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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Aug. 1, 201905:10 AM EST

Ameris Bancorp says it’s taking a break from deals; Landstar CEO talks results

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The company, which acquired Fidelity Southern Corp. in July, says it doesn’t “plan on getting distracted” by another M&A opportunity.
by: Mark Basch Contributing Writer

After completing its acquisition of Atlanta-based Fidelity Southern Corp. a month ago, Ameris Bancorp won’t be doing any more deals for the foreseeable future.

“We, as a management team, are fully focused on the Fidelity integration and also on our organic opportunities we have within our markets,” CEO Palmer Proctor said during Ameris’ quarterly conference call with analysts Friday.

“That being said, we are out of the M&A market for at least four to six quarters.”

As the merger was completed July 1, former Fidelity President Proctor became chief executive of Ameris, which has its executive offices in Jacksonville.

Proctor said Ameris expects to complete the integration of the two banks’ systems in November.

“We have a plan for successful integration and realization of the cost savings identified by our combined management teams and we intend to maintain our focus on that opportunity so that we can deliver consistent disciplined results for several quarters,” he said.

“There is a tremendous amount of work to be done to be successful and we don’t plan on getting distracted with any M&A opportunities that may be out there.”

Ameris reported adjusted earnings of 96 cents a share for the second quarter, up from 74 cents in the second quarter of 2018. Earnings equaled the consensus forecast of analysts, according to Zacks Investment Research.

Landstar CEO puts results in context

Landstar System Inc. reported second-quarter earnings that were lower than the company originally forecast and predicted third-quarter earnings will be lower than analyst forecasts.

However, CEO Jim Gattoni said during Landstar’s conference call last week that the Jacksonville-based trucking company’s performance needs to be put in context.

“By historical standards, we remain in a relatively solid freight environment with Landstar continuing to perform at high levels,” he said.

“If we again look at our 2019 second-quarter results compared to those of the 2017 second quarter, it is impressive to note just how much the company’s performance exceeded the results of two years ago.”

Landstar’s second-quarter earnings of $1.53 a share were just 2 cents higher than the second quarter of 2018. However, the results were well above the second quarter 2017 earnings of 89 cents a share.

Second-quarter 2019 revenue of $1.045 billion was lower than last year’s $1.183 billion, but higher than the $870 million in second-quarter 2017 revenue.

Landstar projected second-quarter earnings of $1.56 to $1.62 a share but said in June the results likely would be lower than that.

In last week’s conference call, Gattoni said “slowing U.S. manufacturing production growth and increased available truck capacity” affected earnings.

Gattoni projected third-quarter earnings of $1.48 to $1.54 a share with revenue of $1.01 billion to $1.06 billion. That’s lower than analysts’ consensus forecast of $1.56 in earnings on $1.10 billion in revenue, according to Zacks.

Maxwell House is still for sale

Kraft Heinz Co.’s new CEO is pulling back plans to sell some of the company’s brands, but he’s still looking for a buyer for its Maxwell House coffee business, CNBC reported last week.

The cable business news network reported in February that Maxwell House is for sale, but the company has not confirmed those reports.

Maxwell House’s century-old facility at 735 E. Bay St. in Downtown Jacksonville, which employs about 200, is its last remaining U.S. coffee plant.

CNBC last week said Kraft Heinz has seen “tepid” interest from buyers for its Breakstone sour cream and cottage cheese and Plasmon baby food brands, so it has pulled back plans to sell them.

Maxwell House “has so far faced pushback from private equity buyers wary of the investment needed to reinvigorate the brand after years of being run by a cost-focused management team,” CNBC said, citing unidentified sources.

However, CEO Miguel Patricio, who was appointed in April, still is trying to sell the coffee brand, it said.

AutoNation names first female CEO

Fort Lauderdale-based AutoNation Inc. last week named Cheryl Miller as chief executive officer, saying she is the first female CEO of a publicly traded automotive retailer.

Not only that, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel said Miller is the first woman to become CEO of any public company in South Florida.

The newspaper, citing data from a campaign called 2020 Women on Boards, said only four of 109 Florida public companies have female CEOs. None of those companies are in the Jacksonville area.

Two women currently have the No. 2 executive spots at major Jacksonville-based public companies: Lisa Palmer is president of Regency Centers Corp. and MaryAnne Morin is president of Stein Mart Inc.

Miller has spent 10 years with AutoNation and had been chief financial officer since 2014.

AutoNation operates 325 auto dealerships in the U.S., including two in the Jacksonville area.

SunTrust-BB&T merger scrutinized

While much of Washington, D.C., was consumed with another set of Congressional hearings, the U.S. House Financial Services Committee held a hearing last week with executives of SunTrust Banks Inc. and BB&T Corp. on their potential merger into a new bank called Truist.

A congressional hearing on a bank merger is an unusual step. However, Raymond James & Associates analysts said in a report after the July 24 hearing that they didn’t see any “significant barriers” to getting regulatory approval.

“The overall tone of the hearing seemed to focus concerns at the regulatory/legislative/competitive landscape rather than specific issues with this merger,” they said.

“As such, this hearing felt more of a ‘check the box exercise’ to demonstrate oversight as lawmakers did not land any significant punches.”

The deal is expected to close later this year.

“DC has a history of finding ways to extend regulatory reviews, but we overall do not see any hurdles arising from Wednesday’s hearing,” the Raymond James analysts said.

Deutsche Bank suffers loss on ‘transformation’

Troubled Germany-based Deutsche Bank last week reported a second-quarter net loss of 3.1 billion euros (about $3.4 billion), due to costs associated with its next round of job cuts.

Deutsche Bank, which employed 90,866 people worldwide at the end of the second quarter, said a month ago it planned to reduce employment to 74,000 by 2022.

The company, which employs about 2,000 people in Jacksonville, has not said how many jobs will be cut in specific offices.

The company said employment fell by about 600 in the second quarter this year and by about 4,600 since mid-2018.

Deutsche Bank’s 3.1 billion euro-loss in the quarter included “strategic transformation” costs of 3.4 billion euros.

“A substantial part of our restructuring costs is already digested in the second quarter. Excluding transformation charges the bank would be profitable and in our more stable businesses revenues were flat or growing. This, combined with our solid capital and liquidity position, gives us a firm foundation for growth,” CEO Christian Sewing said in a news release.

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