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by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Apr. 17, 2006 12:00 am  

(Click here to see the list of the 75 largest private companies in Arkansas.)

The good news is a firm actually headquartered in Arkansas, Stephens Group Inc. of Little Rock, has returned to the top of Arkansas Business' list of the state's 75 largest private companies ranked by revenue.

The bad news is that company's estimated revenue for 2002, $900 million, is the least reliable figure in the entire list. So secretive and so diverse is the conglomerate built by Jack Stephens and his late brother, Witt, that it defies every effort to come up with a comfortable estimate.

While 61 of the companies on the list voluntarily provided revenue figures, Stephens spokesman Frank Thomas said his company's policy of keeping its financial results private is so strictly established that he didn't even pass on Arkansas Business' request for 2002 data to his superiors.

Stephens Group — the parent company of Stephens Inc., Stephens Media Group and a long list of other holdings — dominated the private companies' list until two years ago. But in 2001 and 2002, Truman Arnold Cos., a wholesaler of petroleum products from the "wrong" side of Texarkana, usurped the top spot.

For purposes of this list, Arkansas Business has traditionally treated Texarkana as a single economic unit,

leading to the uncomfortable situation of declaring a Texas company to be the largest in Arkansas.

The crumbling of fuel prices in 2002, however, led to a decrease of almost 35 percent in TAC's annual revenue. With $829 million in revenue last year, compared with $1.267 billion in 2001, Truman Arnold Cos. fell to third place behind Stephens and Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield.

A turnaround is assured in the current year, according to Steve McMillen, chief financial officer for TAC.

"The 2002 decline in revenues is totally tied to the price of fuel," McMillen wrote in an e-mail to Arkansas Business. "Projections for 2003 are already in the $1.1 [billion] to $1.5 billion range with the current trends in wholesale prices."

TAC's revenue decline was the steepest, both in actual dollars and as a percentage of the previous year's figure, but 22 other companies on the list also had negative revenue growth. The 75 companies on the list had revenue in 2002 totaling almost $18.22 billion, down 2.9 percent from the $18.78 billion total in 2001.

Conversely, however, the amount of revenue necessary to be included in the top 75 was significantly higher this year. No. 75 on the list, Hatfield Lumber Co. of Hatfield reported $77.9 million in sales for 2002. Last year, Baldwin & Shell Construction Co. (see story here) was the smallest company on the list with $66.5 million in revenue.

Four companies are new to the list this year, and three of them should have been on listed last year. They are:

• Perfect 10 Antenna Co. of North Little Rock, a distributor of satellite television and wireless Internet equipment, which reached No. 28. It had $160 million in revenue in 2001. (See story here.)

• IntelliMark Holdings Inc., which was spun off publicly traded StaffMark Inc. of Fayetteville (now Edgewater Technology Inc. of Wakefield, Mass.) in 2000. 2002 revenue of $168.3 million landed the company at No. 35. It had $145.6 million in revenue in 2001. (See story here.)

• Twin Rivers Group Inc., a poultry processor in Fayetteville, came in at No. 58 with revenue of about $99 million, although that is at the high end of a estimate range by Meat Processing magazine. It reported revenue of $110 million in 2001.

The fourth new entry on the list is National Home Centers Inc. of Springdale, which was publicly traded until the end of 2001, when founder and majority stockholder Dwain Newman bought the outstanding shares and took it private. The building materials and home improvement retailer had almost $121 million in sales last year, compared with $115 million in 2001.

Dropping off the list this year were:

• Quality Foods Inc. of Little Rock, which became a subsidiary of Perform-ance Food Group of Richmond, Va., in mid-2002;

• Riverside Furniture Corp. of Fort Smith, whose revenue fell from $80 million in 2001 to $74 million last year;

• Northwest Health System Inc. of Springdale, which should not have been on the list because it is owned by Triad Hospitals Inc. of Dallas; and

• Daymark Group Inc., the Russellville trucking company that effectively shut down last year after losing a major contract with the Sam's Club division of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Daymark, which was ranked No. 66 and reported $83.9 million in revenue to the 2001 National Motor Carriers Directory, serves as a reminder that revenue does not equal profitability.

Largest Revenue Gains

2001-2002

1 — Crain Management Group, Little Rock — 51.4%

2 — Baldwin & Shell Construction Co., Little Rock — 36.5%

3 — Nabholz Construction Corp., Conway — 29.8%

4 — Perfect 10 Antenna Co., North Little Rock — 25.0%

5 — St. Bernards Health Care Inc., Jonesboro — 22.2%

Note: Teeter Motor Co. of Malvern's 20 percent decrease in revenue is based on an estimated figure from November.

 

 

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