Mergers, Acquisitions Activity in Arkansas Quickens

by Jan Cottingham  on Monday, Jan. 23, 2012 12:00 am  

Globally, the energy sector comprised 23 percent of the total value of deals disclosed in 2011, a PricewaterhouseCoopers report said.

Of the top 10 biggest deals in Arkansas, five involve the energy industry. Those include Murphy Oil's previously an-nounced plans to sell two refineries: the Meraux Refinery in Louisiana to Valero Energy Corp. for $625 million and the Superior Refinery in Wisconsin and related assets to Calumet Specialty Products Partners LP for $442 million.

The second-biggest deal in Arkansas last year, the purchase by Windstream of Paetec Holding Corp., a telecommunications provider, for $2.3 billion, was just one of a number of tech-related deals. Others include Acxiom's $74 million sale of Acxiom Information Security Services, a background screening firm, to New York's Sterling Infosystems Inc. and a $10 million investment by the Stephens Groupn LLC, along with other investors, in FireHost Inc. of Dallas, a secure cloud hosting company.

"We are seeing strength across most of the sectors we follow, including food and agriculture, telecommunications, media, consumer, industrial services, energy and transportation and logistics," McKissack said.

The financial services sector has been slower, he said, citing "regulatory uncertainty, access to capital and mark to market accounting."

McKissack noted "a great deal of interest from buyers outside of North America looking to invest, buy and grow in the continent."

What really intrigues, however, is Wal-Mart's activity in 2011, particularly its purchase of high-tech firms involved in e-commerce.

In 2010, four of Wal-Mart's five known acquisitions involved other retailers. But last year, five of the company's deals involved the sale of grocery stores, while its biggest acquisition was the $300 million purchase of Kosmix of Mountain View, Calif., a privately held social media startup.

In addition to Kosmix, Wal-Mart bought OneRiot Inc., of Boulder, Colo., a tech firm focused on mobile and social media advertising, and Grabble, an Australian company providing mobile payment software for online shopping.

Wal-Mart described the founders of Kosmix, Venky Harinarayan and Anand Rajaraman, as "early pioneers of online shopping, whose first company, Junglee, was bought by in 1998."

"The founders and the Kosmix team will operate as part of the newly formed @Wal-
martLabs and continue to be based in Silicon Valley," Wal-Mart said when announcing the purchase.

The company said it planned to expand the @WalmartLabs team and that it would focus on integrating bricks-and-mortar shopping with e-commerce.

Last year, several longtime Arkansas companies were purchased by foreign and out-of-state companies. These international deals included:

  • O.K. Industries of Fort Smith, a privately held poultry company, purchased for $95 million by a Mexican firm, Industrias Bachoco S.A.B. de C.V.
  • Hornbeck Seed Co. Inc. of Dewitt, a private seed development company, acquired for $42.6 million by Bayer Crop-Science AG of Germany.
  • Thompson Industries Inc. of Russellville, a manufacturer of treated wood railroad products, bought for $41 million by Stella-Jones Inc., a Canadian company.
  • Treadway Electric Co. Inc. of Little Rock, a provider of electrical supplies, purchased for an undisclosed price by Stuart C. Irby Co. of Jackson, Miss.



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