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Robert Trigaux

As Ameristeel goes private and Walter Energy departs, is Tampa Bay home to more 97-pound weakling public corporations?

ArnoldSchwarzeneggerbodybuilding  Wake up and good morning. Tampa Bay has a problem. It seems unable to grow, nurture but most of all sustain muscular businesses that then go public -- meaning their stocks trade on major markets like the New Stock Stock Exchange or Nasdaq. Tampa Bay's corporate core of public businesses is puny and ever-changing. And that, I will argue, is a significant reason the Tampa Bay area cannot grow beyond its second-tier status as a place for commerce.

The latest blow, if we can call it that, is this week's news that Tampa-based steel maker Gerdau Ameristeel go from a public to private company. Gerdau, a parent company already owning two thirds of Ameristeel, plans to buy the remainder of its shares and turn what was one of Tampa Bay's top ten public corporations (by revenue) into a private division.

On the one hand, Gerdau Ameristeel had a low profile in the Tampa Bay area, even though it chose to become a 2009 Super Bowl sponsor before slipping back to obscurity. On the other hand, Ameristeel has a market value of $4.8 billion, admittedly inflated since the takeover deal ballooned its share price.

97lb_weaklingStill, there is no other public corporation in Tampa Bay -- not Raymond James Financial, not TECO Energy, not Jabil Circuit, not Lincare -- that has a larger market value. And now Gerdau Ameristeel will soon morph into a private piece of Gerdau, based in Brazil.

Is there cause for paranoia here? Are we to remain a relative collection of 97-pound weaklings among Corporate America? Walter Energy, the current corporation that grew out of Tampa's Jim Walter Homes, devoted itself to specialized coal mining and just moved its headquarters to Alabama to be closer to its mines. Adios, Tampa.

OSI Restaurant Partners, the Tampa-based HQ of Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba's, Bonefish Grill and other known restaurant chains, also used to be public and its co-founder/CEO Chris Sullivan once ranked among the most prominent and influential business executives here. But OSI decide to go private several years ago and the company's profile -- given that everybody at last recognizes its Outback brand -- is much lower in the community.

Gerdau Ameristeel, of course, is already under attack by attorneys claiming they represent company shareholders hwo are not getting an adequate share price in the proposed buyout of Ameristeel shares parent by Gerdau.

So where is Tampa Bay's public corporation profile once the latest dust settles and Gerdau Ameristeel becomes private? Here's what we will have left of our publicly traded companies, based on revenue size:

          Company 2009 Revenues (2008 Revenues)

           1. Tech Data $22.1 billion ($24.1 billion)

           2. Jabil Circuit $11.7 billion ($12.8 billion)

           3. WellCare Health Plans $6.9 billion ($6.5 billion)

           4. TECO Energy $3.3 billion ($3.4 billion)

           5. HSN $2.7 billion ($2.8 billion)

           6. Raymond James Financial $2.6 billion ($3.2 billion)

           7. Lincare Holdings $1.6 billion ($1.7 billion)

           8. Brown & Brown $968 million ($977 million) (I have my doubts this company is really a Tampa Bay company based on its so-called "dual" headquarters. It's really based in Daytona Beach, if you ask me.)

           9. Kforce $910 million ($997 million)

And here are the next few based on 2009 revenues:

           10. Sykes Enterprises $846 million

           11. Quality Distribution $614 million

           12. MarineMax: $589 million

           13. Syniverse Holdings: $483 million

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 28, 2010 10:59am]


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