Rising stock prices are not the only way to salute a public company's financial muscle.
To be sure, kudos go to Tampa's HCI Group, parent of the Homeowners Choice insurance business, for its repeat No. 1 regional performance in 2013 with a share price that rose by 170 percent.
But measured a different way, another area public company also enjoyed a blockbuster year: Raymond James Financial. Based on its market value — that's stock price times shares outstanding — the St. Petersburg-based investment firm finished 2013 valued at nearly $7 billion.
Modest by national standards. But that market worth makes Raymond James the most valuable public corporation among companies headquartered in the Tampa Bay metro area.
The "most valuable" designation has long been a horse race among a group of growing companies whose market values in recent years typically clustered between $2.5 billion and $4.5 billion. Those companies included stalwarts such as TECO Energy, Brown & Brown, WellCare Health Plans, HSN, Jabil Circuit and Bloomin' Brands.
Any one of those half-dozen — which stand out from the relatively small table of bay area stocks — could take the lead in market value in the future.
But this past year, Raymond James broke out of the pack.
Why? Fortune favored the bold. In its biggest acquisition ever, Raymond James in 2012 purchased the Memphis-based regional brokerage Morgan Keegan. And in 2013, under Raymond James chief executive Paul Reilly and his team, the company grew by absorbing the best of Morgan Keegan and trimming away what did not fit.
The stock market liked how Raymond James made that deal work. In 2013, company shares rose from about $38 at the start of the year and closed Tuesday just over $52. In the process, Raymond James saw its market value rise dramatically in just one year by nearly $2 billion to finish just under $7 billion.
This tale is not to take anything away from the splendid stock ride of the youthful HCI Group. But let's consider the difference in size of these companies.
HCI Group's market value, after its remarkable stock ride in 2013, is about $615 million. That is less than a tenth of the market value of the more mature Raymond James.
Market value is what investors believe a public company is worth.
So on the first trading day of 2014, congratulations to both the well-established but still hungry Raymond James Financial as well as the impressive up-and-comer HCI Group. May they both continue to deliver great value to shareholders.
Contact Robert Trigaux at firstname.lastname@example.org.