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Jax Daily Record Monday, May 23, 201612:00 PM EST

Parkway Properties leaving Jacksonville after Cousins merger

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Parkway Properties Inc. agreed to merge into Cousins Properties Inc. to form what the companies call a “premier Sun Belt urban office REIT.”

However, this Sun Belt strategy does not include Jacksonville.

The merger agreement includes a plan to sell off Parkway’s office portfolio in Jacksonville, which consists of the Deerwood North, Deerwood South and JTB Center properties on the Southside and the Stein Mart building near the Southbank.

The buildings totaling 1.47 million square feet of space are 96.2 percent leased, according to Parkway’s first-quarter report.

Parkway last year sold the 113,000-square-foot Riverplace South building and its 30 percent interest in the 137,000-square-foot 245 Riverside building.

Parkway and Cousins did not mention the decision to sell the remaining Jacksonville buildings in their joint news release announcing the merger on April 29 and, according to transcripts the companies posted of their conference call with analysts, they didn’t even talk about it.

However, there was a reference on the presentation materials for the conference call about “planned Jacksonville asset sales.” The four properties were also listed on the merger agreement as part of a brief item titled “asset sales.”

Victor Hughes, managing director of Parkway’s Jacksonville office, referred questions about the plans to Parkway’s corporate office in Orlando, but the public relations firm handling media inquiries for the merger did not respond to a voice mail message.

Atlanta-based Cousins, which will be the surviving company after the merger, said it will have 41 office properties in Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Phoenix, Orlando and Tampa when the deal is complete.

The merger plan also calls for properties in Houston owned by Cousins and Parkway to be spun off into a separate public company.

ParkerVision testing Wi-Fi product

It’s been years since ParkerVision Inc. brought a product to the market using its wireless radio technology but during its quarterly conference call last week, CEO Jeff Parker said the company is testing a new product that enhances in-home Wi-Fi use.

ParkerVision is “not quite ready to take the wraps off this product,” he said, but it is field-testing prototypes in “challenging wireless environments” where Wi-Fi service could be spotty.

“Our approach is designed for those who are looking to gain access in Wi-Fi where they may not currently have it or where the access is slow, including those who want complete coverage even in very large homes and who want to enjoy fast data speeds throughout,” Parker said.

The product would provide “coverage, data speed and reliability at a cost and simplicity” that would be attractive to consumers, he said.

“This is the result of the many years of investment ParkerVision has made and these products will take advantage of reaching these goals through the use of several of our RF and wireless innovations,” he said.

Most of the attention on ParkerVision in recent years has been on various legal actions it has brought against wireless device manufacturers for patent infringement claims.

Its most recent case, brought against several companies, is scheduled for trial at the International Trade Commission starting Aug. 24, Parker said.

ParkerVision did record $59,420 in revenue in the first quarter for engineering services for wireless product testing for a customer.

“Although the primary focus of our streamlined engineering organization is on bringing a new product to market, our ability to deploy our staff expertise in supporting third-party projects on a limited basis has proven successful and will certainly be an area where we will continue to consider good opportunities from time to time,” Chief Financial Officer Cindy Poehlman said in the conference call.

The minimal revenue was of course not nearly enough to match ParkerVision’s expenses. The company recorded a net loss of $5.1 million, or 45 cents a share, in the first quarter.

Stein Mart seeks younger market

Stein Mart Inc. reported lower comparable-store sales (sales at stores open for more than one year) in the first quarter and in her first public comments since taking over as CEO, Dawn Robertson said she is looking to attract younger customers to the stores to lift sales.

Stein Mart on Thursday reported earnings of 30 cents a share for the first quarter ended April 30, a penny higher than last year and 4 cents higher than the average analysts’ forecast, according to Thomson Financial.

However, comparable-store sales – a key metric for retailers – dropped 3.4 percent. The Jacksonville-based fashion retailer had been providing monthly updates on sales but in this fiscal year, it is only reporting sales on a quarterly basis so this was Stein Mart’s first sales data for fiscal 2016.

“Over the past several months most apparel retailers have experienced lackluster traffic to their stores. We need to change that for Stein Mart,” Robertson said in the company’s conference call with analysts.

“We’re looking at ways to increase traffic by ensuring our current customer increases her visits and converts each visit to sale,” said Robertson, who was appointed in March.

“We’re also working on a strategy to attract a modern customer that includes our current demographics and a slightly younger attitudinal customer. I firmly believe that this expansion of our customer base can have a significant impact on sales,” she said.

Stein Mart’s traditional target market has been women older than 35 and Robertson said the company will target younger shoppers “very cautiously, not alienating our current customer base, while testing this younger thinking for our longer-term growth.”

Two analysts upgrade EverBank

EverBank Financial Corp. held an uneventful annual meeting Thursday, but shareholders should have been pleased last week because two analysts upgraded their rating on the Jacksonville-based bank’s stock.

Compass Point analyst Jesus Bueno raised his rating from “neutral” to “buy” based on its low current price.

“Although concerns remain surrounding EverBank’s capital levels, the potential for higher funding costs, and the bank’s low level of reserves, we believe downside is limited with shares trading so close to tangible book value,” Bueno said in his research note.

Meanwhile, Sandler O’Neill analyst Matthew Forgotson raised his rating on EverBank from “hold” to “buy,” saying the stock appears to be oversold.

“We have been arguing that a couple quarters were necessary to stabilize street expectations and potentially re-rate the stock higher. Management has delivered – first executing a significant rebound in the fourth quarter and then posting a solid, in-line first quarter,” Forgotson said in his note.

Regency buys Virginia shopping center

Regency Centers Corp. last week announced a major investment in a mixed-used development in Arlington, Va., called Market Common Clarendon.

Jacksonville-based Regency is paying $285.7 million to buy the 300,000-square-foot retail portion of the development, with anchors including Whole Foods Market and other high-end retailers.

Meanwhile, AvalonBay Communities is buying the residential portion of the community consisting of 300 apartments.

Black Knight buys document processor

Jacksonville-based Black Knight Financial Services Inc. last week announced it acquired eLynx, a company that provides technology for document management.

Black Knight, which provides technology services for mortgage lenders, said this is its first acquisition since it became a publicly traded company a year ago.

Black Knight did not announce terms of the deal but the seller, American Capital Ltd., said Black Knight paid $115 million.

CSX still sees volume drop

CSX Corp. Chief Financial Officer Frank Lonegro told an investor conference last week that the Jacksonville-based railroad is still seeing volume declines in most of its markets.

While the company continues to work on efficiency initiatives that will save more than $250 million, it will not be enough to offset “market forces,” which will result in CSX’s first full-year earnings decline since the recession, he said.

Of course, everyone already anticipated that. Analysts had been forecasting full-year earnings ranging from $1.67 to $1.89 a share, according to Thomson, which would be lower than CSX’s 2015 earnings of $2 a share.

Dick’s Wings owner growing revenue

ARC Group Inc., franchisor of the Dick’s Wings & Grill restaurant chain, reported net income of $100,642, or 2 cents a share, for the first quarter.

Revenue rose 38 percent to $308,615.

CEO Richard Akam said in a news release that he expects second-quarter revenue and earnings to be higher than the first quarter.

“We will continue to focus on revenue generation and cost containment throughout 2016 so as to continue strengthening our balance sheet,” he said.

ARC Group is officially headquartered in Louisiana but its corporate office is in Jacksonville.

Duos revenue declines

Duos Technologies Group Inc. last week said first-quarter revenue fell 9 percent to about $1 million. The Jacksonville-based company, which provides intelligent security analytical technology solutions, said the decline was caused by the delay of two projects which were expected to begin in the quarter.

Duos had a net loss of $838,381, or 1 cent a share, in the quarter.

General Employment reports profit

General Employment Enterprises Inc. reported adjusted earnings of $203,000 for the second quarter ended March 31, reversing a loss in the previous year’s second quarter.

Revenue more than doubled to $21.7 million, helped by acquisitions made in the past year.

General Employment is an Illinois-based staffing company run by Jacksonville executive Derek Dewan.

“General Employment will continue to build out its geographic footprint, expand the company’s national delivery network and broaden its service offerings in the information technology, engineering, healthcare and finance and accounting specialty staffing sectors,” Dewan said in a news release.

NAC increases revenue

NAC Global Technologies Inc. last week filed its delayed annual report, which showed revenue rose 11 percent in 2015 to $684,274. However, the company had a net loss of $1.75 million, or 6 cents, for the year.

Meanwhile, the company filed a statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission saying its first-quarter report will be delayed.

NAC, which has a small Jacksonville headquarters office, makes harmonic gearing technology and recently announced a deal to buy a Switzerland-based company which it said will bring more than $30 million in annual revenue.

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