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Jeff Parker
Jax Daily Record Monday, May 19, 201412:00 PM EST

Legal battle overshadows all else at ParkerVision

by: Mark Basch Contributing Writer

ParkerVision Inc. last week issued its first-quarter report and, as has become customary with the Jacksonville-based technology company, the focus was less on its financial results and more on its ongoing legal battle with Qualcomm Inc.

In fact, during its quarterly conference call, Chairman and CEO Jeff Parker even said that the next “milestone” that shareholders should watch for is a final decision from a federal court judge on ParkerVision’s first patent infringement suit against Qualcomm.

To review, a federal jury awarded ParkerVision $173 million last year, deciding that Qualcomm has illegally used ParkerVision’s wireless technologies in its products. ParkerVision also is seeking additional royalties from Qualcomm for future use of the technology.

As the judge was listening to appeals of that verdict from both sides two weeks ago and ordering the two parties to try and reach an agreement on royalties, ParkerVision filed a second lawsuit against Qualcomm and added Qualcomm customer HTC Corp. to the suit.

Parker said in last week’s call that the second lawsuit also involves the illegal use of patented ParkerVision technology in wireless products but “the technologies in this new case were distinctly different from those in our first case.”

“With regard to possible damages in the second infringement case, any estimates will be premature at this point,” Parker said. “The only guidance I can give you at this time is that similar to our first case, we believe the infringement of some of our patents dates back to devices that were introduced into the marketplace in 2006.”

Since Qualcomm is appealing the verdict from the first lawsuit, ParkerVision still hasn’t seen any of the $173 million. It also is not selling its technology to other potential vendors, so it again reported no revenue for the first quarter and a net loss of $5.8 million.

Parker still sounded hopeful that the company will close deals to sell its technology in the not-too-distant future.

“I think the milestones investors should focus on are announcements of meaningful revenue generating agreements which we anticipate will be forthcoming during the year,” he said.

However, that milestone is taking a backseat behind a final decision in the first court case.

Fortegra beats forecasts

Fortegra Financial Corp. last week reported higher-than-expected first-quarter earnings.

The Jacksonville-based insurance services firm reported adjusted earnings from continuing operations of 19 cents a share, up from 11 cents last year and 3 cents higher than the average analysts’ forecast, according to Thomson Financial.

Sandler O’Neill & Partners analyst Paul Newsome said in a research note that the earnings beat resulted from a higher profit margin that offset lower-than-expected revenue and a higher-than-expected effective tax rate.

Fortegra’s revenue from continuing operations rose 13 percent to $90.5 million, but Newsome had forecast $103.1 million.

Newsome said one “interesting development” in the quarter was that Fortegra “was able to take advantage of a competitor’s exit from the market quicker than it had previously anticipated.”

As Chairman and CEO Richard Kahlbaugh explained in the company’s conference call with analysts, Fortegra saw an opportunity when a competitor abandoned a segment of the payment protection business and the company took “swift action” to gain some of that business.

Fortegra had previously predicted it could gain $50 million to $60 million in revenue this year from that business but Kahlbaugh said the company is already on target to exceed that goal.

“The important takeaway here is that we were able to win a considerable amount of business thus far because of our reputation for service, industry knowledge and technology capabilities,” Kahlbaugh said.

“That is who Fortegra is and we think that bodes well for our future,” he said.

Jacksonville Bancorp cuts 16 jobs

Jacksonville Bancorp Inc. said Thursday it was cutting 16 positions, or 16 percent of its workforce.

The parent company of The Jacksonville Bank said in a news release that the cuts “will better align the company’s and the bank’s processes and procedures with the best industry practices and standards.”

This followed an announcement that Jacksonville Bancorp had a basically break-even first quarter with minimal net income of $26,000, which translated into 0 cents per share.

The company was profitable in the second and third quarters last year but finished 2013 with a net loss of $960,000. The company has lost money for four straight years.

“The last six years have been very difficult for us and our industry in general but we have weathered the storm,” President and CEO Kendall Spencer said in the earnings news release.

“Our healthy capital position coupled with the ongoing resolution of our credit issues supports our core strategy to build a strong balance sheet that will result in solid sustainable earnings,” he said.

Jacksonville Bancorp’s ratio of average capital to average assets was 6.9 percent during the first quarter.

The company’s non-performing loans as a percentage of total loans decreased slightly from 4.59 percent at the end of 2013 to 4.37 percent as of March 31.

Non-performing loans are loans that are at least 90 days overdue or are not being repaid at all.

Dick’s Wings owner increases revenue

American Restaurant Concepts Inc., the franchisor of the Dick’s Wings & Grill restaurant chain, reported a first-quarter net loss of $95,663, but revenue rose 39 percent to $127,758.

“Royalties from our franchisees continue to drive revenue growth. We expect this trend to continue as we open new restaurants,” CEO Richard Akam said in a news release.

The latest Dick’s Wings restaurant opened last week on Youngerman Circle in Jacksonville. That brings the number of restaurants in the chain to 17.

American Restaurant Concepts also this year acquired a 50 percent stake in a Salt Lake City-based restaurant chain called Wing Nutz, as part of a plan to expand with other restaurant brands.

The company, which is planning to change its name to ARC Holdings Inc., is officially headquartered in Louisiana but its corporate offices are in Jacksonville.

PSS deal helps McKesson results

McKesson Corp. last week reported a big jump in earnings for the fourth quarter ended March 31, helped by its acquisition last year of Jacksonville-based PSS World Medical Inc.

The San Francisco-based health care services giant reported adjusted earnings of $2.55 a share, up from $1.48 the previous year and 15 cents higher than the average analysts’ forecast, according to Thomson.

“During the fourth quarter, we passed the one-year anniversary of the PSS acquisition and we continue to perform well against our original expectations,” Chairman and CEO John Hammergren said in a news release.

McKesson said revenue in its medical-surgical distribution and services division rose 28 percent in the fourth quarter and 57 percent for the full fiscal year, in large part due to the PSS acquisition.

The company’s total revenue rose 25 percent in the fourth quarter to $38.1 billion and 13 percent for the full year to $137.6 billion.

McKesson’s stock rose $5.77 to $180 Tuesday after the earnings report.

Convergys beats estimates

Convergys Corp.’s stock also rose Tuesday after its earnings beat forecasts.

The Cincinnati-based company, which provides outsourced customer management services, reported first-quarter earnings from continuing operations of 32 cents a share, up from 28 cents last year and 3 cents higher than the average analysts’ forecast, according to Thomson.

The company is projecting full-year earnings to rise by more than 30 percent to $1.45 to $1.50 a share.

Convergys also announced its board of directors approved a 1-cent increase in the quarterly dividend to 7 cents a share.

After the earnings report, the company’s stock rose as much as $2.26 to $24.26 in early trading Tuesday, near its 52-week high.

Convergys employed about 1,200 people in Jacksonville at the beginning of this year, but it filed a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification in January saying 250 jobs could be cut by March 31.

Convergys said the notice was filed because of a client program that was leaving the company, but it said some of the affected workers could be reassigned to other positions in the company.

Jacksonville insurer agrees to buyout

United Insurance Holdings Corp., a publicly traded company based in St. Petersburg, announced an agreement Thursday to buy Jacksonville-based Sunshine State Insurance Co.

Privately owned Sunshine State offers property insurance mainly in Northeast and North Central Florida, and had gross written premiums of $68 million last year.

United Insurance Holdings, which offers property and casualty insurance in Florida and six other states, reported $89 million in gross written premiums in the first quarter this year.

United Insurance Holdings said it expects to retain Sunshine State’s management and employees after closing the deal.

Terms of the deal were not announced.

Gannett buying 6 more TV stations

Gannett Co. Inc. continues expanding its television business with an agreement last week to buy six stations in Texas from London Broadcast Corp.

Gannett, which owns WTLV TV-12 and WJXX TV-25 in Jacksonville, nearly doubled its portfolio to 40 stations in December by acquiring Belo Corp.

Gannett is paying $215 million to buy the six stations in Texas. The deal is expected to close this summer.

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