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Basch Report
Jax Daily Record Monday, Dec. 11, 201706:50 AM EST

ParkerVision foes fight each other in patent disputes

Jacksonville company has claimed for years that tech giants have infringed on its patents.
by: Mark Basch Contributing Writer

For Jacksonville-based ParkerVision Inc., a court fight between two electronics giants has to be considered ironic.

Qualcomm Inc. and Apple Inc., two companies in the midst of patent disputes with ParkerVision, are going toe-to-toe with competing infringement lawsuits against each other.

In response to a federal lawsuit filed by Qualcomm in July alleging Apple was illegally using technology patented by Qualcomm, Apple filed a countersuit two weeks ago alleging Qualcomm was infringing on Apple patents.

A day later, Qualcomm filed three new patent infringement suits against Apple in federal court in California.

All this is going on while ParkerVision is continuing with its patent infringement claims against both Qualcomm and Apple.

Jeff Parker

ParkerVision has developed wireless technology that it says improves the performance of mobile communications devices and has been fighting with major electronics companies for years, alleging they have infringed on ParkerVision patents.

ParkerVision first brought suit against Qualcomm in 2011 and was awarded $173 million in damages after a jury trial in 2013. However, a federal judge in Orlando overturned the verdict, and ParkerVision’s subsequent appeals were rejected.

Meanwhile, ParkerVision has another lawsuit pending against both Qualcomm and Apple in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida in Jacksonville, with the next hearing in that case scheduled for January.

Separately, ParkerVision in 2016 filed an infringement lawsuit against Apple in Germany. After presenting arguments at a hearing in Munich last month, ParkerVision said the court asked for more information.

 “We welcome the court’s request for additional information, as we believe further clarification will only strengthen our infringement position and enable the court to reach a swift decision. We are working with German counsel to expedite the schedule for these next steps and anticipate that the court will continue to move at the same rapid pace that it has thus far,” CEO Jeff Parker said in a news release.

Ameris makes executive changes

Ameris Bancorp announced last week that its former chief financial officer, Dennis Zember, will become chief executive officer of subsidiary Ameris Bank on Jan. 1.

Edwin Hortman will remain president and CEO of the parent company. Zember will continue to serve as executive vice president and chief operating officer of the company.

To replace Zember as chief financial officer, Ameris promoted Nicole Stokes to executive vice president and CFO of the holding company. Stokes had been serving as chief financial officer of the bank subsidiary.

Ameris officially is headquartered in Moultrie, Georgia, but it moved its executive offices to Jacksonville last year.

‘Hunter Envy’ concerns analyst

After Hunter Harrison took steps to improve efficiency at two other major railroads, expectations were high that he would do the same at Jacksonville-based CSX Corp. when he became CEO in March.

However, Stifel analyst John Larkin thinks “Hunter Envy” may be hurting some railroads.

“Is the railroad industry ready to move to the era of customer focus and responsiveness? Or, is the implementation of Hunter Harrison’s precision railroading plan at CSX taking everyone’s eye off the ball (i.e., the customers)?” Larkin said in a report on the industry last week.

While still CEO of Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. in 2014, Harrison began pursuing possible mergers with the two major eastern U.S. railroads, CSX and Norfolk Southern Corp.

“That lit a fire under railroaders’ back sides, as his acquisition plans included an aggressive timetable for the implementation of his ‘patented’ precision railroading plan,” Larkin wrote.

“Carriers outlined plans to cut costs to demonstrate to shareholders that Mr. Harrison wasn’t the only one possessing the ability to slash capital spending and operating expenses,” he wrote.

“The result of these efforts has been to, in general, run longer, slower, heavier, less frequent trains. Not exactly a fit with Amazon’s redefining of customer expectations.”

Larkin thinks railroads should look beyond efficiency gains.

“We think there is a limit to how far a railroad can ride this ‘downsize your operation to prosperity’ strategy,” he wrote.

“A shift to a customer-focused approach doesn’t suggest that operating improvements are out of favor and shouldn’t be pursued. Instead, new operating strategies need to be pursued to provide faster, more time-definite services.”

Crowley Maritime restructures business lines

Jacksonville-based Crowley Maritime Corp. said last week it is restructuring its business lines, which will increase its focus on government-related business and better align vessel operations and fuel distribution services with customers.

Crowley is creating three main divisions for its nonliner and logistics businesses.

Crowley Shipping will encompass vessel ownership, operations and management services.

Crowley Fuels will include liquefied natural gas and other fuel sales.

Crowley Solutions includes engineering and project management services and a government business development team.

The company said it is continuing to consolidate its liner shipping and logistics units into a single division called Crowley Logistics.

“This plan facilitates a pivot towards growing the company’s government portfolio of work, building upon recent successes such as our recent $2.3 billion Defense Freight Transportation Services contract award and our current work with FEMA to bring much-needed supplies to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands,” CEO Tom Crowley said in a news release.

“The alignments within Crowley Shipping and Crowley Fuels better tie our markets, customers, processes and technology together to be more responsive, efficient and cost effective,” he said.

Foley firm completes deal

An investment firm run by Fidelity National Financial Inc. Chairman Bill Foley completed its first acquisition of an operating company at the end of November.

CF Corp. acquired Fidelity & Guaranty Life Insurance Co., which offers annuities and life insurance products, and changed its name to FGL Holdings.

Fidelity & Guaranty is not related to Fidelity National Financial.

CF was founded by Foley and former Blackstone Group dealmaker Chinh Chu and had been searching for acquisition targets after an initial public offering by the blank check company last year.

The company paid $1.835 billion in cash and assumed $405 million in debt to buy the insurance firm.

“FGL Holdings is a high-quality enterprise serving the retirement needs of an important market. We believe this transaction will enable us to generate meaningful returns for our shareholders and deliver best-in-class solutions for policyholders,” Foley said in a news release.

Although it had no prior connection to the insurance company, as part of the deal Fidelity National Financial became an investor in FGL.

Fidelity paid $135 million to buy 13.5 million shares of FGL and with additional warrants to buy stock, it controls 18.2 million shares, or 7.8 percent of FGL’s stock, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

FGL will be run by the insurance company’s previous management team, with Foley and Chu serving as co-chairmen of the board.

FGL trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “FG.”

Fidelity shrinking with spinoffs

Fidelity National Financial is a Fortune 500 company, but it is shrinking in size after spinning off two companies in the last two months.

Fidelity spun off its majority stake in Jacksonville-based mortgage technology company Black Knight Inc. at the end of the third quarter.

In an SEC filing last week, Fidelity said the spinoff would have reduced its 2016 revenue from $9.55 billion to $8.59 billion if the deal had been completed at the beginning of the year.

Fidelity also last month spun off its investment subsidiary into a separate company called Cannae Holdings Inc. It has not yet filed a pro forma statement to show its finances without the Cannae revenue.

Fidelity ranked 293rd in this year’s Fortune 500 rankings, based on its 2016 revenue. The company will drop in the rankings next year after the two spinoffs, but it will still be big enough to remain on the magazine’s list of the 500 largest U.S. companies.

Advanced Disposal director leaves

Advanced Disposal Services Inc. last week said a board member who was a designated director of Highstar Capital is resigning from the board as Highstar lowers its stake in the Ponte Vedra-based company.

Highstar controlled Advanced Disposal before its October 2016 initial public offering, holding 63.7 percent of the stock. After the IPO and two secondary stock sales since, Highstar’s stake has been reduced to 24.8 percent.

John Miller, a senior adviser to Highstar who had been the firm’s designated director, tendered his resignation from Advanced Disposal’s board last week, the company said.

Advanced Disposal said Miller’s departure is consistent with plans to have a board comprised of independent directors.

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