Monday Business Briefing: Strong start to 2019 in stocks; report hints that Papa John’s may just sell stake; SDF’s record year; and more
Welcome to the Feb. 4 Monday Business Briefing, your weekly business intelligence digest from Insider Louisville.
Markets, most local stocks post gains in January
Shares of manufacturer Sypris Solutions and tobacco products company Turning Point Brands soared by more than 30 percent in January, clearly outperforming other local stocks and U.S. markets as a whole.
However, of 14 companies either based in Louisville or with a strong local presence, nine performed worse than the S&P 500, which rose nearly 8 percent, though only one, Brown-Forman recorded a share price decline.
Shares of Sypris on Thursday closed at $1.06, up nearly 36 percent in January, which followed an abysmal fourth quarter of 2018 in which Sypris saw its shares drop nearly 43 percent. Trading volume has been light. In the last three trading days of 2018, 146,400 shares changed hands, according to Yahoo Finance. In the following 22 trading days, fewer than 160,000 shares changed hands, including just 100 on Jan. 24. The company, which provides manufacturing and technical services for aerospace, defense and transportation industries, next will report earnings in mid-March.
Shares of the tobacco products company Turning Point Brands closed at $35.41 on Thursday, up 30 percent for the month. Investors of the company have been worried about stronger regulations of e-cigarettes, but shares spiked 11 percent over a two-day period in mid-January after Turning Point Brands said it was forming a new subsidiary to focus on rapidly growing and emerging markets such as the cannabidiol industry.
Besides Sypris Solutions and Turning Point Brands, only Churchill Downs, up 13.1 percent, outperformed the S&P 500 among Louisville-based companies.
Louisville’s largest employers, Ford and UPS, also had a good January, posting stock price gains of 15 percent and 8 percent. Ford posted a fourth-quarter loss — though results appeared worse than they actually were because of unusual expenses including higher materials costs that were driven up partially by tariffs. Meanwhile, UPS said last week that some weaker demand early in the fourth quarter “due to labor negotiation headlines” was offset by a strong December.
Humana, the largest Louisville-based company by market capitalization, saw its share price rise nearly 8 percent in January. The company will announce earnings on Wednesday. Shares of Apellis Pharmaceuticals were up 6.1 percent. The company will announce earnings in mid-March.
Louisville’s financial services industry — Stock Yards, Limestone, Republic — posted solid share price gains in January, between 5.4 and 7.7 percent. And while Papa John’s shares rose 6.2 percent, the rest of the Louisville restaurant industry — Yum Brands, Texas Roadhouse — performed significantly worse than the S&P 500, with each posting gains of less than 2.3 percent.
Brown-Forman’s shares in January fell by about 0.7 percent, but the stock price is actually up since markets closed on Jan. 2, the first trading day of the year, when the distiller’s shares fell nearly 3.2 percent. The company will post earnings in early March.
January was the best first month for U.S. stocks in 30 years, according to The Wall Street Journal, which said that rising share prices of banks and smaller companies, which had lagged in the fourth quarter, suggest that “investors who were bracing for a sharp slowdown in U.S. economic activity have been soothed by cautious comments from the Federal Reserve, signs of strength in the labor market and data pointing to tepid inflation.” —Boris Ladwig
Report: Papa John’s may only sell a slice of business
According to a report from Reuters, Louisville-based pizza chain Papa John’s International has abandoned plans to sell the entire company and instead is now looking only to sell a stake.
The change in tactic came after offers from private equity firms did not meet expectations, Reuters reported Friday. While the company isn’t guaranteed to accept a deal swapping private funding for equity in the publicly traded company, the report states, an injection of investment dollars would help Papa John’s recover from low revenue.
The pizza chain’s stock ended the week at $38.51, down almost 9 percent.
Papa John’s is trying to recover sales lost after its founder, John Schnatter, used a racial slur. Schnatter is still part of the company’s board of directors and owns a 30 percent stake but was otherwise ousted from influence. The company and Schnatter have conducted a public battle in the months since. —Caitlin Bowling
Airport reports a record year in 2018 for departures
The recently renamed Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport had the busiest months in its history from September to December, helping to make 2018 a record year for departures.
The airport announced in a news release that nearly 1.94 million passengers departed Louisville on flights out of Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport last year. Airlines also increased passenger capacity out of the airport last year, with an 8.5 percent increase in capacity, or additional 195,000 seats.
“2018 was a banner year for the airport,” Dan Mann, executive director of the Louisville Regional Airport Authority, said in a news release. “We launched four new destinations, saw the airport’s fastest passenger growth rate in 25 years and announced nonstop service to Los Angeles that begins this April. We are eager to carry this energy into 2019.”
Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport now has 33 nonstop destinations compared to 21 two years ago. Recently added nonstop routes include Denver, Austin and Orlando through Frontier Airlines, Myrtle Beach and Jacksonville on Allegiant Air, and Dallas and Houston through Southwest Airlines. —Caitlin Bowling
Study finds link between brain health and blood pressure
Results of a new study show that intensive control of blood pressure may reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment in older people, but the trial fell short of proving that such treatment can help avoid dementia.
The SPRINT MIND study, led by scientists at Wake Forest School of Medicine, was reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association Jan. 28.
More than 9,300 adults, age 50 and older, took part in the randomized clinical trial, which was supported by the National Institutes of Health.
“Dementia continues to be a large public health challenge, and based on the primary results of this study, we still have yet to find an intervention strategy proven to reduce the risk of dementia,” Dr. Richard J. Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging, said in news release from NIH. “Nevertheless, the secondary results showing that intensive lowering of blood pressure may reduce risk for MCI, a known risk factor for dementia, gives us additional avenues to explore on the path to prevention.”
Mild cognitive impairment, which is less severe than dementia, is a decline in memory and thinking skills beyond what would be expected with normal aging, according to a news release from the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
“In the study, we found that just three years of lowering blood pressure not only dramatically helped the heart but also helped the brain,” said Dr. Jeff Williamson, the study’s principal investigator, in the Wake Forest release.
The study was stopped early because of the success of the cardiovascular portion. But the Alzheimer’s Association, which has a chapter in Louisville, is giving more than $800,000 for two years of follow-up and assessment that the association hopes will provide a more definitive statement on reducing dementia risk.
“Because of our ability to act quickly, support for groundbreaking studies, like this one, move ahead much faster,” said DeeAnna S. Esslinger, executive director of the Greater Kentucky & Southern Indiana Chapter.— Darla Carter
Scarlet’s Bakery opens downtown location
Social enterprise retailer Scarlet’s Bakery opened its second location Friday morning with pastries, coffee, sandwiches and more, though it will mark its grand opening Monday.
The bakery, which staffs and supports women who’ve experienced abuse and exploitation, opened a tiny location in the First Trust Centre, 200 S. Fifth St. Its hours of operation are 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Scarlet’s Bakery downtown will serve some grab-and-go lunch options, as well as hot drinks, pastries and other goodies. The bakery also is working on its third location, this one in a roughly 1,500-square-foot space in St. Matthews at 106 Fairfax Ave.
Owner Rachelle Starr originally hoped to open that St. Matthews storefront in January, but that timeline was pushed to mid-February after the small downtown location became available. —Caitlin Bowling
Louisvillian Frankie Lewis will compete in next season of ‘Project Runway’
Louisville native Frankie Lewis is following her passion of fashion design all the way to the set of Bravo’s “Project Runway” show. She’ll compete against 15 other designers from across the country for the top prize, which just so happens to be the largest amount in the show’s 15-year history — $250,000.
Lewis is an alumna of The Cabbage Patch Settlement House, where she came back to work after getting a degree at UofL. She’s made costumes for local theater companies and came out with her own clothing line called Ann DeEvelyn. She’s working on a new line called Frankie Lew.
“I’ve always wanted to make clothes,” Lewis said in a video about her time at The Cabbage Patch. “When I was a little girl, I’d ask for material from Santa. I didn’t want toys, I wanted fabric.”
The new season of “Project Runway” will begin March 14 at 8 p.m. on Bravo. Supermodel Karlie Kloss will serve as host, with former “Project Runway” champ Christian Siriano as the mentor. Judges include ELLE editor Nina Garcia, fashion designer Brandon Maxwell and journalist and former Teen Vogue editor Elaine Welteroth. —Sara Havens
Poll: Many Kentuckians going without a regular doctor
More Kentuckians are reporting that they don’t have a regular doctor or medical home.
In the latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll report, 24 percent of Kentucky adults were without a usual place to go for health care, compared to 18 percent in 2009, according to the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.
That’s of concern, said the foundation’s chief executive, Ben Chandler, because, “You’re more likely to have regular wellness visits, immunizations and health screenings and to avoid dangerous medication interactions and preventable hospital admissions when you have both health insurance and a regular care provider.”
On a more positive note, only about 8 percent of Kentucky adults said they go to the emergency room or an urgent care center as their usual source of care, and that figure has been steady since 2009 when pollsters started asking the question.
Deb Frockt is the new chief executive of Jewish Family & Career Services, a nonprofit human services organization, effective Friday. She succeeds longtime executive director Judy Freundlich Tiell, who retired at the end of 2018.
Dave & Buster’s in Mall St. Matthews, a 40,000-square-foot arcade, restaurant and sports bar, is opening at 11 a.m. today after a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. The entertainment center is located in Suite D200 of the mall.