Performance of Trucking Firms' Stocks Ranges Wide

by Jan Cottingham  on Monday, Oct. 29, 2012 12:00 am  

The winning ways of J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. stock have pushed its shareholders' fortunes to new heights this year on Arkansas Business' list of top stockholders.

The J.B. Hunt family, for example, rose to No. 2 on the list from fourth place last year, moving from stock holdings worth $794 million in August 2011 to almost $1.2 billion as of Oct. 12, even though the family holds 428,306 fewer shares. The Hunt family holdings last topped the billion-dollar mark - $1.35 billion - in 2008, before the financial crisis. At that time, however, J.B. Hunt's widow, Johnelle, and their son, Bryan, held 14.2 million more shares than they do now.

That's what happens when the share price soars from $38.80 as of Aug. 23, 2011, when last year's measurements were taken, to $58.37 on Oct. 12. The Lowell company's stock price started out 2012 at $44.91.

But what the stock market giveth, it also taketh away.

Shares of Arkansas Best Corp. of Fort Smith have dropped 57.8 percent since Jan. 3, falling from $19.26 on Jan. 3 to $8.18 on Oct. 12. And USA Truck of Van Buren has seen its stock decline 58.2 percent so far this year, from $7.92 to $3.31.

As the shares go, so do fortunes.

Robert A. Young III, Arkansas Best chairman, owned 1.2 million shares worth $22.7 million in 2011. This year, he held about the same number of shares, but they were valued at only $9.9 million.

The stock of the fourth public transportation company based in Arkansas, P.A.M. Transportation Services Inc. of Tontitown, has tread water so far this year. P.A.M.'s shares have risen 1.35 percent, increasing from $9.60 per share on Jan. 3 to $9.73 on Oct. 12.

P.A.M. hasn't had a shareholder on the top stockholders list since 2009, when Robert W. Weaver, who led the firm until July 2009, owned 316,428 shares worth $2.4 million.

The companies' showing in the market generally aligns with their earnings performance.

On Oct. 11, J.B. Hunt reported a 14 percent increase in third-quarter profit as growth in its intermodal business outpaced gains in the company's trucking segment. The company reported third-quarter net income of $78.2 million, or 65 cents per share, up from net income of $68.7 million, or 57 cents per share, during the same quarter last year.

The company, headed by John N. Roberts, has consistently bested its transport rivals in Arkansas throughout the recession and into the nascent and slow-going recovery.

Arkansas Best has struggled with weaker-than-expected tonnage and what it's called a "weakening economic environment, particularly in the manufacturing sector."

In July, the company reported total net income for the second quarter of $11.8 million, or 44 cents per share, compared with net income of $5.3 million, or 20 cents per share, during the same quarter last year. Revenue reached $511 million, up 2 percent from $499 million in the second quarter of 2011.

But those results included two one-time items: a tax benefit of $8 million, or 31 cents per share, and transaction costs of $2.1 million, or 5 cents per share. The latter was associated with the company's June 15 acquisition of Panther Expedited Services Inc.
P.A.M., which released third-quarter results last week, posted its fourth consecutive quarterly profit. P.A.M.'s third-quarter net income was $880,907, or 10 cents per share, compared with a net loss of $1.7 million, or 19 cents per share, for third-quarter 2011.

Company President Daniel H. Cushman said P.A.M. had benefited from the diversification of its customer base.

USA Truck announced in July $103.5 million in revenue during the quarter ended June 30, a 4.6 percent drop compared with $108.5 million in revenue during the year-ago quarter.

The company lost $3.5 million, or 34 cents a share, for second-quarter 2012 versus a profit of $600,000, or 6 cents per share, during the second quarter of 2011.
Cliff Beckham, president and CEO of USA Truck, blamed a still weak U.S. economy for the weak showing. 

 

 

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