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Basch Report
Jax Daily Record Thursday, Nov. 29, 201805:20 AM EST

The Basch Report: Stein Mart continues positive sales trend

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Comparable-store sales at the fashion retailer rose 1.4 percent in the third quarter.
by: Mark Basch Contributing Writer

After reporting its first positive comparable-store sales in three years in the second quarter, Stein Mart Inc. continued the trend in the third quarter.

On Tuesday, the Jacksonville-based fashion retailer reported comparable-store sales rose 1.4 percent in the third quarter ended Nov. 3.

Comparable-store sales are sales at stores open for more than one year and are considered a key indicator of a retailer’s performance. 

Stein Mart’s total sales in the quarter fell 2.2 percent to $279.1 million because it closed seven underperforming stores this year.

Stein Mart operated 288 stores across the country at the end of the third quarter.

“A positive comparable sales trend that began in the second quarter has improved in the third quarter with solid sales increases in all our core apparel businesses, driven by higher regular price selling,” CEO Hunt Hawkins said in Stein Mart’s quarterly conference call.

With more regular price selling, as opposed to clearance sales, profit margins are improving. Stein Mart reported a net loss of $16.6 million, or 36 cents a share, in the third quarter but Hawkins is encouraged about the fourth quarter.

“As our penetration of regular price selling continues to increase and clearance selling comparisons normalize, we expect our gross profit rate to increase,” he said.

“This, along with continued growth from our e-commerce business and lower expenses has us well prepared for a profitable fourth quarter that will give us dramatically improved EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) for the year.”

Investors unhappy with Black Knight’s D&B deal

Black Knight Inc.’s announcement last week of its minority investment in Dun & Bradstreet coincided with the Jacksonville-based company’s Investor Day presentation at the New York Stock Exchange.

It did not go over well, according to one analyst.

“Investor Day (Nobody Seems to Like the D&B Investment)” was the headline on a research note by Wedbush analyst Henry Coffey after the presentation.

“Black Knight management did a thorough job of quantifying their long-term product strategy and future drivers of growth,” Coffey said in his note.

“Unfortunately, the bulk of any gain tied to this effort was offset by the news that they are spending $375 million for a sub 20 percent stake in Dun & Bradstreet.”

Black Knight’s stock dropped $4.30 to $45.49 on Nov. 19 after the announcement.

Mortgage technology firm Black Knight is partnering with several other investment firms in the $6.9 billion deal to buy the historic business data firm, including Cannae Holdings Inc., another company spun off from Fidelity National Financial Inc.

Coffey said investors are unhappy with the expected debt Black Knight will take on in the deal.

Moody’s Investors Service weighed in Monday, saying the deal is “a negative credit development” because of the possibility Black Knight may borrow the funds to invest in Dun & Bradstreet.

“However, Moody’s notes Black Knight has strong financial metrics compared to a number of other business services issuers,” so it left the company’s credit ratings unchanged, Moody’s said in a news release.

Coffey said there are potential positives in the deal.

“This is the type of business the Black Knight team knows how to fix; and 2) we think it could open some interesting doors for product expansion into areas outside of mortgage such as products for the small business and commercial real estate lending markets,” he said.

Black Knight CEO Anthony Jabbour will take on the additional role of CEO of Dun & Bradstreet when the deal closes.

Shepherd’s Finance earnings drop

Shepherd’s Finance LLC said last week third-quarter earnings fell about 50 percent to $167,000.

Jacksonville-based Shepherd’s Finance is a commercial lender for the residential construction and development industry. 

The company said the decline in earnings resulted from an increase in foreclosed assets and increased personnel expenses.

CenterState acquiring parent of FirstAtlantic

Less than a year after acquiring Jacksonville-based FirstAtlantic Bank, National Commerce Corp. agreed to merge into CenterState Bank Corp.

Birmingham, Alabama-based National Commerce acquired FirstAtlantic on Jan. 1 and continued to operate its eight Jacksonville area offices under the FirstAtlantic name.

Winter Haven-based CenterState has seven offices in the Jacksonville metropolitan area, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data. CenterState entered the Jacksonville market in 2012 by acquiring the failed First Guaranty Bank & Trust Co.

CenterState said Monday it will buy National Commerce by issuing 1.65 shares of its stock for each share of National Commerce. The deal was valued at $850 million based on CenterState’s closing price Friday before the announcement.

The two banks combined have 164 branches in Florida, Alabama and Georgia with about three-quarters of the offices in Florida. 

The companies did not announce any plans for operation of the branches after the merger is completed. 

However, in a notice for employees posted in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, the banks said CenterState operates all of its offices under the CenterState name, and it expects to change the names of National Commerce’s banks late in 2019. 

The merger is expected to be completed in the second quarter next year.

Glowpoint revenue falls 16 percent

Glowpoint Inc. reported a third-quarter net loss of $1.47 million, or 3 cents a share, with revenue falling 16 percent to $2.9 million, according to its quarterly report filed with the SEC.

Denver-based Glowpoint, which provides video collaboration and network applications, agreed last month to merge with Jacksonville-based IT services company SharedLabs Inc.

SharedLabs will be the surviving company in the merger, which will make it a public company. SharedLabs had been planning an initial public offering before agreeing to the deal with Glowpoint.

SharedLabs said the two companies combined produced $86 million in revenue for the 12-month period ended June 30.

Analyst touts former TapImmune

Biotech research firm Marker Therapeutics Inc., formerly known as TapImmune Inc., has no products on the market now or for the foreseeable future. But one analyst last week said he likes the company’s potential.

Nomura/Instinet analyst Christopher Marai initiated coverage of Marker last week with a “buy” rating, citing its “novel T cell therapy” under development.

Jacksonville-based TapImmune and Minnesota-based Marker merged in October, with the company taking on the Marker name. Both companies had been developing cancer therapies.

The company continues to be headquartered in Jacksonville, according to SEC filings. But it plans to move to Houston, where Marker has had a relationship with the Baylor College of Medicine.

Marker’s stock has been trading near the $7 level recently but Marai set a $16 price target for the stock in his research note.

“Marker is trading at a discount to immunotherapy peers and, in our view, offers strong derisking data flow that is likely to result in upside in the next 12 months,” he said.

Medtronic beats forecasts

Medtronic PLC last week reported revenue grew 6.1 percent to $7.48 billion in the second quarter ended Oct. 26 and said revenue in its specialty therapies division rose by 11 percent to $405 million.

However, the global medical device company did not say anything about results for its Jacksonville division, which makes surgical instruments for ear, nose and throat physicians.

Medtronic does not release specific data for that division, which is included in special therapies, but in past quarters it did give an indication of revenue growth for the ENT business.

Medtronic’s second-quarter adjusted earnings of $1.22 per share were 15 cents higher than last year and 8 cents higher than the consensus forecast of analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research.

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