The Whispers Blog

Arkansas' breaking business news blog, with news and commentary from the Arkansas Business staff.
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Communications Sales & Leasing is Trading Now

As we reported Friday, Windstream Holdings Inc. of Little Rock has officially spun off its real estate and copper assets into a real estate investment trust called Communications Sales & Leasing Inc. 

The shares of the publicly traded REIT began trading today on the Nasdaq exchange under the ticker symbol CSAL. It also joined the S&P 400 Midcap Index.

As of about 10:20 a.m., the stock was trading at about $28.27 after opening at $28.44.

Meanwhile, shares of Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN) are trading down more than 14 percent to $10.47 per share. 

The REIT was originally announced last July, before the sudden departure of Windstream CEO Jeffery Gardner in December. The spinoff was delayed slightly; it was originally expected to be completed in the first quarter.  

Under previously announced terms, Windstream distributed about 80.1 percent of CS&L shares to investors who bought Windstream stock by the closing bell on Friday.

Windstream shareholders retained their Windstream shares and received one share of CS&L for every five shares of Windstream held.

Windstream CEO Tony Thomas talked about the spinoff with Sean Beherec in a story we published earlier this month.

CinemaCon 2015 Will Have an Arkansas Flavor

PTI hopes to break into the movies with its Illumina laser projection system.

Grab your popcorn. CinemaCon 2015 will have an Arkansas flavor.

The big event rolls later this month in Las Vegas, and CinemaCon is just what the name suggests: fanboy central for the movies. 

This year, three Arkansas firms will have exhibits at the CinemaCon trade show: Power Technology Inc. of Alexander; Weldon Williams & Lick of Fort Smith; and Klipsch of Indianapolis and Hope.

The trade show part of CinemaCon runs April 21-23.

Power Technology, an Innovate Arkansas client firm, manufactures laser products including the new Illumina laser projection system that it hopes will change the way we see movies.

WWL is a leading "security printing" provider: custom tickets, parking permits, roll tickets (including the kind used at movie theaters) and more.

Klipsch, of course, is the legendary manufacturer of speakers launched in Hope in 1946. Its corporate headquarters has moved to Indianapolis, but its manufacturing remains based in Hope.

PTI will be there to market Illumina to movie projection manufacturers such as IMAX and theater owners. (More on that here.)

Jill Escol, a spokesperson for Klipsch, told us that the speaker giant has presented at CinemaCon for as long as she can remember. Klipsch provides audio for about half the theaters in the U.S., she said.

Meanwhile, no word from Williams Weldon & Lick, but our guess is that it provides many of the tickets that get torn in U.S. theaters.

Movies likely are headed down a path that leads to laser projection. Lasers provide more light, better pictures and are more efficient. Power Technology is hoping to be the company that brings laser projection to theaters worldwide. That journey starts later this month.

One day, movie-goers could hand the usher a ticket printed in Arkansas, and enter a cinema to watch a laser-projected movie delivered on technology created in Arkansas while listening to a soundtrack courtesy of speakers made in Arkansas. 

Now, if we can just lure more filmmakers to Arkansas ...

Wal-Mart Commends Asa Hutchinson for Work on HB1228

Soon after the Arkansas House approved HB1228, Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon was quick to ask that Gov. Asa Hutchinson veto the legislation.

Today, following Hutchinson's request that the Legislature recall and rework the bill, Wal-Mart praised the governor and legislative leaders.

Wal-Mart Is Now Calling for a Veto of HB1228

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville, which had previously said HB1228 sends the wrong message about Arkansas, has weighed in again. This afternoon, CEO Doug McMillon tweeted the above statement, calling on Gov. Asa Hutchinson to veto the bill.

The Arkansas House gave the bill final approval this afternoon. It now heads to Hutchinson's desk. The governor said last week that he would sign it.

Apple CEO Tim Cook Joins in Chorus Against Religious Protection Bill

Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook

Arkansas is starting to hear from civil rights leaders and the CEOs of prominent tech firms about HB1228, a religious protection bill that was approved in the state Senate this afternoon and now heads back to the House.

The Human Rights Campaign, a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights group, held a news conference condemning the bill at the Capitol yesterday, not long after Gov. Asa Hutchinson fielded questions about the bill during a news conference to announce Mike Preston of Florida as the state's new Arkansas Economic Development Commission leader.

Supporters say the bill is aimed at preventing the government from infringing upon someone's religious beliefs, but critics say the legislation amounts to a license for businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

Hutchinson said Thursday that he'd sign HB1228 in its current form. "I think it's a bill that puts a high priority on religious freedom and recognizes that as a part of the balance," Hutchinson told reporters.

Critics wasted little time firing back. Civil rights leader Julian Bond issued a statement yesterday:

H.B. 1228 in Arkansas opens the door to a hateful past that some had thought this country had left behind. This legislation cloaks discrimination in the guise of religion--and it will mark people of color, LGBT Arkansans, religious minorities and women as second class citizens. Governor Hutchinson has a duty and a moral obligation to veto this legislation or the ghosts of the past will haunt his legacy.

That was followed today by this from Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, who said he'd make it point to expand his company only in places that don't have "laws allowing for discrimination on the books."

... it is unconscionable to imagine that Yelp would create, maintain, or expand a significant business presence in any state that encouraged discrimination by businesses against our employees, or consumers at large. I encourage states that are considering passing laws like the one rejected by Arizona or adopted by Indiana to reconsider and abandon these discriminatory actions. (We’re looking at you, Arkansas.)

And just this afternoon, this from Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook: