Business

North Carolina stocks outpace broader market in 2015

Among the top 50 North Carolina companies, Coca-Cola Bottling’s jump in stock price was the best showing of 2015. Here Natasha Merritt, a customer experience specialist, works at the company’s new Customer Care Center located on West W.T. Harris Boulevard.
Among the top 50 North Carolina companies, Coca-Cola Bottling’s jump in stock price was the best showing of 2015. Here Natasha Merritt, a customer experience specialist, works at the company’s new Customer Care Center located on West W.T. Harris Boulevard. jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

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.

Big winners

▪ 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.

Big losers

▪ 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.

New names

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.

Deon Roberts: 704-358-5248, @DeonERoberts

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.

Company

Headquarters

Dec. 31 closing price ($)

Percent change

Bank of America

Charlotte

16.83

-5.93

Lowe’s Cos.

Mooresville

76.04

10.52

Duke Energy

Charlotte

71.39

-14.54

Nucor

Charlotte

40.30

-17.84

VF Corp.

Greensboro

62.25

-16.89

BB&T

Winston-Salem

37.81

-2.78

Reynolds American

Winston-Salem

46.15

43.61

Sonic Automotive

Charlotte

22.76

-15.83

Lab. Corp. of America

Burlington

123.64

14.59

Sealed Air

Charlotte

44.6

5.11

Hanesbrands

Winston-Salem

29.43

5.46

Quintiles

Durham

68.66

16.63

Ingles Markets

Asheville

44.08

18.85

Martin Marietta Materials

Raleigh

136.58

23.8

CommScope Holding

Hickory

25.89

13.4

Carlisle Cos.

Charlotte

88.69

-1.72

Old Dominion Freight Line

Thomasville

59.07

-23.92

Curtiss-Wright

Charlotte

68.50

-2.96

Coca-Cola Consolidated

Charlotte

182.51

107.33

Alliance One International

Morrisville

11.47

-27.41

Red Hat

Raleigh

82.81

19.77

Ply Gem Holdings

Cary

12.54

-10.3

The Fresh Market

Greensboro

23.42

-43.16

Qorvo

Greensboro/Hillsboro, Ore.

50.90

-27.7

Snyder’s-Lance

Charlotte

34.30

13.91

Cree

Durham

26.67

-17.23

PRA Health Sciences

Raleigh

45.27

86.91

First Citizens BancShares

Raleigh

258.17

2.13

Piedmont Natural Gas

Charlotte

57.02

44.66

INC Research Holdings

Raleigh

48.51

88.83

Extended Stay America

Charlotte

15.90

-17.66

EnPro Industries

Charlotte

43.84

-30.15

Premier

Charlotte

35.27

5.19

The Cato Corp.

Charlotte

36.82

-12.71

FairPoint Communications

Charlotte

16.07

13.09

Unifi

Greensboro

28.15

-4.81

Highwoods Properties

Raleigh

43.60

-1.54

Krispy Kreme

Winston-Salem

15.07

-23.66

Xerium Technologies

Youngsville

11.85

-24.9

Speedway Motorsports

Concord

20.72

-5.26

Insteel Industries

Mount Airy

20.92

-11.28

Tanger Factory Outlet Centers

Greensboro

32.70

-11.53

PowerSecure International

Wake Forest

15.05

29.18

Culp

High Point

25.47

17.48

LendingTree

Charlotte

89.28

85.77

Babcock & Wilcox Ent. (BW)

Charlotte

20.87

4.8

SPX Corp. (SPXC)

Charlotte

9.33

-21.6

SPX Flow (FLOW)

Charlotte

27.91

-17.91

Yadkin Financial

Raleigh

25.17

21.09

Bojangles’

Charlotte

15.87

-16.47

Source: Bloomberg data, Observer research

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