For another year, shares of the largest publicly traded companies headquartered in North Carolina outperformed the broader market, even as declining oil prices were a drag on firms tied to the energy sector.
The S&P 500, an index of widely held stocks, fell less than 1 percent in 2015. That performance came in a rough year for energy companies amid a global flood of crude oil that has helped drive down oil prices. Energy company stocks were the biggest decliners in the index.
In North Carolina, 50 of the state’s largest public companies by revenue posted a combined average gain of about 4.7 percent.
Charlotte’s Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated was the best performer. The largest independent bottler of Coca-Cola products logged a roughly 107 percent increase in its stock price, in a year in which it expanded its distribution territory.
Some Charlotte-area companies vanished from 2014’s list through acquisitions, including Family Dollar. Chesapeake, Va.-based Dollar Tree closed on its purchase of the Matthews discount retailer in July.
The lineup in 2015 featured some new entrants, too, such as Sealed Air, maker of the well-known Bubble Wrap. The Fortune 500 company, which was previously based in New Jersey, broke ground on its Charlotte headquarters in June.
In 2015, North Carolina stocks outpaced major indexes for a third year in a row. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 2.2 percent.
Don Olmstead, managing director of Charlotte-based Novare Capital Management, said it’s not surprising that stocks for North Carolina’s biggest public companies performed better than the overall market, given that the state is not headquarters to large energy companies, whose stocks have been battered.
“You would expect the North Carolina companies to do better,” Olmstead said. “You don’t have a ConocoPhillips; you don’t have a Marathon Oil.”
But North Carolina companies were not immune as oil prices fell.
James Harlow, an analyst for Novare, attributed declines in some of the state’s industrial stocks partly to the slumping energy sector.
“A lot of industrial companies, a portion of their business is supplying the oil and gas market,” Harlow said. “Those areas of their business are falling off a lot.”
Here’s a look at how stocks for some of North Carolina’s biggest companies fared in 2015.
▪ Among the top 50, Coca-Cola Bottling’s jump in stock price was the best showing of 2015. That came in a year of growth for the company, including May’s signing of a letter of intent with the Coca-Cola Co. giving the bottler exclusive distribution rights to new markets in 10 states and the District of Columbia.
▪ Raleigh-based health care research companies PRA Health Sciences and INC Research Holdings were among the largest gainers. PRA and INC increased 86.9 percent and 88.8 percent, respectively.
▪ Charlotte-based Piedmont Natural Gas rose 44.6 percent. In 2015, the company announced that Charlotte-based Duke Energy, the nation’s largest electric utility, plans to purchase it by the end of 2016.
▪ Charlotte’s LendingTree, which matches customers with mortgage and other types of lenders, rose 85.7 percent as it reported record quarterly results throughout the year.
▪ Reynolds American increased 43.6 percent. In June, the Winston-Salem cigarette maker completed its acquisition of Greensboro-based competitor Lorillard in a deal that combined the No. 2 and No. 3 U.S. cigarette companies.
▪ The year’s largest decline went to The Fresh Market, which fell 43 percent. In August, the Greensboro-based grocer said it was working to “stabilize and improve” comparable store sales, which were down over the prior year. The company announced in October that it was conducting a strategic and financial review of its business, a move it said could result in a sale of the company.
▪ Among other companies that posted large drops, Morrisville-based Alliance One International ended the year down 27.4 percent. In March, the company announced plans for the first phase of a global restructuring focused on efficiency and cost improvements.
Firms lost through acquisition
Family Dollar is not the only Charlotte-based public company that disappeared from 2014’s list. Horizon Lines and Chiquita Brands International were also lost through acquisitions.
In 2014, Horizon Lines, a shipping company, announced that its assets were being acquired by two other shippers and that it planned to shut down its remaining operations because of ongoing losses. Those acquisitions were completed in 2015.
Brazilian companies Safra Group and Cutrale completed their acquisition of Chiquita this year, taking the banana producer private.
A year of spinoffs
It was also a year of spinoffs for some Charlotte-based public companies.
Energy company Babcock & Wilcox split into two publicly traded companies. One, a company called Babcock & Wilcox Enterprises, is based in Charlotte. The other, which goes by BWX Technologies, is headquartered in Lynchburg, Va.
Babcock & Wilcox Enterprises, which trades under the ticker symbol BW, is up about 4.8 percent since the spinoff was completed July 1.
In September, Charlotte manufacturer SPX spun off its flow business. The move resulted in two separate publicly traded companies, SPX and SPX Flow, which are both based in Charlotte.
Since the completion of the spinoff, SPX is down 21.6 percent, and Flow is down 17.9 percent.
In addition to Sealed Air, Charlotte gained another public company in 2015 when Bojangles’ went public.
Shares of the Charlotte fried chicken chain are down about 16.47 percent for the year. Sealed Air ended the year up 5.1 percent.
The year in North Carolina stocks
Here’s how stock prices for 50 of the largest publicly traded companies by revenue based in North Carolina performed in 2015. Percentage change in rates of return do not include dividends.
Dec. 31 closing price ($)
Bank of America
Lab. Corp. of America
Martin Marietta Materials
Old Dominion Freight Line
Alliance One International
Ply Gem Holdings
The Fresh Market
PRA Health Sciences
First Citizens BancShares
Piedmont Natural Gas
INC Research Holdings
Extended Stay America
The Cato Corp.
Tanger Factory Outlet Centers
Babcock & Wilcox Ent. (BW)
SPX Corp. (SPXC)
SPX Flow (FLOW)
Source: Bloomberg data, Observer research