First Cash earnings up 12 percent in first quarter

Arlington-based First Cash Financial Services earned $22.7 million, or 77 cents a share, in the year's first quarter, up 12 percent from a year earlier, on $170 million in revenue. The operator of 830 pawn shops in the U.S. and Mexico said those results included a one-time tax benefit of 12 cents a share. Wall Street analysts' consensus estimate for the quarter, which typically excludes unusual items, was 66 cents a share. First Cash's shares (ticker: FCFS) were virtually unchanged in mid-morning trading.

The company said it closed 37 of its Cash & Go locations that make short-term loans, also called payday loans, during the quarter and will continue to reduce its payday lending activity. In the first quarter payday lending accounted for 6 percent of revenue and is expected to account for less than 5 percent by year's end, said CEO Rick Wessel. The company said payday loan revenue was down 17 percent in the quarter compared to a year earlier and "represents a continuation of regulatory and competitive pressures facing store-based payday lenders, especially in Texas." Profit from the sale of scrap jewelry fell 46 percent as the price of gold fell 21 percent and First Cash' scrap jewelry volume was down 28 percent.

The number of outstanding pawn loans was up 30 percent in the U.S. and up 11 percent in Mexico. Overall, the dollar amount of outstanding pawn loans rose 12 percent, reflecting a smaller average loan value and lower loan values on jewelry-secured pawns.

-- Jim Fuquay







Oncor could be attractive asset under EFH restructuring, analysts say

Oncor Electric Delivery, which operates the wires that distribute electricity to much of North Texas, is worth billions to other utilities that might be interested in acquiring it in an expected bankruptcy restructuring by its corporate parent, Dallas-based Energy Future Holdings, analysts say. Bloomberg News reports that several utilities as well as outside investors would be attracted by Oncor's steady, regulated earnings and presence in a growing market if the unit is split off from EFH. A link to the story is here.

-- Jim Fuquay


Six Flags partnering on deal to build a theme park in Dubai

Grand Prairie-based Six Flags Entertainment Corp. is broadening its international reach beyond North American to the Middle East.

The regional theme park owner and operator said it is partnering with Meraas Leisure and Entertainment, a Dubai-based real estate development company, to open a Six Flags-branded park in Dubai.

The project will open in 2017 and will be located in the multi-themed park project in Jebel Ali started by Meraas, Six Flags said.

Terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.

 "The cornerstone of our international expansion strategy has always been finding the right partner in the right location and, with Meraas in Dubai, we have done exactly that," saidJim Reid-Anderson, Six Flags Entertainment president and chief executive, said in a news release. “We are honored to be working with this world-class organization as the first significant strategic step taking the Six Flags brand to growing and successful markets outsideNorth America." 

Raed Al Nuaimi, Chief Leisure and Entertainment Officer, Meraas L&E, said: "We are delighted to have a world-leading theme park company and a brand like Six Flags on board. We are confident their presence will perfectly complement our project and further enhance our overall offerings in the leisure and entertainment space."

"As part of our commitment towards creating one-of-a-kind experiences and contributing towards the Dubai Tourism Vision 2020, our association with Six Flags will help us develop a world-class destination that redefines the industry and positively impacts the regional tourism sector."

Six Flags has revenues of $1.1 billion annually. It has 18 parks in the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

Meraas L&E is the leisure and entertainment arm of Meraas Holding, which develops master-planned communities. It is tasked with developing a portfolio of innovative landmark projects that redefine Dubai's tourism and entertainment landscape, Six Flags said. 

_ Sandra Baker  


Cash America's shares jump on improved earnings outlook

Shares of Fort Worth-based Cash America International (ticker: CSH) were up nearly 10 percent this morning after the pawn shop operator said first-quarter earnings should top its previous estimates. The company now expects to earn $1.50 to $1.55 a share, up from the $1.25 that was the top of its earlier outlook. Cash America said the improvement is based on lower losses on online consumer loans, better margins on retail sales and operating efficiencies. It expects to discuss its first-quarter earnings with financial analysts the morning of April 24.

Cash America also said its board authorized management to review a spin-off and other strategic alternatives for its online lending unit, Enova International. The company in 2012 withdrew plans for an initial public offering for the unit that had been announced the previous year, when it estimated an IPO could raise up to $500 million. In Thursday's announcement it said a tax-free spin-off of at least 80 percent of Enova's shares, if it takes place, would likely occur in late 2014 or early 2015. It said Enova had revenues last year of $766 million.

"We now think that pursuing a separation of the businesses and management teams into two discrete companies is potentially very beneficial for the operating activities and ongoing strategy of each business," Cash America CEO Dan Feehan said in a prepared release. "As independent companies, both Cash America and Enova would be better positioned to focus on their industry-specific business strategies and the regulatory environments related to the specific products each company offers and to recruit and hire talent oriented to each specialized business discipline."

-- Jim Fuquay



PGA TOUR Superstore plans a Southlake location this year

PGA TOUR Superstore, the Atlanta-based golf retailer, plans a store in Southlake this year. 

The store will be located at the southwest corner of Southlake  Boulevard and Kimball Avenue. It will be its third Texas store, joining two Plano locations. 

PGA TOUR is also opening stores in Orlando and North Scottsdale this year. 

“Despite a flat retail landscape in the golf industry, we have growth plans that prove experiential retail is alive and well,” said Dick Sullivan, PGA TOUR Superstore president and CEO, in a statement. “We currently have plans to grow PGA TOUR Superstore’s presence by up to 25 percent per year over the next five years in locations across the U.S.” 

PGA TOUR Superstore currently has 19 locations ranging from 40,000 to 50,000 square feet. Each store has up to 14 custom fitting simulators and practice bays.  

“What’s different about PGA TOUR Superstore is we purposely design our stores with what the golfers want from an experience and product assortment point of view,” Sullivan said.

PGA TOUR Superstores feature certified golf pros, personalized golf lessons and the best in golf technology, equipment, apparel, custom fitting and repairs. 

The stores are owned and operated by Golf & Tennis Pro Shop, Inc., whose controlling owner and chairman is Arthur M. Blank, retired Home Depot Co-Founder and owner of the Atlanta Falcons. 

_ Sandra Baker



Fort Worth-Arlington home prices rise 10 percent in February

Fort Worth-Arlington home prices rose 9 percent in February from a year ago, according to the latest CoreLogic Home Price Index.

On a month-over-month basis, home prices, including distressed sales, rose 0.7 percent in February from January.

Excluding distressed sales, Fort Worth-Arlington home prices rose 7.5 percent in February from a year ago, and decreased by 0.1 percent from January.

Nationwide, home prices, including distressed sales rose 12.2 percent in February, representing 24 months of consecutive year-over-year increases. Texas was among 14 states with double digit year-over-year growth, rising 10.2 percent, a new home price high, CoreLogic said.

“February marks two straight years of year-over-year gains in national prices across the United States," said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic, in a statement. "The consistent upward movement in home prices should ultimately prove to be an important stimulant for higher levels of sustained market activity and growth in the housing economy."

_ Sandra Baker


Energy Future Holdings postpones interest payment, earnings release

Energy Future Holdings, the Dallas-based power company seeking to reorganize its troubled finances, on Monday said it would delay filing its 2013 financial results and postpone an interest payment while it negotiates with creditors. EFH, staggering under nearly $40 billion in debt, is expected to file a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition in the near future. For the past year it has been in talks with lenders trying to reach a consensus on its reorganization, which would speed a bankruptcy proceeding.

Texas Competitive Electric Holdings Co., which includes EFH’s deregulated subsidiaries  Luminant and TXU Energy, said that “given the constructive nature of these ongoing discussions,” it “has elected not to make certain interest payments due April 1, 2014, and to use the permitted grace periods” allowed it.

-- Jim Fuquay

Area foreclosure and mortgage deliquency rates dropping, says CoreLogic

The number of mortgage holders in the six-county Fort Worth-Arlington region at least 90 days delinquent on their loans dropped again in January, according to CoreLogic real estate data firm.

In January, the latest month available, 4.15 percent of the mortgages were late, compared to 4.59 percent a year ago, CoreLogic said.

The foreclosure rate in the area was 0.9 percent, compared to 1.25 percent in January 2013. The foreclosure rate represents the rate of foreclosures among outstanding mortgages.

The national delinquency rate in January was 4.93 percent, down from 6.36 percent a year ago.

The national foreclosure rate in January was 1.97 percent, compared to 2.9 percent a year ago.

The area numbers include data from Tarrant, Wise, Parker, Johnson, Hood and Somervell counties.

_ Sandra Baker


GameStop teams with IBM, Texas A&M to develop new retail technologies

GameStop is hooking up with IBM and the Center for Retailing Studies at Texas A&M to develop new technologies to connect with customers.

The GameStop Technology Institute, to be led by GameStop’s Jeff Donaldson, "will focus on enhancing consumer interaction technologies and developing business solutions that help drive traffic to all retail channels."

“As GameStop continues to transform its business beyond video gaming and into the technology space, we formed GTI to address our growing need for new innovation as a specialty retailer,” said Donaldson. “As we begin our partnership with IBM and Texas A&M University, GTI’s initial focus will be on the digitization of the physical retail space which would allow customers to interact with the brick-n-mortar store environment in ways that mimic interaction with digital platforms.”

GameStop said it will use IBM’s open cloud development platform, BlueMix, to develop new applications to integrate create "a hybrid cloud environment" for both in-store and online interactions.

“This cloud partnership will integrate existing systems into a new class of applications to build even deeper relationships for GameStop with their clients and will help GameStop lead the next phase of retailing by restoring the balance between physical and digital commerce platforms,” said Steve Robinson, General Manager of IBM Cloud Platform Services.

-- Steve Kaskovich


Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington holding show auditions Saturday

Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington is hosting entertainment auditions for the 2014 season beginning at noon Saturday. 

The park’s entertainment department is looking for a wide range of talent from singers to dancers and country guitarists. 

This season’s performers will appear in one of three summer shows: Chart Toppers 5.3, Looney Tunes We Got the Beat, and Country Young Gunz. 

The summer shows line-up kicks off June 7. 

Those auditioning must be at least 16 years of age and should go online to pre-register at www.sixflagsjobs.com

_ Sandra Baker


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