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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Jan. 20, 202205:00 AM EST

FIS President Bruce Lowthers resigns

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He was promoted to the No. 2 position in March and is leaving the company “to pursue other opportunities.”
by: Mark Basch Contributing Writer

Ten months after he was promoted to the position, the No. 2 executive at Fidelity National Information Services Inc. is leaving.

The Jacksonville-based financial technology company known as FIS disclosed in a Jan. 14 Securities and Exchange Commission filing that Bruce Lowthers is resigning as president.

The filing said Lowthers gave notice he will resign the position as of Jan. 31.

Lowthers, who joined FIS in 2007, was promoted from his position as president of the company’s banking and merchant solutions business to president of the entire company in March 2021.

Gary Norcross remained chairman and CEO of FIS but gave up the additional title of president at that time.

The SEC filing said Lowthers resigned “to pursue other opportunities.”

That language often is used in corporate disclosures when a top executive already has lined up a new position at another company.

But FIS said Lowthers will continue his employment with the company through April 30 to ensure an orderly transition.

The filing did not say if FIS is searching for a replacement.

FIS is Jacksonville’s largest public company, with analysts expecting it to report 2021 revenue of $13.8 billion to $14 billion, according to Yahoo Finance.

FIS is scheduled to move this year into a $156 million, 12-story headquarters under construction along Riverside Avenue.

The company said when it announced the new building in 2019 it had about 1,200 employees in Jacksonville and planned to add 500 more. Its global employment is more than 60,000.

Analyst expects FIS stock recovery 

After a big drop in stocks of financial technology companies last year, at least one analyst expects a strong recovery in 2022 for the industry, including FIS.

“Simply put, to say we are bullish on fintech entering 2022 would be a massive understatement,” Raymond James analyst John Davis said in a Jan. 11 report.

“We expect 2022 to be what we thought 2021 would be – a year of recovery, especially in travel including international as omicron appears to be significantly less severe and is hopefully the last variant to meaningfully disrupt economic activity,” he said.

Davis rates FIS as a “strong buy” after the stock dropped 23% last year, and he said FIS is one of his top picks for the year.

“In our view, 2022 could be a much-needed reset for FIS, which has suffered from numerous bearish narratives coupled with pockets of the business still impacted by COVID,” he said.

Davis said investors have a negative sentiment toward “legacy tech” stocks like FIS and have had concerns about the company’s banking technology business losing market share. But he disagrees with that sentiment.

“We would point investors to the several top 30 bank wins over the previous year, which we think is solid proof of the Banking tech stack, as we find it hard to believe that an outdated ‘legacy’ tech offering could win a top 30 bank core banking platform,” he said.

Davis has a $152 price target for the stock, which was trading at $116.37 at the time of his report.

Regency announces major transactions

Regency Centers Corp. said Jan. 12 it completed $489 million in acquisitions of shopping centers in 2021 while disposing of $279 million of properties.

Also, the Jacksonville-based developer and operator of centers mostly anchored by grocery stores sold a California shopping center Jan. 11 for $125 million.

That followed the sale of two California properties in November and December and the November acquisition of one center in South Charlotte, North Carolina, and the December purchase of four centers in Long Island, New York.

“Investing in high-quality, well-located grocery-anchored retail, as we did successfully in 2021, is at the core of Regency’s capital allocation strategy,” CEO Lisa Palmer said in a news release.

“Importantly, our recent acquisitions were largely self-funded on an earnings accretive basis by monetizing the value we’ve created through the sale of properties where the highest and best use evolved into predominantly non-retail,” she said.

Cadre buys Italian accessory maker

Jacksonville-based Cadre Holdings Inc. completed the acquisition  Jan. 11 of an Italian company called Radar Leather Division S.r.l.

Radar was a family-owned company founded in 1957. It specializes in the production of holsters, belts, duty belts, and other accessories. Most of its sales are in Europe.

Cadre, which went public in November, makes and distributes safety and survivability products for first responders.

“This marks our first acquisition following the Company’s initial public offering and is consistent with the strategy we laid out to investors both during the offering process and since,” CEO Warren Kanders said in a news release.

Cadre said the acquisition immediately will add to earnings per share, but terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Analysts downgrade Restaurant Brands

Two analysts have downgraded Restaurant Brands International Inc. since its December acquisition of the Firehouse Subs chain.

However, the downgrades have nothing to do with Jacksonville-based Firehouse.

The analysts say Toronto-based RBI’s two biggest chains, Burger King and Tim Hortons, are underperforming.

Morgan Stanley analyst John Glass downgraded RBI from “equal weight” to “underweight” on Jan. 14.

“While cheap by history and versus peers, Tim’s topline recovery has been slow to take hold and likely dealt another near-term blow due to resurgent Covid cases, while BK’s US turnaround will likely take time and is still in its early innings,” Glass said in his report.

This followed a Jan. 3 downgrade from “overweight” to “neutral” by Piper Sandler analyst Nicole Miller Regan.

“We are encouraged by the recent acquisition of Firehouse Subs as the brand is beloved by consumers and brings expansion into a new cuisine category,” Regan said in her report.

However, she projects the underperformance of the larger Burger King and Tim Hortons chains will lower earnings.

Firehouse has more than 1,200 locations in 46 U.S. states and Canada and Puerto Rico and is much smaller than RBI’s other brands.

Burger King has almost 19,000 restaurants and Tim Hortons has more than 5,000. 

RBI’s other chain, Popeyes, has about 3,600.

Glass said the Firehouse brand “is small today and not overly impactful to earnings, but could expand over time.”

Creative Learning moves again

Creative Learning Corp. has moved its headquarters again, according to its annual report filed Jan. 11 with the SEC.

The company, which provided educational and enrichment programs for children, moved from St. Augustine to Boise, Idaho, in 2019.

According to the annual report, Creative Learning moved back to St. Augustine and signed a one-year office lease Nov. 1, 2020. 

However, on Oct. 21, 2021, it signed a lease for an office in Milpitas, California, and moved there Nov. 1.

Creative Learning had only four full-time employees at the end of its fiscal year Sept. 30, the report said.

The company likely is moving again soon. It announced a deal in December to merge with an automobile dealer technology company called DriveItAway Inc.

Creative Learning intends to sell its education business to a company affiliated with its CEO, Chris Rego, and New Jersey-based DriveItAway will become the operating business of the company.

Creative Learning reported revenue of $2.2 million and net income of $324,902, or 2 cents a share, for fiscal 2021.

ComSoverign revenue jumps

ComSovereign Holding Corp. said Jan. 11 it expects 2021 revenue to exceed $15.8 million, a 68% increase from 2020.

The Dallas-based holding company for a group of communications technology businesses said revenue more than tripled in the fourth quarter to about $6 million.

The company was formed in late 2019 by the merger of ComSovereign Corp. and Jacksonville-based Drone Aviation Holding Corp.

The drone subsidiary continues to be headquartered in Jacksonville.

ComSovereign said strong activity in December contributed to its higher revenue.

“As a result of our significant investment into our manufacturing capabilities and inventory throughout 2021, we were positioned to capitalize on year-end demand from both new and existing customers,” CEO Dan Hodges said in a news release.

Azimuth receives more funding

Azimuth GRC Inc. said Jan. 11 it received a strategic investment from Truist Ventures, a venture capital division of Truist Financial Corp.

Founded in 2017, the Jacksonville-based company provides regulatory compliance technology for financial institutions. It did not announce the size of the investment.

The Truist investment follows a September announcement that venture capital firm Mosaik Partners led a round of financing for the company. 

Azimuth did not announce the size of that investment either but disclosed in an SEC filing a few days later that it sold $5.3 million in equity.

Lee Equity Partners invests in Therapy Partner Solutions

Lee Equity Partners said Jan. 14 that funds managed by the New York-based firm invested in Therapy Partner Solutions.

The Fernandina Beach-based company, founded in 2017, operates five companies providing services for the physical therapy industry.

TPS has offices in nine states employing more than 600 people.

Terms of the investment were not disclosed. 

Lee said the company’s senior management team and investor Walnut Grove Capital Partners will retain a “meaningful” equity investment in the business.

Co-founder and CEO Steve Chenoweth will continue to run the company.

CE Broker receives investment

CE Broker Inc. said Jan. 13 it received a strategic investment from Marlin Equity Partners. The amount of the investment was not disclosed.

Jacksonville-based CE Broker, founded in 2003, provides continuing education management and license verification software to the health care industry.

The company said the management team will remain in place, with CEO Brian Solano continuing to lead the company.

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