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Jax Daily Record Monday, Mar. 16, 201512:00 PM EST

Stein Mart's biggest concern: weather

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As Stein Mart Inc. continues to report strong sales increases, it seems the company’s biggest concern is the weather.

During the company’s quarterly conference call last week to discuss fiscal 2014 earnings, CEO Jay Stein said sales were off to a great start in fiscal 2015 before winter weather got in the way.

Comparable-store sales, or sales at stores open for more than one year, were up 2.6 percent in February, the first month of the new fiscal year. However, sales for the Jacksonville-based fashion retailer could have been better if the weather had cooperated.

“Notably, the combined comp store sales increase for Arizona, California and Florida, the few states that were not impacted by this inclement weather, was up triple our chainwide 2.6 increase,” Stein said.

“And we’re encouraged by the first few days of March, which like February, is an indication that our customers are responding very well to our spring merchandise,” he said.

Stein Mart reported adjusted earnings of 32 cents a share for the fourth quarter ended Jan. 31, a penny higher than last year but 3 cents higher than the average analysts’ forecast, according to Thomson Financial.

The company doesn’t make earnings forecasts, but Stein expressed optimism about results going forward.

“We hope spring is here to stay. With the early endorsement of our merchandise by many customers and this year’s early Easter, we expect a great launch and we’re looking forward to that,” he said.

During the conference call, Stein Mart officials said the company recently signed a new lease to keep its headquarters space at 1200 Riverplace Blvd. In response to an analyst’s question about office space, Stein said the company doesn’t need any additional space to accommodate the company’s overall growth.

“Trust me, we turned down some opportunities to get a lot of office space in this city that would have cost us more, but we don’t need it,” he said.

Company officials did not give details about its lease renewal.

Landstar System maintains forecast

Weather is also affecting Jacksonville-based trucking company Landstar System Inc.

During his mid-quarter conference call update last week, CEO Jim Gattoni said Landstar had a strong increase in revenue in the first two months of the first quarter, but trends so far have been “inconsistent” in March.

“The inconsistent trend appears to be related to the recent bad weather that has affected a significant portion of the U.S.,” Gattoni said.

Revenue rose about 15 percent in the first eight weeks of the quarter, due to a 7 percent rise in the number of loads hauled by Landstar’s trucks and a 7 percent increase in revenue per load.

However, the growth in loads hasn’t kept pace so far in March, and the company expects a low to mid-single-digit percentage increase for March.

He said the inconsistent trend is making it difficult to forecast revenue for March, but the company remains “comfortable” with its previous first-quarter earnings estimate of 71 cents to 76 cents a share. Landstar earned 61 cents in the first quarter of 2014.

ADS reports loss after interest expenses

ADS Waste Holdings Inc., the parent company of Advanced Disposal, tripled its operating earnings in 2014, according to its annual report filed last week with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

However, the waste management company reported a final net loss of $17.1 million after interest expenses.

Operating income rose from $22.1 million in 2013 to $69.4 million last year “as a result of organic growth, full year impact of acquisitions, decreased selling, general and administrative costs, and lower restructuring charges,” the company said in its report.

Revenue rose 6.4 percent to $1.403 billion.

ADS, headquartered in the Nocatee development in St. Johns County, says it is the nation’s largest privately owned non-hazardous solid waste management company, in terms of revenue.

IberiaBank completes Florida Bank deal

After completing its acquisition of Florida Bank Group Inc. on Feb. 28, IberiaBank Corp. expects to begin operating the former Florida Bank branches under the IberiaBank name today.

Tampa-based Florida Bank had 13 offices, including two in Jacksonville and one in Ponte Vedra Beach.

Lafayette, La.-based IberiaBank announced the deal in October to acquire Florida Bank for $90 million in cash and stock.

Florida Bank had $571 million in assets as of Dec. 31. IberiaBank had assets of $15.8 billion.

The deal marks IberiaBank’s re-entry into the Jacksonville market. The company in 2009 acquired the failed CapitalSouth Bank, an Alabama-based institution that had three Northeast Florida branches. However, IberiaBank closed those Jacksonville area offices in 2012.

EverBank’s largest stockholder selling 2.6 million shares

EverBank Financial Corp.’s largest stockholder is selling part of its stake in the Jacksonville-based banking company.

According to an SEC filing, Sageview Partners plans to sell 2.6 million of its EverBank shares, which will still leave the investment firm with 10.3 million shares, or 8.3 percent of all shares outstanding.

Sageview owned those shares before EverBank’s 2012 initial public offering.

Another investor, the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America, is selling all of its 310,801 EverBank shares, according to the filing.

International Baler reports loss

International Baler Corp. reported a net loss of $18,542 in the first quarter ended Jan. 31, according to a report filed with the SEC. Sales fell 19 percent to $3.18 million.

The Jacksonville-based company said the loss and the sales drop were the result of no shipments of synthetic rubber balers during the quarter.

The company also said it had about $250,000 in shipments of balers moved from the first quarter to the second by its customers.

Latitude 360 hires new CFO

Jacksonville-based Latitude 360 Inc. last week announced the hiring of Alan Greenstein as its new chief financial officer. Greenstein has worked in the hospitality, gaming and banking industries for 30 years, most recently as CFO for Revel Entertainment Group Inc. in Atlantic City, N.J.

Greenstein replaces Kenneth Adams, who will be working with the international franchisor for Latitude 360. The company, which operates dining and entertainment venues, also last week announced a franchise agreement with a Qatar company to expand the Latitude 360 brand to the Middle East.

Strong dollar could hurt FIS

The strengthening U.S. dollar could cause Jacksonville-based Fidelity National Information Services Inc., or FIS, to miss its earnings projections this year, according to one analyst.

As it reported yearend earnings of $3.10 a share last month, FIS projected 2015 earnings from continuing operations of $3.37 to $3.49.

However, the Brazilian Real has depreciated by about 20 percent since then and the Euro has also fallen, Robert W. Baird analyst David Koning said in a research note last week.

As a result, Koning is lowering his earnings forecast for FIS from $3.40 a share to $3.34, which is below the company’s guidance range.

FIS, which provides technology services for financial institutions, generated about 22 percent of its 2014 revenue from international operations. The company did warn about currency rates having a negative impact on its earnings in its 2015 forecast, but Koning thinks the recent currency movements will create a bigger impact than the company predicted.

“We think guidance would be about $3.30-$3.44 if management used updated foreign exchange rates,” he said.

Pantry shareholders approve buyout

Shareholders of The Pantry Inc. last week nearly unanimously approved the company’s $1.7 billion acquisition by Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., a French Canadian convenience store operator.

The Pantry, which operates the Kangaroo Express convenience store chain, said 99 percent of votes were cast in favor of the deal. The Pantry stockholders will receive $36.75 a share in cash, which is $7.89 higher than the stock price before news of the buyout was reported in December.

The Pantry is a widely held stock, with officers and directors owning only 3.8 percent of the shares, according to the company’s proxy statement.

The North Carolina-based company operates 1,509 stores in 13 states, mostly under the Kangaroo banner.

Jacksonville is the second-largest market behind Charlotte for The Pantry, with about 250 stores in the region that includes cities outside the five-county Jacksonville metropolitan area.

The Pantry became a major player in the market when it acquired Lil’ Champ, a homegrown Jacksonville convenience store chain, in 1997. The company eventually converted all of its area stores to Kangaroo.

Gannett hires former WTLV news director

Gannett Co. Inc. last week named a former news director of WTLV TV-12 as senior vice president of programming for its broadcasting division.

Bob Sullivan is joining Gannett from Scripps Media Inc. but he previously worked for several Gannett stations, including a stint as news director of WTLV, the company said.

Gannett is currently working on a plan to split up its broadcasting and newspaper businesses into separate public companies, which it expects to complete by midyear.

The newspaper division will retain the Gannett name but it has not announced a name for the broadcasting company.

Gannett’s broadcasting division operates 46 television stations, including WTLV and WJXX TV-25 in Jacksonville.

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