has also initiated individual Rating Outlooks to several industry subsectors ranging from Positive to Stable in response to changes in the landscape of the commercial finance and leasing company sector. The most obvious change has been the virtual disappearance of the diversified commercial finance company business model with only CIT Group, Inc. and General Electric Capital Corp. remaining in the industry. Companies such as The FINOVA Group, Heller Financial, Inc., Transamerica Finance Corp. et al. have either been acquired or are in liquidation while others such as GATX Financial Corp. and Textron Financial Corp. have reduced their operating scope to focus on core competencies. As such, composite industry averages provide little insight due to the diversity inherent in the sector and issuers pursuing sector specialization strategies.

The Rating Outlook incorporates Fitch's forecast of real U.S. Gross Domestic Product growth of 3.3%, oil prices stabilizing at or near current levels, and the willingness of international institutions to continue to finance U.S. budget and trade deficits. Meaningful negative departures from Fitch's forecast could have an unfavorable impact, albeit not necessarily immediate, on the Rating Outlook given the historical link between the commercial finance and leasing sector with macroeconomic factors.

In late 2002, Fitch suggested that credit metrics for the commercial finance and leasing sector had appeared to begin stabilizing. However, concern at that time remained as equipment values remained under pressure and, as such, a negative rating bias was maintained. During this period, it appeared that almost all equipment types, for a host of reasons, faced valuation pressures, be it automobiles, class 8 trucks, aircraft, and yellow iron. The out-of-balance supply/demand situation eventually straightened itself out as the domestic economy began showing signs of strengthening in late 2003 as well as accelerated economic growth in certain global regions, such as China. For business sectors still mired in the 2001 downturn, such as the airlines, aircraft demand by Chinese carriers helped raise lease rates from their depressed levels in 2002 and avert further significant equipment impairment expenses by the leasing companies.

All signs indicate that China will realize another year of robust economic growth in 2005. As such, Fitch believes that operating lease companies, owners of hard assets, are well positioned to benefit from the growth in China as pressure on commodity prices, such as steel, will likely continue. This should in turn allow operating lessors to selectively raise lease rents leading to improved operating results, and stronger capital retention. Thus, Fitch's Rating Outlook for operating lessors is Positive, particularly for those issuers whose fleet has a blended cost well below the current spot rate for new equipment.

The Rating Outlook for the remaining subsectors is Stable. This reflects Fitch's view that the trend in these issuers' credit metrics will range from stable to moderate improvement. Since 2002, throughout the specialty finance industry, most management teams have concentrated on repairing/strengthening their companies' balance sheets oftentimes to the perceived detriment of equity investors. Whether this trend continues in 2005 is unclear as some issuers have become increasingly sensitive to returning value to common shareholders, be it in the form of larger dividends or stock buybacks.

Nevertheless, Fitch believes that many of the issuers in its commercial finance and leasing company universe have applied a lessons learned approach from the demise of FINOVA and others in managing their businesses. Consequently, while commercial finance and leasing still remains an economically sensitive business, issuer-specific risk has declined. Not withstanding this, as a market funded industry, maintenance of committed sources of liquidity has been and will remain a key driver of individual issuer success.

Fitch forecasts that the Fed Funds rate will rise by roughly 75 basis points to 3% at Dec. 31, 2005 from 2.25% at Dec. 27, 2004. The rise in short term rates should have a corresponding increase in commercial paper interest expense and some impact on long-term debt borrowing costs. While higher interest rates have been traditionally viewed a negative for financial institutions, finance and leasing companies may be able to nullify the impact if they are able to pass along their higher borrowing costs to their customers. Moreover, because finance and leasing companies maintain lower leverage levels than banks, in a rising rate environment, the equity component of each new loan/lease should generate incrementally more income and help negate some of the potential squeeze on margins. Therefore, an increase in interest rates, particularly if it is gradual, may not be a negative, if it is accompanied by a strong increase in new business volume.

Aside from monitoring the sector's credit metrics, Fitch continues to closely track industry merger and acquisition (M&A) activity and the impact of Basel II. M&A activity is expected to be moderate with bolt-on transactions accounting for most of the completed deals. For all practical purposes, the number of available company targets are few as GECC has acquired many of them over the last five years. CIT and GECC are expected to remain the most acquisitive industry participants. Aside from CIT and GECC, Fitch believes that smaller companies, such as GATX and Textron Financial, could be involved in acquisitions as their managements strives to increase each company's operating scale in individual business units targeted for growth. In the case of GATX, Fitch believes that the company would consider making railcar acquisitions with Textron Financial focusing on completing inventory finance acquisitions.

The impact of Basel II on the commercial finance and leasing company sector remains somewhat unclear. While Basel II will not apply to commercial finance companies in the U.S., it would appear that companies owning banking licenses in Europe will be subject to the new capital framework. In terms of the competitive environment, the impact of Basel II will depend both on the quality of the banking subsidiary's portfolio, as well as its choice of regulatory approach (i.e., Standardized, Foundation IRB, Advanced IRB). Therefore, it will probably take a few years to ascertain the impact, if any, of Basel II on the competitive positions of commercial finance and leasing companies with operations that are subject to the new capital rules.

Additionally, Basel II may have implications as to how commercial finance and leasing companies fund themselves. As a general matter, higher quality borrowers will benefit from lower capital charges under Basel II, which could benefit these issuers for funding purposes. Since Basel II will require less capital against the better-rated commercial finance and leasing companies, banks may in turn become more active in extending loans to them at attractive terms that also meet internal profitability hurdles. Thus, for the higher-rated finance and leasing companies, this may require a change in financial strategy as commercial banks have generally been viewed as the lender of last resort to the industry.

With the implementation of the Sarbanes Oxley legislation, many of the qualitative factors, which Fitch has historically closely monitored, have become increased areas of emphasis for investors. Of the 28 companies that Fitch maintains ratings on in the commercial finance and leasing company sector, there have been changes, or announcements of future changes, in the chief executive officer or president at 14 of these firms beginning in 2003. About half of these changes were due to retirements and normal executive succession. The current stability of the sector may have also played a role in the timing of these retirements.

While there has been significant media coverage of Albert Gamper's and Ronald Zech's retirements from CIT and from GATX, respectively, other company leaders with significant industry experience will(have) also retire(d) including James Beard from Caterpillar Financial Services Corp., Joseph Cappy from Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group, Stephen Gillotti from Textron Financial Corp., and Lewis Rubin from XTRA, Inc. On a combined basis, these individuals have approximately 80 years of experience in leading their companies through multiple business cycles. Their successors, be it Jeffrey Peek at CIT, Gary Paxton at Dollar Thrifty, or Jay Carter at Textron Financial, have demonstrated a willingness to tweak each company's existing business strategy with the intention of improving operating results. In other situations, such as at Boeing Capital Corp. and Bombardier Capital, new management was installed to change the operating scope of the business. Nevertheless, even in the smoothest succession situations, changes occur which Fitch will be monitoring and analyzing. The impact of the management changes is considered in Fitch's industry Outlook.

During 2004, Fitch took 26 individual rating actions with a majority of them being positive in nature. Only seven actions consisted of affirming the existing ratings and maintaining a Stable Outlook. The unusual level of changes reflected a stronger than expected rebound in the U.S. economy as seven actions included affirming the existing ratings while revising the Rating Outlook to either Stable or Positive from Negative. Mergers and acquisition activity had less of an impact on rating activity than in previous years with Transamerica Finance Corp.'s ratings being raised to 'AA-' from 'A' to reflect the unconditional guarantee provided by AEGON N.V. on its remaining public debt while LNR Property Corp.'s ratings were lowered in anticipation of its acquisition by Cerberus Capital Management L.P. and expected weaker capital base and higher financial leverage.

Looking to 2005, it is expected that the majority of rating actions will consist of affirming existing ratings and maintaining Stable Outlooks. There are currently four issuers with Positive Rating Outlooks, GATX Financial Corp., Interpool, Inc., Ryder System, Inc., and XTRA, Inc. In contrast, Fitch maintains a Negative Rating Outlook for Bombardier Capital Inc. due to its parent's, Bombardier Inc., continued operating weakness and the guarded outlook its core markets.

Subsector Outlooks initiated by Fitch:

Equipment Finance Companies

Rating Outlook Stable.

Operating Lease Companies

-- Rating Outlook Positive.

Equipment Rental Companies

-- Rating Outlook Stable.

BDCs/Corporate Finance/Real Estate Companies

-- Rating Outlook Stable.


Fitch Ratings, New York

Philip S. Walker, Jr., CFA, 212-908-0624

Matthew D. Gallino, 212-908-0218

Edward Soffer, 212-908-0642

Peter J. Shimkus, 312-368-2063

Kenneth Reed, 212-908-0540 (Media Relations)


#### Press Release ###################


More Leasing Companies “Caving In”

by Kit Menkin

While the attitude of the lessor is “caving in,” as it is their money they are losing, and their intention was never to warrant service or maintenance, this is being viewed as an “unforeseen disaster” and the one with the deep pockets must pay. It is off the Basell II accord scale.

The alleged mass fraud has been overwhelming to lessors involved with financing NorVergence “ERA” contracts, including those who entered into the transactions on their own lease documents. Both the lessee and lessors now realize the mistakes they made in perhaps evidently the largest “dealer” misrepresentation in the equipment leasing industry.

Collectors and legal personnel who settled for 50% on the dollar, have lowered it to 30%, and are being instructed “to settle this,” even if we have to “write it all off.” This comes directly from many lessors involved, plus lessees who are communicating with each over several internet list serves.

The funder's reality hit first with the GE Capital settlement, with many at first saying GE had the money to do this, and could “afford

to walk away.” After thinking about it more, reading the news, hearing the radio, and watching growing local television reports, the conclusion was that GE Capital was not only making a very good business decision, but “doing the right thing.” Their leadership on the issue became apparent, if not well liked. None appear happy at the decision, as they know they have been “had,” but the consequences appear worse than proving who is right or wrong and even trying to collect the money owed, when and if they prevail in their local court.

The actions by the New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer as well as others, such as New Jersey Gerald J. Pappert, suing NorVergence and naming its officers, has also been a great influence to their legal staffs who prepare the costs of defense.

The principals who started NorVergence, the Salzano brothers, are back in business, with the same pitch. This is their third such telecommunications company. Whether they, Alex Wolf, Robert J. Fine, will be found personally guilty will be up to the courts to decide.

New Jersey Attorney General Gerald J. Pappert will have his day in court for justice to all those have broken the law.

In the story below, it is reported the Salzano brothers allegedly took money right before the bankruptcy to start again, as they reportedly saw the writing on the wall

According to a well-known bankruptcy attorney:” It is customary for the bankruptcy trustee to demand the return of all these sweetheart deals. They typically go back at least 90 days and investigate why certain vendors might have been paid and others had not.

“They can then demand the return of any monies disbursed via favoritism. The money can then go into the pool available to settle obligations of the bankrupt corporation.”

There are other provisions where debtors may make claims for monies paid going back as far as twelve months. In the meantime, the trustee overseeing NorVergence's liquidation filed court papers showing the company has $87.3 million in liabilities and $53.6 million in assets. It owes former employees $8 million in unpaid wages.

It should be noted many of the NorVergence lessees have been advised, according to list serve, not to file a claim, while others have questions regarding it. Whether leasing companies who have “settled” may have recourse against NorVergence is another matter.

The latest deadline to file a proof of claim is Feb. 28, 2005.



NorVergence probe examines insider transfers


New Jersey Star-Ledger Staff

At the end of June, Newark telecommunications reseller NorVergence owed $15 million to one supplier and millions more to others.

The company was about to be dragged into bankruptcy court by angry creditors who weren't getting paid.

But in the five days before the June 30 court action, NorVergence managed to wire more than $160,000 to two related companies, according to court papers.

One, Network Digital Office Systems, is run by NorVergence Chief Executive Peter Salzano. The other, Data Solutions, provided the consulting services of Salzano's brother, Thomas, to NorVergence.

The payments were disclosed in financial statements filed last week in the bankruptcy case.

"We are examining the nature of those transactions to insiders," said attorney Michael Holt, who represents the bankruptcy trustee, Charles Forman. "We'll see where it goes from there."

An attorney for Peter Salzano has denied any wrongdoing and played down the significance of the payments, which were made because Network Digital leased copiers to NorVergence.

NorVergence's collapse left about 11,000 small businesses around the country -- some 1,000 of them in New Jersey -- scrambling for new phone and Internet service providers. Many of those companies, which signed equipment leases with NorVergence, also find themselves in litigation with financial services firms that bought the leases as investments and are trying to collect on them.

The Federal Trade Commission has accused NorVergence of defrauding consumers, and attorneys general in several states, including New Jersey, are investigating.

At the same time, hundreds of former NorVergence customers are pursing legal action against various leasing companies, seeking to be relieved of millions of dollars in continued lease payments on useless equipment.

As part of the continuing bankruptcy case, which was converted to Chapter 7 liquidation in July, the trustee culled through NorVergence's records to provide a statement of the company's financial affairs. The process included an accounting of NorVergence's assets, listed at $53.6 million, and debts, which amounted to $87.3 million.

One document listed payments to "possible insiders" between July 2003 and June. During that period, NorVergence sent $1,000,844 to Network Digital Office Systems, a Fairfield-based leasing company Peter Salzano operated prior to starting NorVergence with his brother in 2001. He continues to run Network Digital and is listed as president of the company in a D&B report, which also said the firm has 19 employees.

On June 28, just two days before creditors forced NorVergence into bankruptcy, the company made four wire payments totaling $103,776 to Network Digital, court records show. Every payment prior to that date had been made via check.

About the same time, another $61,308 was wired to Data Solutions, with payments made June 25, June 29 and June 30. Peter Salzano testified during a court proceeding earlier this month that NorVergence contracted with Data Solutions for the consulting services of his brother, Thomas. Thomas Salzano could not be reached for comment.

"It would bother me. It would upset me to find that out, especially when we're paying for a lease on equipment we can't use anymore," Mary Carroll, client services manager of the Morristown marketing firm Fiore Associates, said when told of the payments.

Fiore Associates used NorVergence for about a year and continues to make payments on its five-year lease for NorVergence equipment.

The government contends NorVergence fraudulently marketed its high-tech "Matrix box" as a way for customers to enjoy discounted services, when in reality the component was a standard phone router.

Holt, the trustee's attorney, said the Salzano brothers have appeared for questioning by the trustee, but both refused to answer certain questions about NorVergence's operations at the urging of their counsel.

Michael Sirota, an attorney who represents Peter Salzano, said the financial statements filed by the trustee in the bankruptcy case were prepared without the input of NorVergence executives. He also said at the time the wire transfers were made to the two other companies, no one at NorVergence knew creditors were about to pull them into an involuntary bankruptcy.

"So transactions close to the involuntary petition, in my mind, are meaningless," Sirota said. "You have to look at the information in total to see these were transfers and transactions in ordinary course. Just because there's arm's-length transactions doesn't mean something is wrong."

Louisiana State University Professor Tim Louwers, who specializes in forensic accounting, said the related-party transactions, the timing of the transactions and the method used for the payments -- in this case, wire transfers -- all raise red flags and should be looked into.

Greg Saitz can be reached at gsaitz@starledger.com or (973)392-7946.


Classified Ads---Help Wanted

Account Representative & Inside Sales Manager

Account Representatives & Inside Sales Manager needed in Nashville, TN & Austin, TX. with exp., in finance & sales, & a successful track record of sales leasing. Work directly with CFOs, CIOs, CEOs and other high-level executives at the Mid-Market level. Please send resume indicating position and location of interest to: Us_DFS_Staffing@dell.com .

About the Company: At Dell Financial Services, we aspire to fuel your potential with the kind of challenging opportunities and hands-on support you need to grow. We're the exclusive provider of leasing and finance services for Dell technology systems worldwide.



Small-ticket Lessor seeking an experienced accounting professional for a full-time position. Successful candidates should have prior experience in the equipment leasing industry. Knowledge of LeasePlus accounting software a major plus. E-mail: recruiter@gen-cap.com.
[Job Description]

About the Company: Genesis Commercial Capital, LLC; Irvine, CA; www.gen-cap.com


Business Development Officer

Business Development Officer, Camarillo, (Ventura, CA area) for Santa Barbara Bank & Trust. Job description. Contact: ron.neal@sbbt.com Phone 805-384-2581
Fax 801-482-3593

About the Company: Santa Barbara Bant & Trust is a $5+ billion, multi-bank holding company dedicated to providing an enduring network of community banks on the Central Coast of California. This unique partnership of independent banks provides customers in six California counties with the financial strength and product diversity of a big bank, delivered with the responsiveness
and personalized attention of a local community bank.


Funding Manager

Seeking a very organized, detail oriented Funding Manager with experience in discounting consumer and commercial auto loans and leases.
Top salary. Send resume via email to ekaye@advantagefunding.us
or fax to 718 392 5427.

About the Company: Advantage Funding is the leader in automotive and equipment lease financing, Long Island City, NY.



Business Channel Manager / National Sales Manager/ Small Ticket Leasing Sales People

We seek a National Sales Manager (Equipment Leasing Experience) for a copier Captive. Also need a Business Channel Manager for a Captive. Also need Small Ticket Leasing Sales People for a multi-$B Bank. CA. AZ. & FL.

MSI International is a global recruiting firm that has been supporting the growth and success of companies and enhancing the careers of professionals since 1968.



Bank Insurance Brokerage Fee Income Rises 21.2%

U.S.Banker's Weekly

Bank insurance brokerage fee income was up 21.2 percent year-to-date through September 30, compared to the same period in 2003, according to Michael White Associates, LLC. These findings are based on analyses of FDIC preliminary data in MWA's ongoing series of Bank Insurance & Investment Fee Income Reports.

Data were reported by 8,129 commercial and federally insured savings banks. The Bank-FIR measures insurance, investment and mutual fund and annuity fee income generated by banks and compares individual bank and banking industry performance data and benchmark ratios to prior years. Total insurance brokerage fee income in the first nine months of 2004 was $2.60 billion, up 21.2 percent from $2.15 billion in the first three quarters of 2003. Nine months through the year, 3,755 banks reported insurance brokerage fee income, constituting of 46.2 percent of all 8,129 commercial and savings banks. Banks with more than $10 billion in assets had the highest participation, or 71 percent in insurance activities, and produced $1.91 billion in insurance brokerage fee income in three quarters in 2004—27.9 percent more than the $1.49 billion they produced in the same period in 2003.

These large banks accounted for 73.3percent of all bank insurance brokerage fee income earned in first three quarters of last year. Banks under $10 billion in assets recorded $693.6 million or 26.7 percent of all bank insurance brokerage fee income. Four of the five bank-asset classes under $10 billion reported increases of 5.5 percent to 24.1 percent. Only banks with assets between $100 million and $300 million recorded a decrease (-1.9 percent) in insurance brokerage fee income. Nationally, the ratio of mean insurance brokerage fee income to non-interest income continued to increase to 2.5 percent. Twelve of the top 15 banks exceeded that mean ratio. Four reported insurance brokerage fee income representing more than 30 percent of their non-interest income. Six of the top 15 banks had a ratio of 15 percent or greater. Citibank reported YTD insurance brokerage earnings of $458 million as of September 30, putting it in first place, and representing an increase of 19.6 percent from $383 million in nine months of 2003. BB&T ranked second, with $433.7 million in insurance brokerage fee income, up 59.8 percent from $271.5 million in the first three quarters of 2003. Its ratio of insurance brokerage fee income to non-interest income was 33.5 percent.




Survey: Mortgage Banking Profits Slid 40% in First Half of 2004

U.S.Banker's Weekly

Overall pre-tax production margins for mortgage banking companies declined by 40 percent during the first half of 2004, according to the latest peer group survey and roundtables conducted by the Mortgage Bankers Association and the Stratmor Group. While the Peer Group Study results were lower than the record-breaking profit levels in 2003, most companies in the study were solidly profitable. Average pre-tax production margins fell to 54 basis points during the first six months of 2004, down from an all-time high of 90 basis points in 2003 (i.e., 0.90 percent of the principal balance of loans produced).

Driving this decline was lower origination volume, which in turn resulted in higher origination costs. The average firm in the study experienced origination declines of 20 percent, primarily in rate/term refinances. As fewer loans were produced, average production and support expenses increased to 154 basis points in 2004 from 132 basis points in 2003. At the same time, pricing pressures emerged in 2004, and average production revenues declined to 208 basis points in 2004 from 222 basis points in 2003. The average profit margins for retail production channel showed the most dramatic change, dropping by over 50 percent.

The average retail profit margin declined to 42 basis points in the first half of 2004 from 100 basis points in 2003. This translates into pre-tax net income of $760 per loan (annualized) in 2004 ,compared with $1,555 per loan in 2003. While retail revenues were flat in 2003 and 2004, the cost-to-produce (fully loaded) increased by 26 percent to $3,766 per loan. Adjustments in fixed retail costs have traditionally lagged reductions in volume. Productivity for retail loan officers also declined, moving to 79 loans originated per officer from 113 loans originated per officer the prior year. On the servicing side, with reduced refinancing activity and fewer loan set-ups and payoffs, the net servicing financial income for the average firm rose to $24 per loan (annualized) in 2004 from a loss of $107 per loan in 2003. The improvement was primarily due to recovery of previously recorded mortgage servicing rights impairment net of hedging losses. In addition, increases in per-loan servicing fees driven by higher loan balances improved margins. A third factor contributing to improved margins was the decline in direct servicing expense to $98 per loan (annualized) from $104 per loan in 2004.



Mortgage Rates Up

- Mortgage rates across the U.S. moved up this week as Freddie Mac's weekly survey showed that rates on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages increased to 5.81 percent this week, compared with 5.75 percent last week.

Rates on benchmark 30-year mortgages averaged 5.84 percent for 2004, second only to last year's 5.83 percent, the lowest annual rate in Freddie Mac's records, a Freddie Mac spokeswoman said.

Rates on 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages, a popular option for refinancing, rose this week to 5.23 percent from 5.18 percent last week.

It was reported rates on one-year, adjustable mortgages increased to 4.19 percent from 4.17 percent last week.



### Press Release #####################

IFC Credit Corporation

Announces New Appointments

MORTON GROVE, Illinois, - Mr. Rudy Trebels, President and Chief Executive Officer of IFC Credit Corporation recently announced the following promotions within the company:

Mr. John Estok has been appointed to President of IFC's Small-Ticket Division. In his new position, Estok will direct all activities for the company's small-ticket group including its indirect business unit, Pioneer Capital Corporation.

Prior to assuming his new position, Mr. Estok was Chief Operations Officer for IFC Credit Corporation.

Mr. Estok has been involved in the equipment leasing industry since 1972. He joined IFC Credit Corporation in 2003 with IFC's acquisition of First Portland Corporation (dba FirstCorp) where he served as President. Previously, Mr. Estok was Executive Vice President and COO of Hitachi Credit Canada Inc.; President and CEO of Industrial Leasing Corporation of Portland, Oregon; and Executive Vice President of Norex Leasing, Burlington, Canada. He is also past President of the Equipment Lessors Association of Canada.

Mr. David Keenan has been appointed to Senior Vice President, Controller and Treasurer. In his new position, Mr. Keenan will be responsible for IFC's financial reporting, and managing the company's accounting and treasury functions, budgets and forecasting.

Mr. Keenan joined IFC Credit Corporation in July, 2003 with over 25 years experience in the leasing industry. From 1978 to 2001, Mr. Keenan was with Comdisco, Inc., a world-wide provider of technology and financial services, most recently serving as Senior Vice President and Corporate Controller. Earlier, he was with KPMG for six years. Mr. Keenan has a B.A. in Accounting from St. Mary's College.

Mr. Marc Langs has been appointed to Senior Vice President of Finance and Corporate Development. Mr. Langs will be responsible for the management of banking and investor relationships, IT, facilities management, financial reporting, and acquisition integration of new companies into IFC.

Mr. Langs joined IFC in May, 2003 and was previously Vice President, Corporate Finance. Prior to joining IFC, he held executive positions in several early stage growth companies. Earlier, he was Chief Financial Officer of SmithKline / Beecham's US consumer products division. Throughout his career, Mr. Langs has been involved in mergers and acquisitions, raising capital and integrating companies and systems into parent/platforms. Mr. Langs has a BS in Finance from UCLA, and an MBA from California State University at Long Beach.

About IFC Credit Corporation

Founded in 1988, IFC Credit Corporation is a Morton Grove, Illinois-based capital equipment leasing firm dedicated to providing superior, innovative financial services to small and medium size businesses nationally. IFC's services are offered directly to end-user companies through its Middle Market division, and indirectly through its small-ticket group and its third-party funding services unit, Pioneer Capital Corporation.


Brian Cascarano
Vice President of Marketing
IFC Credit Corporation
(847) 663-6700


### Press Release ####################

BBB Cautions Donors on Tsunami Relief Appeals

BBB Wise Giving Alliance Offers Tips on Avoiding Questionable Solicitations

Arlington, VA, – It is regular as clockwork. Within days of any natural disaster, the Better Business Bureau knows that some people will attempt to take advantage of Americans' eagerness to assist victims of the tragedy.

“The BBB Wise Giving Alliance encourages the public to contribute to helpful causes that will assist the families and victims of the Tsunami catastrophe,” states Art Taylor, President & CEO of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, “Donors should make certain, however, that the charity is properly registered with appropriate state government agencies, that it describes exactly what it will do to address the needs of victims, and that it is willing to provide written information about its finances and programs.”

“Donors can visit the give.org website to access detailed evaluative reports on many of the U.S. based relief organizations providing assistance in South Asia,” Taylor notes, “We also encourage other U.S. based disaster relief organizations providing Tsunami assistance to enroll with the Alliance at give.org so that we can evaluate their efforts in relation to the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.”

In addition to checking with the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, donors should consider the following tips:

Donors should be wary of any charity that is inexperienced in carrying out relief efforts but is suddenly soliciting for Tsunami assistance. Although well intentioned, such organizations may not have the ability to quickly deliver aid to those in need.

Be wary of appeals that are long on emotion, but short on describing what the charity will do to address the needs of victims and their families. Also see if the charity's appeal explains what the charity intends to do with any excess contributions remaining after they have fully funded the disaster relief activities mentioned in solicitations.

As with all other disaster relief situations, most relief charities prefer financial contributions rather than donated goods. This enables them to purchase needed items near the disaster relief site(s) for easier distribution. The collection and delivery of inappropriate donated items can also clog transportation channels and delay more vital items in getting through to disaster victims.

If you contribute, do not give cash. Make a check or money order out to the name of the charitable organization, not to an individual collecting the donation.

If you decide to contribute online, find out more about the charity before making a contribution and be aware of red flags. For example, some charities imitate the name and style of a well-known organization in order to confuse people. Also, when clicking on the link to "donate," look at the organization's URL in the browser window. Exercise caution if the domain name is hidden, is not familiar to you, or is not the same as the one stated in the text of the link.

Watch out for excessive pressure for on-the-spot donations. Be wary of any request to send a "runner" to pick up your contribution.

Do not give your credit card number or other personal information to a telephone solicitor or in response to an email solicitation. Ask the caller or sender to provide you with written information on the charity's programs and finances.

Do not hesitate to ask for written information that describes the charity's program(s) and finances such as the charity's latest annual report and financial statements. Even newly created organizations should have some basic information available.

Be wary of charities that are reluctant to answer reasonable questions about their operations, finances and programs. Ask how much of your gift will be used for the activity mentioned in the appeal and how much will go toward other programs and administrative and fund raising costs.

To help ensure your contribution is tax deductible, the donation should be made to a U.S. based charitable organization that is tax exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Go to IRS Publication 78 on www.irs.gov for a current list of all organizations eligible to receive contributions deductible as charitable gifts.

“It is also important to remember that if you are unable to contribute at this time, relief charities will welcome your donation next week and next month. Organizations will be addressing a variety of activities in the weeks to come, as the needs of relief victims change,” Taylor advised.

Donors can obtain further advice on giving and access reports on national charities by visiting www.give.org, the website of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. The national charity reports produced by the Alliance specify if the charity meets the Standards for Charity Accountability which address various charity governance, finances, fund raising and solicitations issues. Donors are also encouraged to inquire about relief organizations not currently on give.org so that the Alliance can identify additional charities that might be the subject of a future BBB Wise Giving Alliance report.


###### Press Release ##################

Universal Express Announces Saudi Arabian Funding Partners

NEW YORK----Universal Express (OTCBB:USXP), today announced it has received a contract for funding from a Saudi Arabian strategic partnership group led by Mohammed Bassami, a leading transportation entrepreneur in the Middle East with funding expectations of up to $40 million. A separate release will follow when the initial funding is received.

"After years of planning and visits to the Middle East, it's gratifying to share our visions and programs with an experienced transportation entrepreneur prepared to provide the necessary financial support to aid in our innovative outsourced transportation business model, luggage delivery, private postal service, and related retail products," said Richard A. Altomare, Chairman of Universal Express.

About Universal Express

Universal Express, Inc. owns and operates several subsidiaries including Universal Express Capital Corp. (USXP Cash Express & Leasing Division), and Universal Express Logistics (Luggage Express and the Virtual Bellhop). These subsidiaries and divisions provide its private postal trade association, (UniversalPost) customers, and couriers with value-added services and products, logistical services, equipment leasing, and cost-effective delivery of goods and luggage worldwide. For more information visit www.usxp.com.

Safe Harbor Statement under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995: The statements contained herein, which are not historical, are forward-looking statements that are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed in the forward-looking statements including, but not limited to, certain delays beyond the Company's control with respect to market acceptance of new technologies, products and services, delays in testing and evaluation of products and services, and other risks detailed from time to time in the Company's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Equitilink L.L.C. Investor Relations: Ron Garner 877-788-1940 toll free
858-824-1940 International or local www.equitilinkpr.com


#### Press Release ####################

Richard Newman Joins GMAC Commercial Finance's Capital Funding Group

Southfield, Mich. – GMAC Commercial Finance (GMAC CF), a subsidiary of General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC), announces that Richard Newman has recently joined the company's Equipment Finance Division as vice president of the Capital Funding Group's project finance team, in Houston, Texas.

Newman, who previously worked with Compass Bank, will be responsible for managing the division's midstream efforts. Midstream is a term describing energy infrastructure assets such as pipelines, port facilities and small refineries as well as oil and gas gathering equipment.

Newman received his undergraduate degree from Loyola University and an MBA in finance from New York University.

GMAC CF, considered a leader in its segment of the financial services market, provides accounts receivable management, asset-based lending, equipment finance/leasing, structured finance and supplier payment solutions to a wide variety of middle-market clients in diverse industries. Loan facilities are in the $1 million to $500 million range. With locations in the United States, Canada, Hong Kong, Poland and United Kingdom, GMAC CF is positioned to provide lending services worldwide.

The Capital Funding Group in Houston can be reached at 713-353-4982.



Cari Cuomo
GMAC Commercial Finance
Phone Number: 248-327-9369
Fax Number: 248-350-2733
E-mail: ccuomo@gmaccf.com


#### Press Release ####################



News Briefs---

Venture capital goes up

Oil Prices up 34% in 2004/ Crude rebounds, closes above $43

GE fends off rising Exxon to remain biggest U.S. company

Internet Sites Allow Gift Card Exchanges



“Gimme that Wine”

Low yield and good quality characterize California's 2004 harvest
Grapes came in early and at the same time

Small Wineries Being Acquired by Big Names—Frank J. Prail

A 'Sideways' glance at 2004

WineSpirit explores the spiritual dimension of the grape




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