CSX Corp. announced another agreement with a local union to provide paid sick leave to railroad workers as new CEO Joe Hinrichs touts the Jacksonville-based company’s efforts to improve its labor relations.
CSX said March 22 it reached an agreement with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers for sick leave.
The company said it is the seventh agreement reached in recent weeks with its unions and brings the total number of workers with contracts for paid sick leave to nearly 7,700, or 46% of its unionized workers.
“We are pleased by the progress we are making to improve the dialogue and strengthen relationships with rail labor,” Hinrichs said in a news release.
Hinrichs joined CSX in September after retiring as president of automotive operations for Ford Motor Co. in 2020.
In his nearly 20-year career at Ford, he had a strong reputation for working with autoworker unions.
In a letter to shareholders in CSX’s annual report filed March 24, Hinrichs stressed his efforts to work with the rail unions in his first six months on the job.
A national labor agreement in November provides a 24% wage increase over five years, he said, but CSX has had to negotiate with local unions over issues including sick leave.
“For our employees, we took concrete actions to improve labor-management relations as our industry engaged in a difficult round of national bargaining,” Hinrichs said in his letter.
“Here at CSX, we introduced several provisions to ease punitive attendance policies as well as improve the work environment and quality of life for front-line employees,” he said.
Hinrichs said since he arrived at CSX, “I have been impressed by the quality of the leadership team and the tremendous commitment of our employees who serve our customers.”
Barclays analyst upgrades Regency
Barclays Capital analyst Anthony Powell upgraded his rating on Regency Centers Corp., saying the Jacksonville-based developer of grocery-anchored shopping centers offers a “compelling entry point” for stockholders after recent volatility in its sector.
“We remain positive on shopping center fundamentals given strong tenant demand, solid signed but not opened lease pipeline, little new supply growth and attractive lease terms,” Powell said in his March 23 research report.
“Within shopping centers, Regency offers exposure to high income demographics, high average base rent growth and a strong track record,” he said.
Powell said Regency’s stock was trading below its recent average at about 13.8 times estimated funds from operations, and its dividend yield of more than 4% is attractive.
“Investors concerned about a slowing macro-economy may find relative value in owning Regency’s grocery-anchored necessity retail portfolio, bolstered by above-average household income demographics, with among the highest household incomes in the sector,” he said.
Powell raised his rating from “equal weight” to “overweight” and set a price target of $70, with the stock trading at $56.31 at the time of his report.
Blockchain Moon terminates deal
Blockchain Moon Acquisition Corp., a Jacksonville-based blank check company formed to seek acquisitions, called off its deal five months after finding its target.
The company agreed Oct. 14 to acquire DLTx ASA, an Oslo, Norway-based company developing blockchain technology.
However, Blockchain Moon disclosed in a March 15 Securities and Exchange Commission filing that the deal was terminated.
The filing said Blockchain Moon intended to liquidate and dissolve the company after terminating the deal. However, the company made another filing March 16 saying that was erroneous and it remains in business to seek other opportunities.
Blockchain Moon, which went public in October 2021, lists its headquarters office at 4651 Salisbury Road on Jacksonville’s Southside but it has no full-time employees.
LFTD Partners seeking acquisitions
LFTD Partners Inc. reported higher 2022 results as the company, which makes hemp-derived and psychoactive products, seeks to continue growing with acquisition opportunities.
Revenue rose 81% last year to $57.4 million and earnings rose by 2 cents a share to 45 cents.
LFTD’s main business is a Kenosha, Wisconsin, company called Lifted Made.
Its Jacksonville headquarters is a home office of CEO Gerard Jacobs.
LFTD’s annual report said it has about 170 employees, mainly in Kenosha.
In a year-end conference call March 22, Jacobs said LFTD operates in a complicated environment for its industry.
“The regulatory landscape for cannabinoid-infused and psychoactive products is constantly evolving,” he said.
LFTD terminated two acquisition agreements in late 2021 but the company is continuing to seek deals.
“We are currently attempting to sign and close on a potential asset purchase transaction inside the United States that we believe but cannot guarantee can be consummated on terms and conditions that are attractive to us,” Jacobs said.
He said the company hopes to have an agreement done by the end of April.
Shoe Carnival expanding store network
Shoe Carnival Inc. reported lower fourth-quarter sales, but the footwear chain controlled by former Jacksonville Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver said sales have grown significantly since the pre-pandemic year of fiscal 2019.
Total sales in the quarter ended Jan. 28 fell 7.2% to $290.8 million. The company said the fourth-quarter results in fiscal 2021 were helped by government stimulus payments.
Shoe Carnival said fourth-quarter sales in fiscal 2022 were 21.2% higher than fiscal 2019, and sales at stores open since 2019 were 12.6% higher.
Earnings of 79 cents a share were 550% higher than the fourth quarter of 2019.
Shoe Carnival ended the fiscal year with 397 stores across the country, including 24 stores under the Shoe Station brand it acquired in December 2021.
The company expects to open 10 to 20 new stores this year and has set a goal to pass 500 stores by 2028.
Shoe Carnival projects fiscal 2023 sales to be flat to up to 4.5% higher than 2022, with earnings per share flat to up 6%.
Weaver is chairman of Evansville, Indiana-based Shoe Carnival and he and his wife, Delores, are the largest shareholders, controlling 32% of the company’s stock.
Shepherd’s Finance increases earnings
Shepherd’s Finance LLC reported 2022 earnings of $1.76 million, up from $765,000 in 2021.
The Jacksonville-based company focuses on commercial lending for the residential construction and development industry.
The company does not have publicly traded common stock but has other securities issued and files financial reports with the SEC.
Shepherd’s Finance said a decline in housing markets could affect its business this year.
“We are working to maintain or increase profit in 2023 through our continued efforts in sales and focus on the reduction of non-interest earning assets; however, we are unsure how current interest, inflation and global security concerns may impact the company,” CEO Daniel Wallace said in a March 21 news release.
Virginia company Exigent acquires ThermaServe
Exigent Holdco LLC acquired Jacksonville-based ThermaServe Inc., a mechanical service company focused on HVAC systems for customers in North Florida and South Georgia.
Reston, Virginia-based Exigent was formed in 2022 by private equity firm Huron Capital to provide services in HVAC, plumbing and other mechanical systems.
Huron said in a March 22 news release that the acquisitions of ThermaServe and another Maryland-based company are part of its strategy to target “highly accretive opportunities in relevant markets to our ongoing operations.”
Terms of the ThermaServe deal were not announced.