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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Aug. 29, 201905:10 AM EST

Stein Mart hopes new programs lift sales; Australian firm buying Patriot Rail

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Second-quarter sales slide, but fashion retailer rolling out new internet shopping tools, kids department and fine jewelry.
by: Mark Basch Contributing Writer

Stein Mart Inc. last week reported a drop in second-quarter sales, while expressing hope that new initiatives will turn the trend around in the second half of the fiscal year.

The Jacksonville-based fashion retailer said total sales in the quarter ended Aug. 3 fell 5.9% to $292.4 million and adjusted comparable-store sales (sales at stores open for more than one year) fell 1.9%.

Stein Mart had 283 stores operating at the end of the quarter, down from 289 in mid-2018. The company closed four stores in the first half of 2019, which it said completes its store plans for this year.

In a conference call with investors, CEO Hunt Hawkins said Stein Mart hopes several new programs will lift sales in the coming months.

“Our 2019 sales-driving initiatives were all planned for deployment in the back half of the year and are all beginning to roll out now,” he said.

“This gives us confidence that our comp sales trend will improve in the second half.”

The initiatives include new in-store mobile shopping technology and a buy online, pick up in-store option.

Stein Mart also launched a kids department this month and will begin offering a fine jewelry product line in October.

“We are very excited about the opportunities that these and other initiatives provide us to grow sales through higher traffic and new customer acquisitions throughout the fall and beyond,” Hawkins said.

Stein Mart recorded a net loss of $2.1 million, or 4 cents a share, in the quarter. 

While sales trends are down, Hawkins said the company is working to maintain better profit margins.

“We’ve been quite disciplined about maintaining an appropriate mix of our regular priced and clearance inventories,” he said.

Australian firm buying Patriot Rail

First State Investments announced an agreement Monday to buy Jacksonville-based Patriot Rail and Ports from SteelRiver Infrastructure Partners.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Patriot operates 12 short-line freight railroads with 585 track miles across 14 states. 

SteelRiver acquired the company in 2012. Transportation industry news outlets reported early this year the firm was looking to sell Patriot.

First State is an infrastructure investment firm headquartered in Sydney, Australia. It has an $8 billion global investment portfolio with a focus on midmarket companies in the transportation and utility sectors.

“Patriot is a great addition to our global infrastructure investment portfolio and provides further diversification by sector and geography,” said Danny Latham, a First State partner, in a news release.

Patriot expanded its business in 2017 by merging with Diversified Port Holdings, which operated a maritime ports logistics business.

Patriot’s ports business now provides terminal stevedoring, logistics and warehousing services across nine terminals and two cold-storage facilities in the Southeastern U.S.

Medtronic beats forecasts

Medtronic PLC’s stock rose to record highs last week after reporting better-than-expected earnings for its first quarter ended July 26, helped by strong sales at its Jacksonville-based division that makes surgical instruments for ear, nose and throat physicians.

The global medical technology company said total sales in the quarter rose 1.5% to $7.49 billion and sales in its ENT division grew by a mid-single-digit percentage. 

ENT sales were driven in part by sales of the company’s StealthStation ENT surgical navigation system. When that system was introduced two years ago, Medtronic said it’s a product that allows ENT surgeons to target patient anatomy similar to the way a GPS helps automobile navigation target a location.

Medtronic said it also had strong sales of an intraoperative nerve monitoring system for ENT surgeons.

The company does not release sales figures for the ENT business, which is part of its specialty therapies group. That division had total revenue of $322 million in the quarter, up 4.2% from the previous year.

Medtronic reported adjusted net income of $1.26 a share for the quarter, 9 cents higher than last year and 8 cents higher than the consensus forecast of analysts, according to Zacks Investment Research.

Medtronic also said it is increasing its adjusted earnings forecast for the full fiscal year by 10 cents a share to a range of $5.54 to $5.60. The company’s adjusted earnings were $5.22 a share in fiscal 2019.

After the earnings report, Medtronic’s stock jumped Aug. 20 as much as $5.52 to $109.70.

mCig CEO updates company plans

Jacksonville-based mCig Inc. has not yet filed its annual report for the fiscal year ended April 30, but its new co-chief executive officer last week updated shareholders on the outlook for the medical cannabis products and services company.

Mike Aertker, who joined mCig in July, said in a news release he is expecting better results from the company, which recorded sales of $1.9 million and a net loss of $1.6 million in the first nine months of the fiscal year.

“The past 12 months for mCig have not seen growth or innovation and this is reflected in our stock price,” he said. 

The stock has been trading below 10 cents since April.

“We are at an exciting time in the cannabis industry and there is a myriad of opportunities for us to both innovate and grow,” Aertker said.

“Our past failure to grow new business during this time and continue to innovate and increase our own efficiencies contributed to the performance we experienced,” he said.

Aertker, who has nearly 30 years of experience in biomedical engineering, said he joined mCig because he sees opportunities to expand the business.

“A greater emphasis will be placed on true vertical integration where mCig will have direct operations or investments in companies that will process raw product to final use consumer goods,” he said.

“We are working on several exciting projects that we strongly believe will result in the growth of mCig-owned assets and greater opportunity for participation in all phases of cannabis product development from harvest to retail product.

Aertker believes mCig can leverage opportunities in a growing global market.

“All estimates for the growth of the legal cannabis market in the US as well as overseas show that all sectors will experience significant growth in the next few years,” he said in the letter to shareholders.

Report: Merchants complain about Worldpay fees

In a lengthy story last week, Reuters news service said many small merchants have been complaining about fees charged by payment processing company Worldpay Inc., saying the company does not properly disclose its fees.

The practices were in place before Jacksonville-based Fidelity National Information Services Inc., or FIS, completed its $43 billion acquisition of Cincinnati-based Worldpay on July 31.

In response to Reuters, Worldpay said its fee practices are in line with industry practices and are properly disclosed.

FIS issued a statement to Reuters saying it engaged a third party to review Worldpay’s practices as part of its integration process after the acquisition.

“We take any concern over unfair practices very seriously,” FIS said in the statement, according to Reuters.

Shepherd’s Finance sees earnings tumble

Shepherd’s Finance LLC on Monday said second-quarter earnings fell 63% to $75,000, and earnings for the first half of the year fell 13% to $420,000.

The Jacksonville-based commercial lending company, which focuses on construction and development loans, had $50.4 million in loans receivable as of June 30 with 255 loans outstanding in 20 states.

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