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Stock markets may waffle in 2016 but these 10 Tampa Bay area stocks are heading up — or down

SeaWorld must reinvent itself without its killer whale shows.

Magnolia Pictures

SeaWorld must reinvent itself without its killer whale shows.

The overall stock market may be unable to make up its mind this year which way it's heading. But the shares of some leading Tampa Bay area companies seem to have chosen their own direction.

Up.

Or down.

Sure, the stocks of many of the dozens of publicly traded area corporations have continued to waffle back and forth since the start of 2016, up briefly on good news only to droop weeks later on more somber information. Just like the broader markets.

That's not the case with other companies here whose shares in some cases are literally soaring to new heights. On the flip side, a similar number of area businesses have taken it on the chin since January. They now have the unenviable task of reversing some ugly financial tailspins, which may require belt-tightening and other tough decisions.

In a midyear market check, here are five Tampa Bay companies whose businesses and stocks are riding high since the start of 2016. Then check out their polar opposites: five companies whose shares are heading south for destinations unknown.

•••

5 companies on the rise

1. WellCare Health Plans, Tampa: Major kudos to one of this region's largest companies whose shares have soared nearly 40 percent since the start of the year. That's not all. WellCare, which provides managed care services for Medicare and Medicaid types of government-sponsored health care programs, is tantalizingly close to reaching an all-time high, topping $105, a stock price not seen since 2007. Ken Burdick, who took the CEO job 18 months ago, must be enjoying the ride while it lasts. On Friday, analysts speculated that if health insurance giant Anthem cannot win regulatory approval to buy fellow behemoth Cigna, it may seek to buy other companies. WellCare seems to be on the list of potentials.

2. Tech Data Corp., Clearwater: The wholesale technology distributor, Tampa Bay's biggest company by revenues, started the year near $66 a share and now tops $80. Impressive, given the cutthroat margins in this industry and despite dire talk earlier this year that a tech bubble was looming. CEO Bob Dutkowsky, a veteran tech manager, this year celebrates a decade at the helm of a company whose inventory of products has turned over about a bazillion times in 10 years of rapid tech innovation.

3. Cott Corp., Tampa: These dual headquarters companies (Cott is Canadian, with a Toronto headquarters along with one in Tampa) drive journalists nuts. Will the real headquarters please stand up? Looking at the stock of Cott, though, the maker of private-label beverages for retailers, it was limping along at the start of the year. Shares dipped lower to nearly $9 in February. They now trade above $15. Big credit goes to Cott's diversification efforts, purchasing DS Services of America in December 2014 and pushing into the home/office delivery of water, coffee and tea services. This month, Cott bought Swiss-based Eden Springs to further expand its business of supplying drinks in the workplace.

4. Bloomin' Brands, Tampa: A stock bump from under $17 to near $19 a share may not seem too exciting for the first half of 2016. But the parent company of the Outback, Carrabba's and Bonefish chains managed to do it while reporting some tough quarters in casual dining. If all goes as planned, Bloomin' is gearing up to refresh its brands in what is expected to be a better second half of the year. Shares may be ready to rise anew.

5. Superior Uniform Group, Seminole: The 1,200-plus employee maker of uniforms and apparel for everything from hospitals and hotels to food service facilities and retail stores enjoyed a boost in share prices from under $17 in January to near $20 this month. In April, the company reported its 14th consecutive quarterly sales increase.

•••

5 companies with sagging shares

1. Walter Investment Management, Tampa: Poor Walter is one of the Big Ouch investing tales of the region this year. The mortgage investing firm started this year with shares topping $15, only to watch them plummet by midyear under $3.50. In a leadership shake-up this month, Denmar Dixon stepped down after holding the CEO job since only last fall. Walter has big regulatory, legal and financial challenges. Its stock decline really started way back in early 2013 when shares traded handsomely above $48. A startling fall from investor grace.

2. HCI Group, Tampa: Skyrocketing shares that peaked at $52 in 2012 and 2013 made the property insurance company an investor's dream. This year's another story so far. Shares that started 2016 near $35 are now closer to $28, a decline driven by a drop in earnings in the first quarter of $6.1 million, down from $25.4 million a year earlier. Claims from storm damage were the main culprit.

3. Health Insurance Innovations, Tampa: The provider of short-term medical insurance policies seemed to be carving out a nice niche. Then the feds governing the Affordable Care Act decided to change the rules with little notice. Shares that started the year under $7 inched toward $8 earlier this month before being hit hard by the two news bombs. First, the government wants to limit short-term health policies. And second, an analyst downgraded the company's stock. On Friday, Health Insurance Innovations shares traded near $4.

4. SeaWorld Entertainment, Orlando: Granted, this theme park company is not headquartered in Tampa Bay, but it's nearby. Besides, it owns Busch Gardens Tampa in its bevy of parks, so what happens to SeaWorld stock directly influences the strength of Tampa's leading theme park. We all know the bigger tale here. SeaWorld must reinvent itself without its core entertainment figure — the Shamu killer whale shows. How's that going so far? SeaWorld Entertainment shares opened 2016 at just below $20, rose to $21.65 by April, then have been falling ever since. Shares hovered near an all-time low on Friday, just above $15.

5. Magnegas Corp., Clearwater: Granted, its stock has never even hit $2. But shares in 2016 have been drifting lower, starting the year just over $1 but now trading at about 80 cents. The alternative energy company boasts a process that converts liquid waste into hydrogen-based fuels. It sells "MagneGas" as a replacement to acetylene in cutting metal. Perhaps its new HQ move from Tarpon Springs will help generate its own new energy.

Contact Robert Trigaux at rtrigaux@tampabay.com. Follow @venturetampabay.

Stock markets may waffle in 2016 but these 10 Tampa Bay area stocks are heading up — or down 06/17/16 [Last modified: Friday, June 17, 2016 6:04pm]
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