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Basch Report
Jax Daily Record Thursday, Mar. 11, 202105:20 AM EST

Publix finishes strong in 2020

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Pandemic-related buying sparked big sales increases.
by: Mark Basch Contributing Writer

Publix Super Markets Inc. reported big gains in sales and earnings, as consumers eating at home during the COVID-19 pandemic continued to stock up at its supermarkets.

Lakeland-based Publix reported last week that fourth-quarter sales rose 14.8% to $11.2 billion, with about $850 million in additional sales related to the pandemic impact.

Adjusted earnings rose by 39 cents a share to $1.32.

Sales for all of 2020 rose 17.7% to $38.1 billion, including $4.6 billion attributed to pandemic-related sales. Adjusted earnings rose by $1.60 to $5.27 a share.

At the end of 2020, Publix operated 1,264 supermarkets in seven states, including 816 in Florida.

 Publix also said its stock price increased from $57.95 on Nov. 1 to $60.20 as of March 1.

The stock is not publicly traded and is made available for sale only to Publix employees, with the price determined by appraisals five times a year.

The appraised price is 27.8% higher than the price of $47.10 at the beginning of 2020. That’s far better than the overall performance of grocery stocks in that period.

The Dow Jones U.S. Food Retail & Wholesale Index rose 12.2% from the beginning of 2020 to the beginning of March 2021, with the index falling in the first two months of this year as investors expect shopping habits to return to normal.

Jacksonville-based Southeastern Grocers Inc., parent of Winn-Dixie and three other supermarket chains, was hoping to go public in January. But it pulled the IPO before coming to the market amid weak investor interest in grocery stocks.

Publix said in its annual report the appraisal process for its stock includes measuring its financial results with other comparable publicly traded companies.

Michaels going private again

For the second time in 15 years, The Michaels Companies Inc. is going private.

The Texas-based arts and crafts dealer, which has a distribution center in Jacksonville, announced an agreement last week by funds managed by Apollo Global Management Inc. to buy the company.

Michaels said it received an unsolicited offer to buy the company for $22 a share, $7 higher than its trading price in late February when word first leaked about a potential buyout.

“Following that offer, the board undertook a comprehensive process to test the market and to evaluate the value maximizing path forward for shareholders. The Board of Directors, informed by that process, firmly believes Apollo’s offer represents a compelling value to our shareholders,” board Chairman James Quella said in a news release.

“As a private company, we will have financial flexibility to invest in, expand, and improve our retail and digital platforms,” CEO Ashley Buchanan said in the release.

Michaels first was bought out in 2006 by private equity firms Blackstone Group LLC and Bain Capital LLC. 

That ownership group took the company public again in 2014 with an initial public offering.

Michaels, which operates 1,275 stores, also has benefited from pandemic-related buying, with customers taking on arts and crafts projects while stuck at home.

Sales rose 11.3% in the fourth quarter ended Jan. 30 to $1.92 billion, with sales at stores open for more than one year rising 12.9%. 

Earnings rose by 43 cents a share to $1.69.

The company released earnings a day after announcing the buyout, so it provided no commentary on the fourth-quarter results.

ComSovereign acquires Israeli drone company

ComSovereign Holding Corp. said last week it acquired Sky Sapience, an Israel-based company that develops tethered aerial rotorcraft platforms for defense, homeland security and commercial markets.

Dallas-based ComSovereign was formed in late 2019 through a merger with Jacksonville-based Drone Aviation Holding Corp., which makes tethered, unmanned aerial vehicles including lighter-than-air aerostats and drones.

The Drone Aviation business continues to be headquartered in Jacksonville.

The Sky Sapience deal was valued at $12.7 million, consisting of $2.7 million in cash and 2.55 million shares of ComSovereign stock.

Chandler leaves Regency for CEO position

A top executive of Jacksonville-based Regency Centers Corp. is leaving to become CEO of another real estate investment trust.

Dan “Mac” Chandler will become president and chief executive of California-based PS Business Parks Inc., which develops and operates industrial, flex and office properties.

Chandler joined Regency in 1999 and served in various roles with the shopping center developer, most recently as executive vice president and chief investment officer.

He worked out of Regency’s Los Angeles office, according to the company’s website.

His predecessor at PS Business Parks, Maria Hawthorne, took a medical leave of absence in April 2020 and retired in September.

FRP reports lower earnings

Jacksonville-based FRP Holdings Inc. reported fourth-quarter earnings of 4 cents a share, down from 25 cents in the fourth quarter of 2019.

The commercial real estate developer said last week that lower interest rates in 2020 caused its investment income to decline, and losses from joint venture projects also depressed earnings.

Duos back in Nasdaq compliance

Jacksonville-based Duos Technologies Group Inc. said last week in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it raised new capital that should put it in compliance with Nasdaq Capital Market listing requirements.

Duos, which provides intelligent security analytical technology with a focus on railroad industry applications, said in last week’s filing it sold $4.5 million in preferred stock to certain existing investors in the company.

CoStar withdraws CoreLogic bid

The battle for control of housing data firm CoreLogic Inc. may finally be over.

CoreLogic agreed to a buyout last month for $80 a share in cash by funds managed by Stone Point Capital and Insight Partners. 

After the agreement was announced, commercial real estate data firm CoStar Group Inc. sent an unsolicited proposal to buy CoreLogic for CoStar stock.

CoreLogic’s board last week rejected CoStar’s bid but invited CoStar to submit a revised offer.

CoStar responded by withdrawing its offer, citing the impact of rising mortgage rates.

“These rising interest rates have caused valuations for residential property technology companies to decline significantly in recent weeks, which has changed CoStar’s view of the value of CoreLogic,” CoStar said in a news release.

The battle to buy CoreLogic began in June 2020 when Cannae Holdings Inc., the investment firm spun off from Jacksonville-based Fidelity National Financial Inc., teamed with another firm to make an unsolicited bid that was rejected by CoreLogic.

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