Acquisition of Atlantic Coast Bank by Ameris Bancorp signals end of an era for city

The acquisition of Atlantic Coast Bank by Ameris Bancorp signals end of an era for city.

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  • | 5:00 a.m. June 7, 2018
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The executive offices of Ameris Bancorp are in Jacksonville. The bank has 19 branches in the metro area and 90 others in four states.
The executive offices of Ameris Bancorp are in Jacksonville. The bank has 19 branches in the metro area and 90 others in four states.
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An era in Jacksonville banking ended last week, an era about as old as the city itself.

When Ameris Bancorp completed its acquisition of Atlantic Coast Bank, it left Jacksonville with no more community banks focused on the local market.

Atlantic Coast had four branches outside of the market but eight of its branches were in Northeast Florida, so its main concentration was on the Jacksonville area.

When Ameris announced the completion of the purchase after Memorial Day, it said in a news release the deal solidified its position as “the largest community bank in Northeast Florida.”

However, Ameris is more of a regional bank than a community bank. While its executive offices are in Jacksonville, its official headquarters is in Moultrie, Georgia.

Ameris had 19 branches in the Jacksonville metropolitan area before the Atlantic Coast deal, but it had 90 other branches in four states, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data.

Jacksonville in the not-too-distant past was considered the banking capital of Florida, home to major statewide institutions including Barnett Bank and Florida National Bank. But those banks were merged into larger national players.

The sale of Atlantic Coast leaves only two banks still headquartered in Jacksonville, TIAA Bank and Florida Capital Bank.

TIAA, which acquired EverBank last year, is a national bank which does much of its business online. Florida Capital Bank is a smaller institution, but five of its eight branches are outside of the Jacksonville market, according to FDIC data. So it also can’t be considered a Jacksonville-focused community bank.

“I think community banks serve an important part across the country,” said TIAA Bank Chief Executive Blake Wilson.

But it may not matter to consumers these days, with fewer people visiting bank offices and instead using the internet for bank transactions.

“The reality is we’re in this transition to a digital economy,” Wilson said.

However, business customers rely more on relationships with local bankers.

Raphael Bostic, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, said the lack of community banks in the market has been an issue raised by business people in the Jacksonville area.

Bostic said it’s difficult to assess if the disappearance of community banks will hurt Jacksonville.

“It really depends on how the new bank approaches the community,” he said.

It’s hard to pin down an overall impact for Northeast Florida, he said.

“Jacksonville is funny because there’s a little bit of everything.”

The impact probably will be different on businesses in and around Downtown than on establishments in outlying areas, Bostic said.

Even without a community bank, the urban businesses will have a lot of banks to choose from, but other areas may not be so lucky.

“It may affect smaller communities more than a city,” he said.

Black Knight buys artificial intelligence firm

Black Knight Inc. has acquired a company that provides artificial intelligence and machine learning for the financial services industry.

Jacksonville-based Black Knight, which provides technology for mortgage lenders, bought a Philadelphia-based company called HeavyWater. Terms of the deal were not announced.

Black Knight said HeavyWater’s technology helps lenders verify income, assets and insurance coverage, replacing time-intensive tasks usually done manually.

Black Knight plans to use the technology as part of the services it provides to clients, and also will make the technology available to clients who can find ways to use it in other parts of their business.

SharedLabs Inc.files for IPO

SharedLabs Inc., a Jacksonville-based information technology services company, filed plans with the Securities and Exchange Commission to raise up to $15 million with an initial public offering.

Current shareholders of the company also plan to sell about $17 million of their stock in the company, which would make the total value of the IPO about $32 million.

SharedLabs was formed in 2016 and expanded with two acquisitions last year that would have given it total revenue of $73.4 million for the year, according to the IPO filing.

The filing said the company provides a range of customized IT services for businesses.

The company’s headquarters office is in the Downtown Schultz Building at 118 W. Adams St., but it has additional offices in California, Texas, New Jersey, Virginia, Vermont and Montreal.

Total employment is about 550, the filing said, but it doesn’t say how many are employed in Jacksonville.

SharedLabs CEO Jason Cory is the largest current stockholder of the company, with 31.9 percent of the stock.

Race Holdings LLC, an investment firm registered in Puerto Rico, is the second largest shareholder with 24.5 percent, but it intends to sell all of its shares as part of the IPO, according to the company’s registration statement.

SharedLabs said in the filing it will use its share of the IPO proceeds for several purposes, including a possible acquisition and hiring of additional personnel.

The company expects to list its stock on the Nasdaq Capital Market under the symbol “SHLB.”

JinkoSolar stock tumbles on new Chinese solar policy

As JinkoSolar Holding Co. Ltd. begins staffing its Jacksonville solar panel plant, a new solar policy in its home country of China has sent its stock plummeting.

JinkoSolar’s stock fell $2.48 to $15.14 Friday and dropped to a five-year low of $12.56 Monday after China said it would cut subsidies for solar projects and suspend the construction of new solar farms.

“With China’s much worse-than-expected new solar policy released last Friday, we expect a massive net oversupply,” Roth Capital Partners analyst Philip Shen said in a research note Monday on JinkoSolar.

Shen said the outlook for pricing of solar panels “has suddenly deteriorated for not only 2018, but also 2019. As a result, we are downgrading to a Sell until visibility for the industry improves.”

Shen previously rated JinkoSolar at “neutral.”

JinkoSolar is hoping to open its solar panel plant this fall at Cecil Commerce Center with 200 jobs. The company is getting $3.4 million in city and state incentives for the plant.

Shoe Carnival moves higher

Shoe Carnival Inc.’s stock reached new highs this week after the footwear chain controlled by former Jacksonville Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver reported strong first-quarter earnings.

The Evansville, Indiana-based company reported earnings of 83 cents a share for the first quarter ended May 5, up from 48 cents the previous year.

Total sales rose 1.6 percent to $253.4 million and comparable-store sales (sales at stores open for more than one year) rose 1.3 percent.

With the strong first quarter, Shoe Carnival increased its forecast for the full year. It now expects earnings of $1.90 to $2.05 per share in fiscal 2018, up from its previous forecast of $1.85 to $2. The company’s adjusted earnings in fiscal 2017 were $1.49 a share.

Shoe Carnival’s forecast of total sales of $1.013 billion to $1.02 billion is about the same as its previous prediction. The company expects to open three new stores but close 20 to 25 this year, with most of the closings coming in the fourth quarter.

Shoe Carnival operates 405 stores in 35 states and Puerto Rico.

Weaver is chairman of Shoe Carnival and his family is the largest shareholder, controlling about 31 percent of the stock.

Shoe Carnival’s stock jumped $5.46 to $31.80 on May 25 after the earnings report and reached a new high of $34.59 Wednesday.

Medtronic’s Jacksonville unit grows revenue

Medtronic plc said its Jacksonville-based division, which makes surgical instruments for ear, nose and throat doctors, grew revenue by a “mid-single digit” percentage in the fourth quarter ended April 27.

The global medical device company does not give revenue figures for that division, which is part of Medtronic’s special therapies group. The entire group increased revenue by 7.1 percent to $424 million.

Medtronic’s total revenue for the quarter rose 2.9 percent to $8.14 billion.

The company’s adjusted earnings of $1.42 a share for the quarter were 9 cents higher than the previous year.



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