Entry to List of Private Firms Costs $88 Million

• Click here for page 1 of the 75 largest private companies in Arkansas.

• Click here for page 2 of the 75 largest private companies in Arkansas.

• Click here for page 3 of the 75 largest private companies in Arkansas.

• Click here for page 4 of the 75 largest private companies in Arkansas.

The price to get onto Arkansas Business' list of the state's 75 largest private companies increased to $87.7 million this year.

That was the 2005 revenue reported by Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative Corp., which ranked No. 75. The Ozark electric cooperative reported a nearly 18 percent increase in total revenue; it wasn't on the list at all last year, having missed the $77.5 million cutoff by a mere $3 million.

The other end of the list, however, looks very familiar: Truman Arnold Cos., on the Texas side of Texarkana, continues to lead the list with 2005 revenue exceeding $1.75 billion — a testament to the effect of higher oil prices. Truman Arnold Cos. is a wholesaler of petroleum and aviation fuels, and its sales for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 were up almost 53 percent from the previous year. And it finally surpassed its previous record of $1.267 billion in 2001.

No. 2 is, again, the Stephens Group Inc. of Little Rock, that most visible yet secretive of conglomerates. Its 2005 revenue has been estimated at $1.425 billion, which includes Thomson Gale Competi-tive Intelligence's published estimate of $1.147 billion for flagship investment banking firm Stephens Inc. and $264 million for its Las Vegas-based Stephens Media Group, which was a 2004 estimate by Advertising Age magazine.

(Thanks to Advertising Age, our 2004 estimate for Wehco Media Inc. of Little Rock, Walter E. Hussman's newspaper and cable TV empire, has also been revised upward from $230 million to $288 million.)

Most of the companies on the list, however, provided revenue figures, including:

• No. 3 Riceland Foods Inc. of Stuttgart, which reported a slight revenue decrease to $956 million in the year that ended July 31 following a record-setting 2004;

• No. 4 Arkansas Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Little Rock, whose $920 million in revenue represented a miniscule increase over 2004;

• No. 5 Mountaire Corp. of North Little Rock, where $900 million was a small decrease from 2004 and echoed the flat-to-negative trend reported by most of the state's largest private poultry companies.

In addition to Arkansas Valley Electric Co-op, newcomers to the list this year are White River Health System at Batesville, CalArk Inc. of Mabelvale, Willis Shaw Express of Elm Springs and Conway Regional Medical Center. The last four were not surveyed for last year's list even though their revenue had grown large enough to be included.

Making a comeback is Cross Oil Refining & Marketing Inc. of Smack-over, which dropped off the list last year when it failed to respond to the survey and the best available revenue estimate was barely half of the actual figure for 2004. It came in at No. 42.

Like Truman Arnold Cos., Cross Oil benefited from the higher price of petroleum products, although it has also been aggressively packaging and marketing its own refined products. (See story, Page 1.) Coulson Oil Co. of North Little Rock reported revenue up more than 12 percent for its fiscal year that ended Oct. 31. Coulson moved up one spot to No. 20 on this year's list.

Electric co-ops, like Arkansas Valley, also reflected the increased price of energy. Five of the top 75 private companies are electric cooperatives, and a sixth is Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Inc. of Little Rock, which provides auxiliary services to co-ops across the state. All reported revenue increases between 17 percent and 37 percent.

Two companies that ranked solidly on last year's list are no longer eligible because they have been sold to out-of-state concerns: Carlton-Bates Co. of Little Rock, which was acquired in September by Wesco International Inc. of Pittsburgh, and AmerCable Inc. of El Dorado, which was sold to Industrial Growth Partners of San Francisco last year shortly after making its first appearance on the largest private companies list.

Also dropping off the list were:

• Petit Jean Poultry of Danville, which did not respond to repeated survey attempts and whose most recent revenue estimate by Standard & Poor's was $65.7 million;

• Bale Chevrolet of Little Rock, which had revenue estimated by LexisNexis Corporate Affiliation of $75 million;

• Schmieding Enterprises Inc. of Springdale, whose revenue was estimated by S&P at $78.8 million; and

• Hatfield Lumber Co., which just missed the top 75 with revenue of $86.3 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2005.

Only eight of the 75 companies confirmed actual decreases in sales in 2005 as compared with 2004. Four of them — Peterson Farms Inc. of Decatur; Producers Rice Mill Inc. and Riceland Foods Inc., both of Stuttgart; and Mountaire — are agricultural companies. Two are general contractors — CDI Contractors Inc. and Baldwin & Shell Construction Co., both of Little Rock. The others are American Management Corp., the Conway insurance brokerage, and Affiliated Foods Southwest of Little Rock.

Al Miller of Affiliate Foods said the bankruptcy of one of the company's large customers explained most of the grocery wholesaler's nearly 9 percent decrease in sales last year.

• For a look at the biggest revenue gains for 2004-5, click here.

• Click here for the largest companies by location.

• And, for an alphabetical index of the 75 largest private companies in the state, click here.