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Jax Daily Record Monday, Mar. 10, 201412:00 PM EST

Patent firm becoming city's newest public company

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by: Mark Basch Contributing Writer

By the end of this month, a company that says it is “engaged in the business of patent licensing and assertion of rights under patents” should become Jacksonville’s newest public company.

MVP Portfolio LLC, headquartered in Deerwood Park, will become public basically by merging with an existing public company called California Gold Corp. The resulting publicly traded company will be renamed MV Portfolios Inc.

According to Securities and Exchange Commission filings, MVP currently owns a portfolio of eight issued and 16 pending patents related to “video drive-by” and online mapping technology.

“The patents disclose systems and methods for providing video drive-by data to enable a street level view of a neighborhood surrounding a geographic location,” the SEC filings said.

The filings don’t say how this technology is different from other street-view mapping applications currently available on the Internet, but the company did say that it plans to “enforce its intellectual property rights through litigation against, and/or licensing with, any companies that are believed to be infringing certain of the patents owned by MVP.”

MVP also intends to seek acquisition opportunities of other intellectual property and technology which may or may not be related to its current patents.

The company’s founder and CEO is William Meadow, who has started several companies in the past, including a Jacksonville real estate finance company called Real Mortgage Systems Inc.

“MVP has gathered an experienced team of investors and patent experts who will focus on licensing our portfolio. We look forward to providing updates to our shareholders as we achieve future milestones,” Meadow said in a news release.

Executive Vice President Shea Ralph said last week that the company isn’t ready to comment further on its activities until it completes the transaction with California Gold Corp.

California Gold Corp. has been engaged in mineral exploration in the metals mining sector. The company’s SEC filings show no revenue for that business, which will no longer be a part of the company after the merger.

The filings do not give any financial data for MVP’s business.

The stock currently trades in the OTC market under the ticker symbol “CLGL,” but the stock will get a new symbol after the name change becomes effective.

Web.com acquires domain name auction firm

Web.com Group Inc. last week announced it acquired SnapNames, a company that conducts daily online auction sales of Internet domain names.

Jacksonville-based Web.com, which provides website development services for businesses, said the acquisition will complement its other businesses.

“This acquisition enables us to enhance our existing domain related assets and provide additional services for customers who are looking for specific domain name addresses. In today’s expanding domain resale marketplace, SnapNames is a global industry leader with experience and expertise in domain lifecycle management and auction services,” Chairman and CEO David Brown said in a news release.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed and Web.com did not provide any financial data for SnapNames, but it said it expects the deal to be “immaterial” to its 2014 financial results.

General Atlantic again reduces Web.com stake

Meanwhile last week, an investment firm that was Web.com’s largest shareholder a couple of years ago became an insignificant investor in the company.

General Atlantic LLC said in an SEC filing that it sold a total of 743,551 Web.com shares in three separate transactions last week, reducing its stake in the company to about 1.8 million shares, or 3.5 percent of the total shares outstanding.

Investors are only considered significant shareholders if they own 5 percent or more, so General Atlantic will no longer have to submit SEC filings for its investment in Web.com.

The Greenwich, Conn., investment firm became the largest shareholder of Web.com after Web.com’s 2011 acquisition of Network Solutions. General Atlantic was the majority owner of Network Solutions and ended up with about one-third of Web.com’s stock after the merger.

However, General Atlantic gradually began selling off blocks of its Web.com shares last year, reducing its stake in the company.

According to recent SEC filings, Fidelity Investments — the Boston-based mutual firm that is not related to the Fidelity companies headquartered in Jacksonville — is now the largest Web.com shareholder with 15 percent of the stock.

Two Jacksonville credit unions plan merger

Two Jacksonville-based credit unions, First Florida Credit Union and State Employees Credit Union, said last week they have signed a merger agreement.

The merged institution, which will operate under the First Florida Credit Union name, would be among the 20 largest Florida-based credit unions with nearly 60,000 members and more than $700 million in assets, they said.

The two credit unions said no layoffs are planned after the merger. First Florida CEO Brent Lister will serve as chief executive and State Employees CEO Paul Numbers will serve as president.

The merger will need approval from credit union regulators and from the members of the State Employees Credit Union. The two institutions hope to complete the merger in July.

Weather hurts Stein Mart sales

After a strong sales year in fiscal 2013, the harsh winter weather helped send Stein Mart Inc.’s sales lower in the first month of fiscal 2014.

The Jacksonville-based fashion retailer reported total sales for the four weeks ended March 1 fell 2.5 percent to $84.5 million and comparable-store sales — sales at stores open for more than one year — fell 2.1 percent.

Stein Mart said in a news release that comparable-store sales rose in Florida and Texas but “most other areas experienced sales declines due to severe winter weather, with the Northeast and Midwest being impacted the most.”

Stein Mart had 264 stores in operation at the end of February, compared with 263 a year earlier.

Landstar defies winter weather

You would think a trucking company would have a particular tough time when harsh winter weather makes roads impassable in much of the country. However, Jacksonville-based Landstar System Inc. didn’t seem to be impacted at all.

In his mid-quarter conference call update last week, Landstar Chairman and CEO Henry Gerkens said January revenue was 4.1 percent higher than last year and February revenue was up about 7 percent, with the company increasing both volume and revenue per load.

“The overall revenue increase in the first two months of 2014 was despite the adverse weather conditions experienced across much of the United States,” Gerkens said.

He also said the positive trends have continued into March.

Gerkens said he remains “very comfortable” with Landstar’s previous forecast of revenue of $640 million to $690 million in the first quarter and earnings per share between 56 cents and 61 cents. That compares with revenue from continuing operations of $623 million and earnings of 55 cents a share in the first quarter of 2013, which is generally the company’s slowest quarter of the year.

“We are clearly off to a good and fast start in 2014,” he said.

“We are encouraged by the improving load volumes in some of our existing accounts and the load volumes being generated by new agents. All of that, coupled with pricing power, is a great combination as we begin 2014.”

Publix increases sales and earnings

Publix Super Markets Inc. last week reported total fourth-quarter sales rose 5.3 percent to $7.4 billion and comparable-store sales rose 4.3 percent.

The Lakeland-based supermarket chain said earnings in the quarter rose 7.4 percent to $422 million, or 54 cents a share.

The company’s stock is not publicly traded and is made available only to Publix employees. Publix said based on the latest appraisal, its stock price increased from $30 on Nov. 1 to $30.15 as of March 1.

Samsonite extends lease on distribution center

Samsonite LLC apparently plans to keep running its North American distribution center in North Jacksonville for quite some time.

Global Income Trust Inc., which bought the 817,632-square-foot distribution center in Imeson International Industrial Park for $42.5 million in 2012, said in an SEC filing last week that the expiration date on Samsonite’s lease has been extended from February 2018 to November 2024.

The amended lease also includes two five-year renewal options that could extend the lease through 2034.

Samsonite was given four month of free rent this year and an additional nine months of free rent in 2024 as an incentive to sign the extension, the company said in the filing.

Orlando-based Global Income Trust said Samsonite is its largest domestic tenant, in terms of revenue.

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