Four Join List of 75 Largest Private Companies in Arkansas

by Gwen Moritz  on Monday, May. 26, 2014 12:00 am  

The 75 largest private companies in Arkansas generated total revenue — self-reported and estimated — of $31.15 billion in their most recent fiscal years, and the price of entry to the list was $88.8 million.

Both of those figures represent healthy improvements from last year’s list, when the companies generated total revenue of barely more than $30 billion and $76 million was enough to make the cut.

Never an exact science, the list is topped by probably the least reliable figure: an estimate of $2.25 billion for Stephens Inc., the Little Rock financial conglomerate owned by Warren Stephens. But most of the revenue figures — 61 out of 75 on this year’s list — come directly from the companies, including four companies that had never before participated in the survey.

Buy the List: Click here to purchase the list of the 75 Largest Private Companies in Arkansas.

The companies occupying the first 11 spots on the list are unchanged from last year. Nos. 2 through 8 self-reported revenue of $1 billion or more last year, one fewer than on last year’s list. Bruce Oakley Inc., the North Little Rock bulk transportation company, which barely cracked the billion-dollar mark during the fiscal year that ended in September 2012, dropped back just below that mark with $950.6 million in revenue in fiscal 2013.

Since then, however, Bruce Oakley has acquired the largest private terminal operator on the Arkansas River in Oklahoma. The purchase of Johnston’s Port 33 Inc., which was completed in February, should be reflected on next year’s list.

Bruce Oakley Inc.’s revenue decrease of 5 percent was not typical of Arkansas’ largest private companies in 2013. On average, revenue increased by more than 3 percent, and three-quarters of the companies on the list reported improved revenue when compared with the previous year.

A large decrease, more than 35 percent, was reported by Hickingbotham Investments Inc., and the holding company for various business ventures of Little Rock’s Hickingbotham family dropped from No. 26 a year ago to No. 36 on this year’s list. But there’s a good reason for that, according to Gene Whisenhunt, the company’s chief financial officer: Hickingbotham Ltd., which owned a group of auto dealerships in California, was sold last year.

“Our revenue is down, so we’re looking for opportunities to go in the other direction,” Whisenhunt said. Hickingbotham Investments still has dealerships in California, but is now looking to buy back home in Arkansas and other parts of the South, he said.

Off the List

Allens Inc. of Siloam Springs, the maker of canned and frozen vegetables founded in 1926, had been a perennial entry on the list of the state’s largest private companies, but it is gone from this year’s list. It was sold out of bankruptcy on the last day of February — the end of its fiscal year — to Sager Creek Acquisition Corp., a newly formed entity owned by investment funds managed or advised by Sankaty Advisors LLC and GB Credit Partners.

Allens’ revenue peaked at $746 million in the fiscal year that ended in February 2010, putting it at No. 11 on that year’s list, before sliding to No. 23 last year with revenue of $420 million. A bankruptcy reorganization filed in October would serve as a reminder that revenue and profitability are two different things: Allens’ revenue for the first eight months of its last fiscal year — March 1 to Oct. 31, 2013 — was $227.7 million, but its debt totaled almost $290 million.



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