Most Arkansas share prices move higher in 2012

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 110 views 

The share prices of the 15 Arkansas-based publicly held companies performed well in 2012, with 10 of the 15 shares ending the year with a price gain.

However, the fourth quarter of 2012 was tough, with eight of the 15 shares seeing a price decline. The various combinations of political and economic uncertainty helped push most equities and indices lower in the fourth quarter. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, the NASDAQ Composite and the S&P 500 all finished the fourth quarter lower than the third quarter 2012 close.

But like the overall Arkansas share price picture, the three major indices finished the year with gains. The DJIA was up 12.28%, the NASDAQ Composite was up 12.18% and the S&P 500 was up 12.19%.

Arkansas’ biggest share price mover belongs to Little Rock-based Dillard’s (NYSE: DDS). The share price rose from a Jan. 3 closing price of $44.07 to a Dec. 31 closing price of $83.75.

For the nine months ended Oct. 27, 2012, Dillard’s eclipsed $4.597 billion in sales and revenue and $174.5 million in net income for the period. Dillard’s CEO William T. Dillard, said he was buoyed by the 5% increase in sales from the previous year as well as other company internals.

Bentonville-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. had a record year in terms of share price. The shares (NYSE: WMT) reached a new high of $77.60, but fell off to end Dec. 31 at $68.28. The impressive share performance appears to negate any immediate concerns related to a growing investigation of alleged bribery schemes in several countries.

For the first three fiscal quarters of 2012, Wal-Mart extended its positive comp sales to five consecutive quarters, after sliding backward for more than two years. U.S. same-store-sales rose by 1.5% as a result of positive tickets and traffic. Walmart U.S. saw total revenue of $66.127 billion in the quarter, up 3.6% from the prior year.

Economists closely watch Wal-Mart sales as they represent 10% of the gross retail revenue, excluding autos.

Another big gainer for the year was Lowell-based J.B. Hunt Transport Services – not a surprise considering its continuing revenue and income growth. For the first nine months of the year, revenue is $3.716 billion, ahead of the $3.321 billion in the same period of 2011. Net income for the first nine months reached $226.377 million, up almost 23% compared to the 2011 period.

The company’s intermodal segment leads the charge for the diversified transportation and logistics company. Intermodal revenue during the third quarter was $794 million, up 15%, with operating income up 25% to $97.9 million.

The other gainers for the year were Acxiom (up 40.1%), America’s Car-Mart (up 4.45%), Bank of the Ozarks (up 11.56%), Deltic Timber (up 12.8%), Home Bancshares (up 26.1%), Murphy Oil (up 2.4%), and P.A.M. Transport (up 6.5%).

Fort Smith-based Arkansas Best Corp. and Van Buren-based USA Truck saw some of the largest annual declines in share price among the 15 publicly held companies in Arkansas.

Arkansas Best saw its share price (NASDAQ: ABFS) drop from $19.37 on Jan. 3 to $9.55 on Dec. 31. The more than 102% drop in share price is primarily the result of lackluster earnings reports and uncertainty surrounding ongoing labor contract negotiations with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

For the first nine months of 2012, the company has emerged from the red with net income of $197,000, which is below the $4.929 million in the same period of 2011. Total revenue during the first nine months was $1.528 million, ahead of the $1.444 billion in the same period of 2011.

The existing labor contract will expire March 31, for the about 7,500 Arkansas Best employees represented by the Teamsters. The largest subsidiary of Arkansas Best is ABF Freight System, one of the largest less-than-truckload carriers in the U.S. Most of the 7,500 are drivers but the union membership also includes dockworkers, mechanics and office staff. Arkansas Best employs more than 10,000.

Shares of USA Truck (NASDAQ: USAK) closed Dec. 31 at $3.49, down more than 55% from the Jan. 3 closing price of $7.92.

An underperforming USA Truck was forced during the third quarter to seek a new line of credit. For the first nine months of 2012, the long-haul carrier recorded a net loss of $14.4 million, considerably worse than the $6.4 million loss during the same period of 2011. Revenue for the first nine months of 2012 totaled $301.7 million, down from the $310.8 million during the same period of 2011.

USA Truck posted a 2011 net income loss of $10.77 million, more than triple the loss during 2010 and in a year when other trucking companies began to see improved financials. Also, 2011 marked the third consecutive year of losses for USA Truck.

Despite improved financials, Springdale-based Tyson Foods saw its share price dip slightly in 2012. The Dec. 31 closing price was $19.41 down from the Jan. 3 closing price of $20.31.

Little Rock-based Windstream and Pine Bluff-based Simmons First National also saw share price declines of 29.6% and 10.3%, respectively, during 2012.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, NASDAQ Composite and S&P 500 all closed higher in 2012.

Dec. 31: 13,104.14
Sept. 28: 13,437.13
June 30: 12,414.34
Jan. 3: 11,670.75

NASDAQ Composite
Dec. 31: 3,019.51
Sept. 28: 3,116.23
June 30: 2,773.52
Jan. 3: 2,691.52

S&P 500
Dec. 31: 1,426.19
Sept. 28: 1,440.67
June 30: 1,320.64
Jan. 3: 1,271.87