Private Firms See Revenue Plunge During Tough '09

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, May. 24, 2010 12:00 am  

New to Arkansas Business? list of largest private companies this year is No. 65 Tankersley Foodservice. Above, CEO Don Tankersley stands with Thomas Moon, who runs the operations of the company?s 150,000-SF warehouse.

If there's one point to take away from Arkansas Business' list of the state's largest private companies, ranked by total revenue last year, it is this: 2009 was a lousy year.

(To see the list of the state's 75 largest private companies, click here. For a spreadsheet version, click here.)

The cutoff for the top 75 plummeted from $86.7 million on last year's list to $65 million this year. And even that is based on more estimated revenue than we've had to rely on in recent years: Of the 75 companies on our list, revenue data were supplied by 59, while estimates from various sources were used for the other 16 companies.

With notable exceptions, including hospitals and food wholesalers, revenue was down in 2009 from the previous year. And sometimes the plunge was breathtaking, especially for companies in the energy sector.

Stephens Inc. of Little Rock returned to the top spot on the strength of a two-year-old revenue estimate of $1.835 billion by Thomson Gale Competitive Intelligence, the accuracy of which we can't vouch for. Last year's largest private company, petroleum wholesaler and aviation fuel retailer Truman Arnold Cos. of Texarkana, Texas, dropped to No. 3 by reporting revenue that dropped by half, from $2.5 billion in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2008 - just as fuel prices were dropping from record highs - to $1.27 billion for the year that ended Sept. 30, 2009.

Coulson Oil of North Little Rock reported a year-over-year revenue decline of 35 percent, while convenience store chain E-Z Mart Inc., the other Texarkana, Texas, company on our list, was off by more than 20 percent. Bucking the trend was Flash Market Inc. of West Memphis, which reported a 9.2 percent increase in revenue in 2009.

"Was sure it would raise a question or two," CEO Larry Hellums said in an e-mail concerning Mississippi County Electric Cooperative's 41 percent revenue decline last year. Then he proceeded to explain:

"We provide electric to the two Nucor steel mills. They both had a slow year thanks to the financial conditions we have all been experiencing. In addition we serve several satellite companies that use the steel from the mills and they were down also.

"On top of that, if I can outrage a little about global warming, we had a very mild summer. AC use was down a bunch and with all the rain irrigation wells on the farms did not run except for a small amount in June."

And those issues were compounded, Hellums said, by the ice storm early in 2009 that did $8 million worth of damage and interrupted sales of residential electricity for almost three weeks.

"So we, like everyone else, just tightened the shoestrings and held on," he wrote.

"Everyone else" includes Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. of Little Rock, where sales were down by 27 percent; First Electric Cooperative of Jacksonville and Carroll Electric Cooperative of Berryville, both down more than 9 percent; Ozarks Electric Cooperative of Fayetteville, off 7 percent; and Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative of Ozark, down 15 percent.



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