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Rob Clements
Jax Daily Record Monday, Feb. 1, 201612:00 PM EST

EverBank stock gets boost from fourth-quarter earnings

by: Mark Basch Contributing Writer

EverBank Financial Corp.’s sagging stock got a lift last week as the Jacksonville-based banking company reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings.

EverBank’s adjusted earnings of 34 cents a share were 4 cents higher than the fourth quarter of 2014 and 3 cents higher than the average forecast of analysts, according to Thomson Financial.

The stock, which fell to a 52-week low of $12.80 last Monday, rose as much as $1.68 to $14.71 Wednesday after the report.

In the company’s quarterly conference call with analysts, CEO Robert Clements said the higher earnings were “driven by continued loan and deposit growth, higher revenues, stable expenses and an improvement in asset quality.”

The bank had been positioning itself for “a low and flat interest rate environment with modest economic growth,” Clements said.

“We currently expect a similar environment in 2016, albeit perhaps even a bit lower and flatter than we originally expected. As a result, we continue to utilize a balanced approach to our asset/liability management and expect to capitalize on additional operational efficiency initiatives throughout 2016,” he said.

EverBank has few branches but serves customers nationwide through the Internet.

“We believe that our nationwide model offers significant advantages in managing risk, as it results in greater geographic and industry diversification compared to banks with a more regional focus,” he said.

He said EverBank’s limited exposure to oil and gas or other energy companies is an example of that advantage.

EverBank’s stock reached a high of $21.18 in October before a disappointing third-quarter earnings report sent the stock down. Even after Wednesday’s rebound, the stock still has a way to go.

“We continue to view the shares of EverBank as being drastically undervalued relative to growth expectations and in line profitability, with shares trading at 8.2 times 2017 consensus estimates,” Wells Fargo Securities analyst Jared Shaw said in a research note after the earnings report.

Shaw maintains an “outperform” rating on the stock.

Raymond James analyst Michael Rose, who upgraded the stock three weeks ago, maintained his “strong buy” rating after the earnings report.

“All in, it was a nice rebound quarter following a challenging third quarter,” Rose said in his research report.

Ameris drops on earnings miss

Ameris Bancorp’s stock dropped after the company reported lower-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings.

The bank’s adjusted earnings of 47 cents a share were 8 cents higher than the previous year, but lower than analysts’ forecasts of 49 cents to 53 cents, according to Thomson.

Ameris’ stock dropped $1.61 to $27.61 on Jan. 22 after reporting its results.

Ameris is officially headquartered in Moultrie, Ga., but is looking more and more like a Jacksonville company as 2016 begins. The company has been putting its name on top of the Riverplace Tower on the Southbank, the new site of its executive offices.

The company is also getting closer to expanding its local banking presence by acquiring Jacksonville Bancorp Inc., parent of The Jacksonville Bank.

In Ameris’ conference call with analysts, CEO Edwin Hortman said the company expects to complete that deal in the first-quarter and convert Jacksonville Bank’s systems into Ameris’ systems in May.

“The smooth integration of Jacksonville Bank, improvement in our operating cost and focus on our core organic growth are the keys to successful results for us in 2016.” he said.

Jacksonville Bancorp’s shareholders meeting to vote on the buyout is scheduled for March 11.

Atlantic Coast Financial doubles earnings

The one other publicly traded banking company based in Jacksonville, Atlantic Coast Financial Corp., more than doubled its earnings in the fourth quarter.

Atlantic Coast Financial reported adjusted earnings of $1.03 million, or 7 cents a share, up from $443,000, or 3 cents a share, in the fourth quarter of 2014.

“We are pleased that Atlantic Coast continued to build on the strong momentum that characterized its performance throughout the first nine months of the year. Key to this ongoing strategy was our ability to sustain growth in our portfolio loans, which we have accomplished through organic growth across our established markets, the opening of loan production offices in Orlando and Tampa, and the careful acquisition of one- to four-family and multifamily loans,” CEO John Stephens said in a news release.

Landstar earnings rise

Landstar System Inc. on Thursday reported higher fourth-quarter earnings and projected first-quarter earnings will also be higher.

The Jacksonville-based trucking company earned 88 cents in the fourth quarter, up from 86 cents in the fourth quarter of 2014.

“Overall, considering recent industry fundamentals of low demand and looser truck capacity, Landstar had a very good fourth quarter,” CEO Jim Gattoni said in the company’s conference call.

“I expect the current freight environment to continue throughout the first-quarter. I expect the 2016 first-quarter pricing environment to be somewhat challenging as compared to the 2015 first-quarter, which includes the impact of slightly lower diesel fuel costs and the looser capacity environment,” he said.

Based on trends so far in early 2016, Landstar projects first-quarter earnings of 70 cents to 75 cents a share, up from 67 cents last year.

Analysts had a wide range of forecasts before the earnings report, projecting first-quarter earnings anywhere from 65 cents to 84 cents, according to Thomson. The average forecast was 75 cents.

Nexstar, Media General reach buyout agreement

After months of haggling, Nexstar Broadcasting Group Inc. finally last week reached an agreement with Media General Inc. on a buyout deal.

Nexstar will pay $4.6 billion in cash and stock to buy Media General. The merged company, which will be renamed Nexstar Media Group Inc., will have 171 television stations in 100 markets.

That includes Jacksonville CW network affiliate WCWJ TV-17, which Nexstar bought from Medial General in 2009.

The companies expect to complete the merger late in the third quarter this year or early in the fourth quarter.

APR Energy going private Feb. 12

APR Energy plc last week sent a circular to shareholders saying the delisting of its stock will take effect Feb. 12.

Shareholders last month voted to approve a buyout offer from a consortium of private investors. APR said in last week’s circular the consortium and its associates now hold about 99 percent of the stock of the Jacksonville-based company, which has been trading on the London Stock Exchange.

After the stock is delisted, the consortium plans to complete its additional $200 million investment in the company by Feb. 19, the circular said.

APR builds interim power plants and does most of its business overseas, but the company is expected to keep its headquarters in Jacksonville, where it employs nearly 200 people.

Johnson & Johnson Vision Care rebounds

Johnson & Johnson last week reported revenue for its Jacksonville-based contact lens division was basically flat at $648 million in the fourth quarter, because of the impact of the strong dollar on overseas sales.

However, U.S. sales were strong and on an operational basis, excluding the impact of the currency markets, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Inc.’s revenue rose 8.4 percent in the fourth quarter.

For 2015, Vision Care’s revenue fell 7.5 percent to $2.6 billion but after adjusting for the currency impact, revenue rose 1.7 percent on an operational basis.

In Johnson & Johnson’s conference call, CEO Alex Gorsky said Vision Care’s turnaround was helped by the launching of five new products, a price reset to make the contact lenses more competitive and selling and marketing improvements.

“We are definitely seeing the impact of that now, not only on the sales results of up 8 percent but, maybe even more importantly, if you look at the leading indicators as far as new share that’s being generated and new patient starts in the offices, those things are positive,” he said.

The company reported adjusted earnings per share of $1.44 for the quarter, 2 cents higher than the average analysts’ forecast, and also projected 2016 earnings of $6.43 to $6.58, above the average forecast of $6.40, according to Thomson. That sent its stock up $4.78 to $101.18 Tuesday.

However, some investors remain dissatisfied.

Artisan Partners Managing Director Daniel O’Keefe, whose firms holds about $445 million of Johnson & Johnson stock, sent a letter to the board of directors last week outlining several issues, including his belief that the company has made too many acquisitions.

O’Keefe urged the board to review Johnson & Johnson’s acquisition and capital strategy and also asked it to consider breaking up the conglomerate into separate public companies.

There was no immediate response from the company.

International Baler earnings rise

International Baler Corp. last week reported higher earnings for fiscal 2015 despite a drop in sales.

The Jacksonville-based maker of baling equipment said in its annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission that sales for the year ended Oct. 31 fell 8.5 percent to $18.1 million. The decrease resulted from lower shipments of higher-priced synthetic rubber balers.

Net income for the fiscal year rose 13.7 percent to $812,368, or 16 cents a share. While sales fell, expenses also fell during the year, including lower legal fees.

Coach rises on earnings report

Coach Inc.’s stock rose Tuesday after the handbag and accessories company reported its first sales increase in 10 quarters.

Net sales for the second quarter ended Dec. 26 rose 4 percent to $1.27 billion and, adjusted for currency, sales rose 7 percent.

Coach’s adjusted earnings of 68 cents a share were 4 cents lower than the previous year but 2 cents higher than the average analysts’ forecast, according to Thomson.

Coach’s stock rose $2.98 to $33.33 Tuesday after the earnings report.

New York-based Coach has its North American distribution center at the Jacksonville International Tradeport.

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