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Tech Data's stock price soars on better than expected financial report

The year hadn't been kind to Tech Data, at least when it came to its stock price.

Shares plunged in March, recovered slightly and then dove again in late August. At one point, the roller coaster vaporized 30 percent of the Clearwater-based IT wholesaler's value.

Then came Thursday.

The price rocketed up when the markets opened and then crept even higher, ending the trading day at just under $90, 22 percent above where it closed the day before. Put another way: The company added more than three-quarters of a billion dollars to its value in just a handful of hours, finishing the day worth $3.4 billion.

Wow. Talk about turnarounds.

The run-up came on the heels of news that Tech Data had beat analysts' financial expectations for the three months that ended Oct. 31. Sales totaled $9.3 billion, up 11 percent from the same period a year earlier. Profit was $114.2 million, a significant increase over the $37.3 million reported last year.

Tech Data, Tampa Bay's largest company by revenues, is a middleman of sorts, buying equipment from major suppliers including Apple, HP and Cisco and shipping it to customers through logistics centers worldwide, six of them in the continental United States.

"It was a good solid quarter overall," Rich Hume, chief executive officer, told me early Thursday afternoon. "We saw great results from all three of our geographic entities — the Americas, Europe and Asia."

The company expects to grow sales this quarter by about 8 percent. As for next year, Hume said potential challenges include whether rising interest rates have much effect on the bustling technology sector and how much impact the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union has on Tech Data's business on that continent.

The other wildcard: tariffs. The United States has increased tariffs on goods from several countries, including China, which have reacted by boosting tariffs on U.S. goods and services.

Hume said the initial round of tariffs has had "a negligible impact on overall demand." But the next round will be much steeper.

Tech Data can usually pass along incremental price increases to the companies that buy its goods, Hume said. The bigger threat to the company is if tariffs significantly impact overall demand and hamper sales growth within the industry.

"If everything gets more expensive, it slows the economy," he said. "If it slows the economy people buy less."

This was just the second quarterly earnings report since Hume took over as CEO earlier this year. After his first earnings report three months ago, the stock price fell 14 percent in one day. Even with Thursday's spike, Tech Data's share price is down 8 percent for the year.

"We remain hungry but humble," Hume said.

Any new surprises, now that he's had a few more months in the top job?

"Yeah, the amount of gray hair that seems to be emerging," joked Hume, 59. "That's not the industry. It's my age, unfortunately."

Contact Graham Brink at gbrink@tampabay.com. Follow @GrahamBrink.

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