Leaner companies earn more profits on lower sales, and IPOs return.
LIST RESEARCH AND STORY BY BRANDON SAWYER
Ten years ago Oregon had 80 publicly traded companies. That crew has dwindled by well over a third during the past decade with just 51 this year. In fact, the state hasn’t had so few public companies since 1993 when there were 44. A look at some of Oregon’s once-prominent companies provides good examples of what happened. Many were acquired by other companies, such as Willamette Industries, which was bought by Weyerhaeuser in 2002. Several moved headquarters out of state, such as Louisiana Pacific, which left for Nashville in 2004. A few even dissolved in bankruptcy such as Crown Pacific Partners did in 2004. Still others, such as Elmer’s Restaurants in 2004, chose to return to private ownership, perhaps prompted by tighter reporting restrictions imposed by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.
Sarbanes-Oxley has also been blamed for spooking private companies from going public in recent years. Initial public offerings have become almost extinct, particularly in Oregon where the last big IPO, Portland General Electric’s, sprang unexpectedly out of Enron’s bankruptcy. However, hope is on the way with SEC filings for IPOs in May from Tripwire and Erickson Air-Crane, both based in Portland. Soon Oregon may have two new public companies to add to its roster.
Eight companies deserted the list this year: Wilsonville’s Movie Gallery finally liquidated assets and rode into the sunset; AVI Biopharma migrated from Corvallis to Bothell, Wash.; Bend’s Clear Choice Health Plans was absorbed by Eugene-based not-for-profit PacificSource; Tacoma, Wash.-based Columbia State Bank snatched up Columbia Bancorp of The Dalles; EnergyConnect Group zapped headquarters from Lake Oswego to Campbell, Calif.; Home Valley Bancorp in Grant’s Pass and Ashland’s ecoSolutions did not release annual reports; and non-operational MathStar was acquired by Wisconsin-based Sajan.
Five companies joined the list in 2010, including Tigard-based Powin Corp. (No. 35), a distributor of Chinese manufactured products that touted an April IPO but is still not traded on an exchange; Calypte Biomedical Corp. (No. 46), a Portland developer of HIV and chronic disease tests originally from California; and three “development-stage” companies with no revenue at the bottom of the list: Business Outsourcing Services, Xzeres Wind Corp. and CarePayment Technologies (formerly listed as microHelix in 2007).
Nike has been the top dog since 1993. Despite the economy and lower revenue, it had record annual profits of $1.9 billion this year and its stock price grew 20%. Nike’s year-end market value alone, $32.2 billion, accounts for nearly half of the value of all our public companies.
Among the rest of the top 10, StanCorp Financial Group bucked the financial industry trend to grow earnings 28%, trading places with Schnitzer Steel, which went from earning $248.7 million in 2008 to losing $32.2 million in 2009. But Lithia Motors reversed course, turning a $252.6 million loss in 2008 to a $9.2 million profit in 2009. Portland General Electric, FLIR Systems and Northwest Natural Gas all enjoyed higher profits than last year, while at Precision Castparts and Columbia Sportswear income fell 12% and 30%, respectively. Greenbrier Companies maintained its spot in the top 10 despite a 21% drop in revenue and a $54.1 million loss.
Total revenue for the list was $43.2 billion, a drop of 14% compared to last year. On the other hand, total net income climbed 23% to $2.4 billion from $1.9 billion last year, and market value for all the companies as of Dec. 31, 2009, rose 37% to $67.3 billion. After the layoffs and cost-cutting of the last couple years, Oregon’s public companies seem to be wringing bigger profits out of weaker sales, and getting some relief in the stock market.