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Former MPS executive Crouch named head of Adecco North America

by Mark Basch, Contributing Writer

Two years after its $1.3 billion buyout of MPS Group Inc., Zurich, Switzerland-based Adecco Group picked a former MPS executive to run its North American operations.

Robert Crouch, who was chief financial officer of Jacksonville-based MPS, will become Adecco’s regional head of North America, the company announced last week.

Adecco is an international staffing company with operations in 60 countries. It acquired MPS in 2010 to beef up its professional staffing business in the U.S. and the United Kingdom, where MPS also had operations.

Crouch, along with MPS Chief Executive Timothy Payne and Chairman Derek Dewan, left the company after the merger. But he apparently made an impression on Adecco.

“Bob was a key contributor to the successful management of MPS through two economic up and downturns, capturing structural growth, with the group delivering strong financial performance,” Adecco said in a news release.

“At the same time, he demonstrated a strong sense for operational performance, improving the business model, ensuring the smooth integration of multiple acquisitions and engaging with business unit leaders, all with a very hands-on approach,” it said.

Crouch will start his new position May 1. He succeeds Tig Gilliam, “who will pursue his career outside the Adecco Group,” the company said.

Adecco and MPS became less visible in Jacksonville after the merger. MPS’ headquarters was located Downtown in the Jacksonville skyline’s signature 35-story building, which carried the name of MPS subsidiary Modis.

When its lease expired in 2011, Adecco moved its corporate staff out of the Downtown tower (which is now the Wells Fargo center) for less costly office space in the suburbs in the Deerwood South business park.

Still, Gilliam said at the time that Jacksonville would continue to be a significant location for Adecco, which has its North American headquarters in Melville, N.Y. The company currently employs more than 600 people in the Jacksonville area.

Adecco said Crouch plans to continue living in Jacksonville, so does that mean we could we see another major headquarters moving to town?

According to the company, Crouch won’t be confined to one office.

“His time will be split visiting clients, spending time in our hundreds of field offices across North America, as well as working in our Shared Service Centers in Melville, Rochester and Jacksonville,” an Adecco spokesman said in an email.

Adecco reported total 2011 revenue of 20.5 billion euros (about $27.3 billion) and earnings of 519 million euros (about $690 million). The company said 18 percent of revenue and earnings came from North America.

Fanatics buying competitor

After being involved in some major corporate deals over the past year, Jacksonville-based Fanatics Inc. announced a deal of its own last week to buy competitor Dreams Inc.

Both companies sell sports merchandise online and through a small retail network.

Fanatics has two stores in the Jacksonville area under the Football Fanatics name, and Plantation-based Dreams has a total of 15 retail outlets under the Field of Dreams and Fans Edge names.

Fanatics agreed to buy publicly traded Dreams for $3.45 a share, a total of about $183 million. Dreams was trading at $2.61 before the announcement last Monday.

Dreams reported total revenue of $142 million last year.

“The addition of Dreams will enable Fanatics to accelerate our investments in product assortment, mobile and e-commerce technology, and a regional fulfillment infrastructure to better serve our customers and our partners. Together, we will be much better positioned to deliver a superior customer experience,” Fanatics CEO Alan Trager said in a news release.

Fanatics was acquired a year ago for $277 million by GSI Commerce Inc., a Pennsylvania-based e-commerce services company. Just two weeks after that deal was completed, GSI agreed to a $2.4 billion buyout by eBay Inc.

As part of the eBay deal, Fanatics and two other GSI businesses were spun off into a private company formed by GSI Chief Executive Michael Rubin called Kynetic.

In addition to Fanatics, Kynetic also owns Rue La La, an online private sale business, and ShopRunner, a members-only online shopping service.

Fanatics also announced last week that former sports television executive Jamie Davis is joining the company as president, reporting to Trager. Davis was most recently president of Versus, which is now known as the NBC Sports Network.

EverBank expects higher first-quarter earnings

EverBank Financial Corp. expects to report higher first-quarter earnings, according to its latest Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

The Jacksonville-based banking company expects net income to be between $10 million and $13 million, up from $9.4 million in the first quarter of 2011.

It said in the filing that the earnings were helped by an increase in interest-earnings assets and a decrease in its provision for loan losses “due to continued stabilization of our residential and commercial legacy portfolios.”

Total assets grew to $13.8 billion at the end of the quarter, up from $13 billion at the end of 2011. Adjusted non-performing assets are expected to be between 1.6 percent and 1.7 percent of total assets.

The latest filing does not give any new information on EverBank’s planned initial public offering. The company has not said how much stock it intends to sell in its IPO or when the stock sale will take place.

CSX earnings don’t impress investors

CSX Corp.’s first-quarter earnings of 43 cents per share were 5 cents higher than the average forecast of analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial. But that apparently didn’t impress investors. CSX’s stock actually fell by 23 cents to $22.21 on Wednesday after the earnings report.

“CSX shares appeared to be looking for direction following the earnings call as investors juggled several variables,” Dahlman Rose & Co. analyst Jason Seidl said in a research note.

Stifel Nicolaus analyst John Larkin said in his research note that several factors helped the earnings beat forecasts, including a lower effective tax rate, reduced incentive compensation and favorable weather.

The company also recorded a gain from the sale of 61.5 miles of rail to the state of Florida last year for the planned SunRail project in Central Florida. The proceeds from that sale are being amortized over several quarters.

But even with all those factors, Larkin calculated that CSX’s earnings still would have been a penny higher than analysts’ forecasts.

Even though it didn’t move the market, analysts liked what they saw.

“We are impressed CSX was able to improve margins and grow EPS 18 percent year over year despite large coal headwinds,” Ed Wolfe of Wolfe Trahan & Co. said in his research report.

Both Seidl and Larkin reiterated “buy” ratings on the stock. Larkin has a 12-month price target of $29.

“If one adds in the favorable impact of the company’s 2.1 percent dividend yield, we believe that the company’s shares offer upside potential of 32 percent over the coming 12 months,” Larkin said.

Vistakon increases sales

Johnson & Johnson reported a slight decrease in revenue in the first quarter but its Jacksonville-based contact lens unit, Vistakon, continued to grow sales.

Vistakon’s total sales rose 4.8 percent to $757 million in the first quarter, with U.S. sales rising by 8.2 percent.

New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson’s total sales fell by 0.2 percent in the first quarter to $16.1 billion, with domestic sales dropping by 5.1 percent.

The company’s adjusted net earnings for the quarter rose by 1.5 percent to $3.8 billion, or $1.37 a share.

Gannett earnings down but TV division up

Gannett Co. Inc. last week reported that adjusted first-quarter earnings fell by 7 cents to 34 cents a share, as revenue continued to drop at its newspaper division.

But its broadcasting business, which includes Jacksonville television stations WTLV TV-12 and WJXX TV-25, grew revenue and earnings.

Television revenue rose 7.9 percent to $170.9 million and operating income in Gannett’s broadcasting segment rose by 14.4 percent to $72.6 million.

Gannett said television revenue was helped by higher auto spending and advertising associated with the Super Bowl, which was broadcast on NBC stations, including WTLV.

Gannett’s total revenue in the quarter fell 2.6 percent to $1.22 billion, with its publishing division falling by 6 percent.

mbasch@baileypub.com

356-2466

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