New Rayonier CEO sees improving trends

Development activity could pick up at Wildlight in Nassau County.

  • By Mark Basch
  • | 12:05 a.m. May 9, 2024
  • | 4 Free Articles Remaining!
Rayonier Inc. CEO Mark McHugh was promoted to the position on April 1 after David Nunes retired.
Rayonier Inc. CEO Mark McHugh was promoted to the position on April 1 after David Nunes retired.
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As he begins his tenure as chief executive of Rayonier Inc., Mark McHugh sees trends improving for the timber and real estate company.

“As we move through the remainder of the year, we are optimistic that continued favorable dynamics for single-family housing, higher operating rates for many of our pulpwood customers and lower log inventories in China will translate to improving fundamentals in our timber segments,” McHugh said in a May 2 conference call with analysts.

“On the real estate front, we’ve been pleased by the continued strong demand for our rural land and development properties despite the higher interest rate environment,” he said.

McHugh, who had been president and chief financial officer, was promoted April 1 to CEO after the retirement of David Nunes.

Rayonier owns or leases 2.7 million acres of timberland and is also a real estate development company with several projects, including the Wildlight community surrounding its headquarters in Nassau County.

Wildlight began in 2016 with entitlements to develop 3,000 acres and Rayonier was approved for entitlements on an additional 15,000 acres last year.

“We are especially excited to start executing on new opportunities in Wildlight, stemming from the entitlements that our team secured last November,” McHugh said.

Rayonier reported first-quarter revenue fell about 6% to $168.1 million but adjusted earnings rose to 5 cents a share, from 1 cent the previous year.

Dream Finders increases sales

Dream Finders Homes Inc. is also seeing stronger demand despite high interest rates.

The Jacksonville-based homebuilder reported first-quarter earnings rose 11% to $54 million, or 55 cents per share.

Homebuilding revenue rose 8% to $825 million, with home closings rising 9% to 1,655 and net new orders jumping 19% to 1,724.

“Despite persistent uncertainty in the interest rate environment, DFH achieved another quarter of quality growth,” CEO Patrick Zalupski said in a May 2 news release.

Dream Finders does not hold quarterly conference calls to discuss its results.

Black Knight owner’s mortgage tech revenue falls

While Rayonier and Dream Finders expect growth despite rising mortgage rates, Intercontinental Exchange Inc.’s revenue from its mortgage technology business fell in the first quarter.

New York-based ICE expanded its mortgage technology operations in September with the acquisition of Jacksonville-based Black Knight Inc.

The company reported revenue of $499 million in its mortgage unit, down from pro forma revenue of $515 million in the first quarter of 2023 if Black Knight had already been acquired by ICE.

“Looking to the full year and after factoring in the dramatic shift in interest rate expectations for 2024 relative to just three months ago, we now expect total revenue growth in our Mortgage Technology business to be flat to down in the low single-digit range, with revenues unlikely to improve materially from the first quarter levels until the second half,” Chief Financial Officer Warren Gardiner said in a May 2 conference call, according to a company transcript.

Gardiner said ICE expects long-term benefits from the Black Knight deal, as it invests in new products and is ahead of schedule with expense savings related to the deal.

“We continue to expand our existing network, and we are executing on our synergy targets, all of which further position our platform to realize accelerating growth when market conditions normalize,” he said.

ICE, best known as operator of the New York Stock Exchange, said total first-quarter revenue rose 21% to $2.3 billion and adjusted earnings rose by 7 cents a share to $1.48.

Regency says retail tenant demand remains strong

Despite the struggles of some retailers, Regency Centers Corp. CEO Lisa Palmer said tenant demand remains strong at the Jacksonville-based company’s shopping centers.


“Robust tenant demand is driving significant leasing activity across all of our shopping centers, and this is evident in an even higher percentage leased rate and strong rent growth,” Palmer said in Regency’s May 3 conference call.

“With this robust demand and activity, we are poised to accelerate growth into 2025.”

Regency’s 482 properties across the country were 95% leased at the end of the first quarter.

“High-quality suburban shopping centers, especially with the particular strength of our portfolio and the trade areas in which we operate, will continue to benefit from structural tailwinds that support continued excellent performance and long-term growth of our business,” Palmer said.

Regency’s funds from operations, basically earnings before certain noncash items, were unchanged at $1.08 a share in the first quarter.

Dun & Bradstreet says innovations will increase growth

Jacksonville-based business data firm Dun & Bradstreet Holdings Inc. reported first-quarter revenue rose 4.5% to $564.5 million, with adjusted earnings rising by a penny to 20 cents a share.

In the company’s May 2 conference call, CEO Anthony Jabbour said the company is targeting annual revenue growth of 5% to 7%.

“We have more conviction now that we can drive towards the higher end of that range over the coming years as we bring more innovation to strengthen our existing solutions portfolio,” he said.

“It’s exciting to see the investments we have made materialize into consistently improving revenue growth, profitability and free cash flow generation, and the team and I look forward to bringing even more of that to bear in the near future.”

Firehouse Subs sales still lagging parent’s other chains

Firehouse Subs increased sales in the first quarter, but the business still lagged behind other chains operated by parent company Restaurant Brands International Inc.

RBI said Firehouse’s sales rose 4.3% to $301 million but comparable-store sales – sales at restaurants open for more than one year – rose only 0.3%.

Comparable-store sales for all of RBI’s restaurants rose 4.6% in the quarter. Toronto-based RBI also operates the Tim Hortons, Burger King and Popeyes brands.

“I think we’ve been a little bit slower than expected on the growth we wanted from this brand, but Mike (Firehouse President Mike Hancock) is making all the right development decisions for the long term, and we’ll shortly see the benefit of that,” Executive Chairman Patrick Doyle said in RBI’s April 30 conference call.

RBI acquired Jacksonville-based Firehouse Restaurant Group Inc. for $1 billion in December 2021.

Fortegra reports big increase in revenue and earnings

The Fortegra Group’s first-quarter revenue increased 29.9% to $478.8 million and adjusted earnings rose 48.8% to $34.1 million, according to a May 1 report by holding company Tiptree Inc., Fortegra’s parent.

Tiptree has twice attempted to take the Jacksonville-based specialty insurance company public in the last three years before pulling the planned initial public offering off the market.

Fortegra’s latest IPO withdrawal came in February, with the company citing market conditions.

Tiptree did not say anything about another attempt at an IPO in its quarterly report.

Tiptree acquired Fortegra, which was then publicly traded, for $218 million in 2014.

Medical supply distributor QuadMed agrees to buyout

Bound Tree Medical LLC announced an agreement May 2 to acquire Jacksonville-based QuadMed Inc., which provides emergency medical supplies to pre-hospital care entities.

Dublin, Ohio-based Bound Tree is a nationwide distributor of emergency medical equipment and said both companies serve the same markets.

Terms of the deal were not announced.



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