Baker, Ahles & Kaskovich

U.S. Concrete is strongest local stock as energy shares slump with oil

Shares of Quicksilver Resources lost all their value after the company filed for bankruptcy in March. Other energy stocks declined as drilling activity slowed with low oil and gas prices.
Shares of Quicksilver Resources lost all their value after the company filed for bankruptcy in March. Other energy stocks declined as drilling activity slowed with low oil and gas prices. Star-Telegram

The oil bust that pressured energy stocks nationwide took its toll on public energy companies based in Tarrant County last year. But we had our share of local winners in 2015 as well.

A review of shares listed in the Star-Telegram’s Metroplex Stock Report shows that the year’s top performer was Euless-based U.S. Concrete (ticker: USCR), which turned in a gain of 85 percent to close the year at $52.66 a share. The operator of Redi-Mix has been a top-performing local stock each year since it moved its headquarters from Houston in 2012.

In the first nine months of 2015, revenues at U.S. Concrete increased by 36 percent to $711.1 million and operating income grew by 58 percent to $58.6 million.

Other winners among local stocks were Southlake-based Sabre (ticker: SABR), the travel technology company, up 38 percent to $27.97; Cash America (ticker: CSH), the Fort Worth-based pawnshop operator, which gained 32.4 percent to $29.95; Grand Prairie-based Six Flags Entertainment (ticker: SIX), up 27.3 percent to $54.94; and home builder D.R. Horton (ticker: DHI), which rose 26.7 percent to $32.03 as the housing market continued to gain strength. Horton also announced it will move its headquarters from Fort Worth to Arlington.

On the downside, the biggest loser was Southlake-based Emerge Energy Services (ticker: EMES), whose shares shares plummeted 91.4 percent as the sharp decline in oil prices and drilling took a toll on its businesses, which include Superior Silica Holdings, a provider of sand and proppants used in fracking. From a high of $67.39 a share, it closed the year at $4.63.

Other oil and gas shares that got hammered include Fort Worth’s Basic Energy Services (ticker: BAS), down 61.8 percent to $2.68, and Range Resources (ticker: RRC), off 54 percent to $24.61. Quicksilver Resources filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March and recently told shareholders its stock is worthless.

Also taking a big dive last year was Pier 1 Imports (ticker: PIR), off 66.9 percent to $5.09, which was forced to repeatedly trim its earnings guidance as it struggled with a shift in sales from brick-and-mortar stores to online channels.

Trouble brewing at Blue Bell?

After Blue Bell ice cream returned to the shelves, it looked like the worst might be behind the company.

Guess again.

CBS News and the Wall Street Journal reported last week that the Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation into what company officials knew — and when — about the deadly listeria outbreak at its factories in Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas.

In case you forgot, Blue Bell was forced to abandon grocery store shelves in the spring after a listeria outbreak was linked to 10 illnesses, including three deaths. The company at first voluntarily recalled products, but as the controversy grew, it shut down production in May and laid off or furloughed most of its roughly 3,900 employees.

It looked like the company was a goner until Fort Worth financier Sid Bass came to the rescue with a $125 million investment. The company provided assurances that its production lines have been modernized to prevent any future problems, and Blue Bell ice cream returned to shelves in August. Max B. Baker

LeaderPrime program launching

In February, development program Leadership Fort Worth will launch LeaderPrime Fort Worth, a program for top executives new to Fort Worth or their job.

The program, for 10 to 15 selected people, will provide an orientation to the community and its leaders.

“The top decision maker of a company or organization has a dual responsibility: to make their business the best it can be and to contribute back to the community that is the home base for their company,” Harriet Harral, Leadership Fort Worth executive director, said in a statement. “LeaderPrime will support both. Our goal is to help CEOs and other top executives new to Fort Worth and/or their role make more productive decisions because of their orientation to the culture, leaders and trends in the community.”

Participants will gain greater knowledge of Fort Worth’s business context and opportunities through extensive background on pertinent issues affecting business and quality of life, Harral said.

The program’s two-day retreat will take place Feb. 18-19 at The Ashton Hotel in downtown Fort Worth.

The first-day agenda is designed to introduce members to the Fort Worth community. It includes a champagne bus tour of Fort Worth’s history and current initiatives and a reception featuring former Fort Worth mayors and leaders. Members are scheduled to end the day having dinner with billionaire businessman Ross Perot Jr.

The next day, Mayor Betsy Price is slated to welcome members to the community. The group will learn about Fort Worth’s economic development, business trends, mobility, education, workforce, political infrastructure and community needs through presentations by leaders in each area.

A half-day follow-up meeting will be held March 31 and will include a tour of BNSF’s Fort Worth headquarters.

For more information visit leadershipfortworth.org.

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk

Sandra Baker: 817-390-7727, @SandraBakerFWST

Steve Kaskovich: 817-390-7773, @stevekasko

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