Banner Year in Arkansas: The Top 10 Business Stories of 2013

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013 12:00 am  

And in October, Big River Steel, which had planned to break ground on its mill before the end of 2013, was stymied by yet another Nucor effort to stop the plant. Nucor challenged the air permit issued Sept. 18 to Big River by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, saying it was improperly processed. That led Big River to delay its steel mill groundbreaking by several months. A hearing on the permit objections was set for February.

6. Public Companies

In 2013, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average finally revisited its pre-recession height of 14,000 and then blew past it to briefly top 16,000, publicly traded companies in Arkansas were active, productive and very, very good to investors.

Two Arkansas companies, Wind-stream Holdings and J.B. Hunt Transport Services, debuted in the Fortune 500 based on 2012 revenue, joining four regulars: Wal-Mart Stores, Tyson Foods, Murphy Oil and Dillard’s.

Then Murphy Oil got smaller by spinning off its retail division as a separate publicly traded company, Murphy USA.

But Murphy USA wasn’t the only addition to the state’s roster of publicly traded companies. Inuvo Inc., which had struggled to turn a profit in the high-rent district of New York City, relocated in February to Conway — where major shareholder Charles Morgan once ran Acxiom — and promptly went from red to black.

Speaking of Acxiom, the Little Rock data miner was one of five publicly traded companies in the state that enjoyed triple-digit returns on its stock this year. After languishing below $20 since the fall of 2007, Acxiom’s stock price began a run-up in March and topped $36 last week, double its December 2012 price.

Other triple-digit winners:

• Home Bancshares, which split its stock and then acquired Liberty Bancshares of Jonesboro on the way to an annual return of about 125 percent;

• P.A.M. Transportation Services, the Tontitown trucker, which started 2013 under $10 a share and ended it above $20, thanks in part to a year-end offer to buy back up to 600,000 shares;

• Arkansas Best Corp. of Fort Smith, whose stock nearly tripled thanks to a favorable, hard-fought contract with the Teamsters union; and

• The 2013 champ, USA Truck of Van Buren, where a new CEO and an unwelcome takeover attempt by Knight Transportation of Phoenix combined to run up the stock price by some 330 percent.

USA Truck wasn't alone in picking new leadership. With the spinoff of Murphy USA (where Andrew Clyde is CEO), Stephen Cosse retired (again) from Murphy Oil, and Roger Jenkins became its CEO. Tom Morrison succeeded Joe Brooks at the helm of Advanced Environmental Recycling Technologies, and Chris Wewers took over the top spot at First Federal Bancshares of Arkansas from Dabbs Cavin.



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