One year to the day since the stock markets hit bottom, a look at the top 10 major public corporations based in the Tampa Bay area reveals an impressive rebound.
Stock prices that dropped like rocks a year ago are now up, in some cases dramatically. Nine of the 10 posted positive earnings in their latest quarter, compared with only four reporting profits a year ago.
No, the regional economy is not yet back in its groove. No, the area recession is not over. We fell so far, it still will take many months, if not longer, to climb out of this financial crater.
But with sharply improved stock prices and most of these companies back in the black, it's fair to say an economic turnaround is well under way — even if the recovery proves slow and new hiring remains spotty for the foreseeable future.
Consider this: At their stock lows in the past year, these 10 companies boasted a combined market value of just under $7 billion. Now, the 10 are worth close to $22 billion. That's a gain in one year of about $15 billion in market value — a 200 percent upswing and a key barometer of improving health and corporate clout.
Take a look at the accompanying table of Tampa Bay's 10 top public corporations on Page 5B. Combined, they generated more than $291 million in profits in their latest quarter.
A year ago, together, they lost $2.4 billion. Even if you subtract the huge year-ago loss of $2.2 billion (a goodwill writedown from being taken public) by HSN, St. Petersburg's home shopping business, the remaining nine companies still lost more ($240.8 million) than the 10 corporations earned ($291.3 million) in the latest quarter.
That's a pretty good turnaround. Only one company, Tampa's Gerdau Ameristeel, lost money in both the latest and year-ago quarters. Yet even its stock tripled in value in that same year.
And MarineMax, the country's largest recreational boat retailer, once looked down for the count, given the dramatic decline in boat sales and the rise in fuel prices. Now MarineMax is generating some profits and its stock price, which almost fell under $1, trades at nearly 10 times its 52-week low.
That's the good news. We can't recover economically if these area corporations are not clearly on the upswing.
The bad news is that while some of these companies are hiring, the number of new jobs remains small. Many opportunities often require specialized training and experience, and these firms are not necessarily adding people at their Tampa Bay headquarters but in other parts of the country or overseas.
Still, like a sick child feeding on chicken soup, the local economy is gathering strength.
Robert Trigaux can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.