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Most of Tampa Bay area's biggest companies are shrinking

The St. Petersburg Times' annual glimpse into the Tampa Bay area's 10 biggest companies by revenue has never seen a shakeup quite like this. • The overhaul in the Times 10 isn't a matter of who made the roster. The sole lineup change this year: Struggling boat retailer MarineMax fell off while home shopping icon HSN debuted in the No. 7 slot as a newly minted public company. • No, this shakeup came courtesy of Wall Street. Excluding the HSN/MarineMax tradeoff, the combined value of the region's biggest public companies has fallen 44 percent from last May. • Nearly $11 billion in market value wiped away. • And that's only after the stunned markets staged a partial recovery in March and April. Earlier this year, the carnage was even worse. At one point, Times 10 stalwart Tech Data had plummeted to a market capitalization of $800 million (it since recovered to $1.45 billion as of May 1) while local heavy hitter Jabil Circuit dwindled to nearly $1.3 billion (it rebounded to $1.72 billion). • A company's market cap — its trading price multiplied by number of shares outstanding — is more than an academic number. It reflects how much a company can tap investor dollars to grow, to hire new employees, build new facilities, and invest in its community. • "The market cap is in essence the currency of the firm," said Michael Blackman, head of investor relations for Tampa staffing company Kforce. "We look at it for how we can retire debt, repurchase Kforce stock or very selectively look at acquisitions." • Lately for Kforce, its currency has been very strong indeed. Despite posting a net loss last year, it was the sole company in the Times 10 to enjoy a rise in its stock price since last May.

"As I sit here today, (Kforce's stock) is up 35 percent year-to-date," Blackman said, adding that strong investor backing gives Kforce great latitude in choosing how to grow. "We're very much the masters of our own destiny."

Kforce CEO David Dunkel told analysts earlier this month that the company will consider acquisitions "that meet a very high hurdle."

Tom James, chief executive of Raymond James Financial in St. Petersburg (No. 6 in the Times 10), doesn't hold as much stock in market value. To him, it's a snapshot of limited worth, not a determining factor for where a company is headed. Profits matter more, he said.

"Longer term, the earning power of a lot of these (Tampa Bay) companies has actually strengthened," James said. "Our company has been strengthened by the opportunity to recruit from other firms."

Nevertheless, the market shakeup along with the broader recession have certainly cut into the firepower of bay area corporations. With tangible results.

Electronics supplier Jabil, for instance, sought a two-year delay on plans to build a new world headquarters in St. Petersburg's Gateway area. Last year, Jabil cut more than 250 jobs locally, and it's in the midst of slashing about 3,000 jobs globally.

As major companies continue to cut, local unemployment has crept into the double digits. Among the ripple-down effects: fewer employees donating money to charities such as United Way.

In last year's United Way of Tampa Bay workplace giving campaign, Raymond James and TECO trailed only Publix Super Markets as the largest corporate donors in the area. Raymond James and its employees gave in the $1 million to $3 million range and TECO's work force gave in the $500,000 to $999,999 range.

Diana Baker, president and CEO of the area United Way, won't discuss specific company pledges this year. But she predicts the campaign will come up about $800,000 shy of its $23 million goal when it wraps up next month.

"With very few exceptions, workplaces have worked really hard to continue their philanthropic support, but in general, things are down some across the board," Baker said.

Many corporate donors offer a company match, so if a financially stressed employee gives less (or there are fewer employees giving), there's an added decline in the corporate match, she noted.

United Way has told charities that it funds to expect a 13 percent cutback in the funding cycle that begins in July.

It's a particularly tough blow, Baker said, given the heightened number of jobless, homeless and hungry needing help in this economy.

"It breaks our heart to know that there may be people out there who won't get service, but when we tighten our belt, they tighten their belt," she said. "We're all leaner and hopefully focused on making decisions about priorities the best we can as this cycle plays out."

The recession helped trigger losses last year for four of the top 10 companies.

One of those spared was Lincare Holdings, a Clearwater supplier of oxygen services. Operating within the health sector, one of the areas least hard-hit by the recession, Lincare's market value is down a mere 3 percent since last May.

Another health-related company on the list, Tampa managed-care company WellCare Health Plans, wasn't so fortunate. Its value is down a whopping 65 percent since last May.

WellCare can only blame so much on the broader Wall Street meltdown. Investor appeal was dampened by a lingering, 18-month Medicaid fraud investigation. Earlier this month, WellCare agreed to pay $80 million to settle the federal probe and avoid conviction on a charge of conspiracy to defraud the Florida Medicaid program and the Florida Healthy Kids Corp.

Members of the Times 10 can take comfort, at least, that they're still around. As corporate bankruptcies continue to rise, that's no small feat.

And the area has some decent bench strength as well. In the "always a bridesmaid" category, general insurer Brown & Brown once again just missed the Top 10 cut with revenues just shy of $1 billion.

Coming up fast is Syniverse Holdings, which posted a huge, 34 percent surge in revenue to $506 million last year. Syniverse, which provides roaming settlement services and other technology to the wireless industry, has leveraged its role as a middleman between companies like Verizon and Sprint.

James, the Raymond James chief, remains optimistic for the long-term prospects of many of the bay area's core companies. Particularly, companies like No. 1 Tech Data, which he predicts "will be stronger coming out of this" as information technology spending rebounds.

Short-term, though, James acknowledges the region is in for some more pain. Commercial real estate developers are fending off high debt loads and high vacancies. Local auto dealers are angling to survive an industry purge.

"This is not a fun time," he said.

Jeff Harrington can be reached at jharrington@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8242.

1. Tech Data: $24.1 billion 2. Jabil Circuit: $12.8 billion 3. Gerdau Ameristeel: $8.5 billion 4. WellCare Health Plans: $6.5 billion 5. TECO Energy: $3.4 billion 6. Raymond James Financial: $3.2 billion 7. HSN: $2.8 billion 8. Lincare Holdings: $1.7 billion 9. Walter Energy: $1.5 billion 10. Kforce: $997 million

About Times 10

The Times 10 highlights the 10 largest public companies, by revenue, with headquarters in the Tampa Bay area. To be included, a company had to have stock traded on the New York Stock Exchange, American Stock Exchange or Nasdaq. Financial comparisons were based on a company's most recent fiscal year. That benefited some companies like Raymond James Financial, whose fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2008, before the brunt of the recession took hold. Return on equity is net income divided by average equity.



* Only nine companies are represented here because HSN, No. 7 on the list, was not publicly traded for all of 2008. Market capitalization is the per-share trading price multiplied by the number of shares outstanding. In this case, the comparison is May 1, 2008 to May 1, 2009.

Companies that just missed the cut

A handful of public companies in the Tampa Bay area met the criteria to be included but missed out on the Top 10. They include:

Company Annual revenue

in millions

Brown & Brown$978

MarineMax$885.4

Sykes Enterprises$819.2

Quality Distribution$815.3

Syniverse Holdings$506.4

OSG America$286.3

Switch and Data$172



Kforce was the only company in the top 10 to increase its market cap.

Most of Tampa Bay area's biggest companies are shrinking 05/16/09 [Last modified: Monday, May 18, 2009 4:46pm]

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