It would have required one helluva crystal ball in early 2014 to bet that two struggling Arkansas-based trucking companies would see their stock price more than double by year end. Ditto for a bet that the equity markets would add more value in 2014 to two retailers with share prices already flying high at the end of 2013.
But that’s what happened in 2014, and such moves were part of a year that saw share price gains for 13 of 17 publicly held companies based in Arkansas. (The markets officially close out 2014 with a shortened trading day on Wednesday.)
Tontitown-based P.A.M. Transportation (NASDAQ: PTSI) began the year with a share price of $20.75 and a lackluster history in 2013. The share price closed Tuesday (Dec. 30) at $49.51, thanks to an improving national freight environment that boosted the company’s business. Through the first nine months of 2014 P.A.M. had net income of $11.358 million, up 145% from the $4.619 million earned in the same period last year.
The better freight environment also boosted the fortunes of Van Buren-based USA Truck. The trucking company began the year fending off a hostile takeover attempt by Knight Transportation. The share price for USA Truck (NASDAQ: USAK) began the year at $12.59. But financial performance improved during 2014, with the company on track to end five consecutive years of losses. The result is a Dec. 30 closing price of $28.19.
For the first nine months of 2014, the trucking company posted $1.85 million in net income, a wide swing from the $4.474 million loss during the same period of 2013. Total revenue for the first nine months is $452.405 million, better than the $413.587 million in the same period of 2013.
Little Rock-based Dillard’s (NYSE: DDS) begin the year with a share price of $96.85, and despite somewhat flat 2014 financials compared to a hot 2013, the equity markets boosted the share price to $124.21 on Tuesday.
Net income for the specialty retailer was $201.4 million during the first three fiscal quarters of 2014, just below the $204.6 million during the same period of 2013. Total revenue was $4.6 billion in the three quarters, down from $4.613 billion during the same period of 2013.
Bentonville-based Wal-Mart Stores (NYSE: WMT) was able to make small improvements in 2014 to its same-store U.S. sales. However, the markets must have liked what new CEO Doug McMillon was doing and saying about the global retailer’s future. The share price, which began the year at a respectable $78.91, clawed higher through the year to close Dec. 30 at $86.79 – near a 52-week high of $88.09.
Revenue for the first three fiscal quarters of the year is $354.086 billion, better than the $346.588 billion during the same period of 2013.
Although slight, the world’s largest retailer was able to reverse its comp store sales trend with U.S. stores during the fiscal third quarter. It was the first net positive increase since 2012. Same store sales in the U.S. – including Sam’s Club – were up 0.5% compared to a decline of 0.1% during the same quarter of 2013. Same stores sales among Neighborhood Markets – the company’s leading small-store format – were up 5.5%. The company also reported that e-commerce sales worldwide were up 21%.
The markets were also kind to Lowell-based J.B. Hunt Transport (NASDAQ: JBHT) and Fort Smith-based ArcBest (NASDAQ: ARCB).
J.B. Hunt, through its growing intermodal and logistics businesses, boosted revenue and income during the first three quarters of the year. Net income during the first nine months of 2014 was $264.486 million, ahead of the $250.518 million during the same period of 2013. The Hunt share price began 2014 at a healthy $76.60, and closed on Dec. 30 at $84.68.
The story was similar at ArcBest, the parent company of ABF Freight System, one of the nation’s largest less-than-truckload carriers. For the first nine months of the year, ArcBest recorded net income of $31.633 million, considerably better than the $5.465 million in the same period of 2013. Total revenue for the first nine months of 2014 is $1.947 billion, up 11.6% compared to the 2013 nine-month period.
ArcBest shares began the year at $33.82, and closed Tuesday at $46.29.
CARS, BANKS AND TECHNOLOGY
With concerns about consumer sentiment and competition from the subprime loan market, 2014 didn’t begin well for Bentonville-based America’s Car-Mart (NASDAQ: CRMT).
However, for the first half of fiscal 2015 Car-Mart had earnings totaled $14.75 million, up over $13.32 million during the prior year period. Revenue totaled $261.21 million, up 7% from the $243.97 million recorded in the same period last year.
The buy here, pay here used car company began 2014 with a share price of $41.96, and closed Tuesday at $52.48.
It continued to be a year of acquisition and integration for Conway-based Home Bancshares, (NASDAQ: HOMB) the parent company of Centennial Bank. For the first three fiscal quarters of 2014, the bank holding company reported $83.137 million in net income, well ahead of the $53.57 million during the same period in 2013.
Loan growth and acquisitions drove the positive news. In July, Home Bancshares completed its buyout and merger with Florida-based Traditions Bank.
However, the markets are hesitant to reward the aggressive acquisition pace and net income growth. The bank began the year with a $36.36 share price, and closed Tuesday at $32.09, down 11.7%.
Little Rock-based Acxiom Corp. (NASDAQ: ACXM) struggled to reinvent itself during 2014. The company reported three straight quarterly losses during the year. Third quarter revenue slid from $267.77 million one year ago to $260.04 in the most recent quarter. The data and digital marketer posted a $1.54 million loss – a departure from a $9.84 million profit in the previous year.
Acxiom has altered its company model, in part, to adapt to new marketing strategies for clients who have shifted away from traditional direct mail consumer contact to utilizing digital products and outreach.
The company began the year with a $36.58 share price and closed Tuesday at $20.54, down almost 44%.