1: BEST PRODUCTS CO. INC. P.O Box 26303 Richmond, Va. 23260
REVENUE: $2.25 billion PROFITS: $13 million EARNINGS PER SHARE: 50 cents DIVIDEND: 24 cents ASSETS: $1.18 billion STOCKHOLDERS' EQUITY: $419.1 million RETURN ON EQUITY: 3.3 percent EXCHANGE: NYSE EMPLOYES: 18,000 TOP EXECUTIVES: Andrew M. Lewis, chairman; Robert E. R. Huntley, president FOUNDED: 1957
DESCRIPTION: Richmond-based Best Products is a discount retailer, operating 204 catalogue showrooms under the names Best, LaBelle's, Jafco, Dolgin's, Rogers, Great Western and Miller Sales. It also owns and operates 11 Best Jewelry Stores and 29 branches of Ashby's Ltd., a discount women's apparel chain.
DEVELOPMENTS: 1984 was one of the worst years in Best's history, with profits dropping to the lowest level in nearly a decade. The problems stemmed primarily from the company's continued inability to digest its two major purchases of 1982 -- the $5.4 million acquisition of Basco Inc. and the $110 million purchase of Modern Merchandising Inc.
To overcome its financial problems, the company launched a major restructuring campaign. Founder and chairman Sidney Lewis retired, to be succeeded by his son, Andrew, while a brand-new management team took over the day-to-day operations of the business. One of the new team's first moves was to streamline and centralize the company -- a move expected to force Best to lay off 300 of its 2,000 administrative employes and consolidate its 10 regional offices into four.
At the same time, Best has moved to upgrade its showrooms and merchandise to attract more customers and spur existing customers to buy more. Last month, the company announced it would spend $100 million to redesign and upgrade more than half its showrooms. Company officials said they hoped the renovation project would begin improving Best's balance sheet as early as next year. 7: ETHYL CORP. 330 S. Fourth St. P.O. Box 2189 Richmond, Va. 23217
REVENUE: $1.68 billion PROFITS: $132.2 million EARNINGS PER SHARE: $1.70 DIVIDEND: 42 1/2 cents ASSETS: $1.48 billion STOCKHOLDERS' EQUITY: $735.1 million RETURN ON EQUITY: 16.5 percent EXCHANGE: NYSE EMPLOYES: 11,000 TOP EXECUTIVES: Floyd D. Gottwald Jr., chairman and chief executive officer; Bruce C. Gottwald, president FOUNDED: 1887
DESCRIPTION: Ethyl Corp. produces chemicals for the petroleum industry, and is the major supplier of lead to U.S. refineries. The company has diversified over the years into high-technology chemicals, plastics, aluminum products, coal, oil, gas and life insurance, so lead sales account for only about 8 percent of its earnings.
DEVELOPMENTS: Ethyl reports that 1984 was the most successful year in its history, with profits up 25 percent over 1983 for the year ended Dec. 31, even with a 4 percent slide in sales.
Significantly, the Environmental Protection Agency issued new rules this March reducing the allowable lead content of gasoline. EPA's action jeopardized Ethyl's annual U.S. lead sales of about $50 million, and further threatened its $200 million worldwide lead business if other countries, as expected, adopt similar restrictions. In its third quarter, Ethyl took a charge of about $32 million after taxes to cover the expected impact of these restrictions. 8: UNIVERSAL LEAF TOBACCO CO. P.O. Box 25099 Richmond, Va. 23260 REVENUE: $1.02 billion PROFITS: $38.3 million EARNINGS PER SHARE: $2.21DIVIDEND: 90 cents ASSETS: $458.6 million STOCKHOLDERS' EQUITY: $233.3 million RETURN ON EQUITY: 17.8 percent EXCHANGE: NYSE EMPLOYES: 1,200 TOP EXECUTIVES: Gordon L. Crenshaw, chairman and chief executive officer; Thomas R. Towers, president FOUNDED: 1888
DESCRIPTION: Universal Leaf is the world's largest independent leaf tobacco dealer. It also is involved in the manufacture and marketing of phosphate fertilizers for domestic and export markets, and it recently diversified into the financial services market.
DEVELOPMENTS: In November, Universal Leaf completed its acquisition of Lawyers Title Insurance Corp., which the Richmond company purchased for $115 million in cash from Continental Group Inc. of Stamford, Conn., according to a company spokesman. The purchase of Lawyers Title marked Universal Leaf's first venture into insurance as part of its plan to diversify outside of the tobacco-processing field.
In January, Universal Leaf sold Royster Co., a Norfolk-based fertilizer company, to Superfoss AG of Denmark for $103 million in cash and $10 million in subordinated notes. According to the spokesman, Universal Leaf acquired Royster in 1980 but was not satisfied with its subsidiary's profit levels, and "we just decided not to continue in the industry."
Universal Leaf said it has no other immediate plans for acquisitions, but any future purchases probably would be in the financial services area, the spokesman said. 9: FIGGIE INTERNATIONAL HOLDINGS INC. 1000 Virginia Center Pkwy. Richmond, Va. 23295 REVENUE: $726.3 million PROFITS: $17.4 million EARNINGS PER SHARE: $2.77 DIVIDEND: 68 cents ASSETS: $493.8 million STOCKHOLDERS' EQUITY: $191.6 million RETURN ON EQUITY: 9.2 percent (est.) EXCHANGE: OTC EMPLOYES: 13,300 TOP EXECUTIVE: Harry E. Figgie Jr., chairman, president and chief executive officer FOUNDED: 1964
DESCRIPTION: Figgie International Inc. is one of the most diversified companies in the world, with more than 35 principal divisions and subsidiaries serving consumer, industrial, service and technical markets. The diversity of its operations reflects the founder's philosophy that poor performance in one area will always be balanced by strong performance in another. The company's best-known consumer subsidiaries include Fred Perry Sportswear and Rawlings Sporting Goods.
DEVELOPMENTS: Figgie improved its financial performance in the fiscal year ended Dec. 31, but still fell short of its 1981 peak of $769.9 million in sales or its 1982 peak of $26.1 million in profits. The company continued to reduce its debt, strengthening its balance sheet in anticipation of an aggressive acquisition plan designed to boost annual sales to $1 billion.
The company has been moving its corporate offices to Richmond from Cleveland over the past two years, transferring approximately 130 employes. Its new headquarters is on 1,200 acres just north of Richmond, most of which Figgie plans to develop, and includes a sprawl of tennis courts, gardens and Colonial Williamsburg-style buildings.
Figgie recently announced plans to close American LaFrance, the upstate New York maker of custom fire engines that had consistently hurt Figgie's cash flow and earnings. Chairman Figgie has made it clear that the company will consider disposing of other operations that do not meet its financial criteria. 10: A. H. ROBINS CO. 1407 Cummings Dr. Richmond, Va. 23261
REVENUE: $631.9 million LOSS: $461.6 million LOSS PER SHARE: $18.44 DIVIDEND: 72 cents ASSETS: $648.1 million STOCKHOLDERS' EQUITY: ($127.8 million) RETURN ON EQUITY: NA EMPLOYES: 6,000 TOP EXECUTIVE: E. Claiborne Robins, chairman FOUNDED: 1866
DESCRIPTION: A. H. Robins is a diversified health care company whose products include so-called "ethical" pharmaceuticals such as Reglan, used to control vomiting and nausea in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Its consumer products include ChapStick, the country's leading lip balm, and Robitussin, the top-selling cough syrup line. It also sells animal care products and medical instruments. Robins also owns radio stations in Greensboro, N.C., and has about 30 foreign subsidiaries.
DEVELOPMENTS: The company reported a record $461.6 million loss for the year ended Dec. 31 after setting up a $615 million reserve fund to pay the cost of lawsuits resulting from the Dalkon Shield, the intrauterine device marketed by Robins and pulled from the market 11 years ago when questions were raised about its safety. The fund, based on the firm's estimate of the "minimum" costs it will face in compensatory damages, was charged against fourth-quarter earnings and wiped out any shareholder dividends for at least the next two years.
The loss -- which company officials have described as a "bookkeeping entry" -- came despite record sales of $631.9 million, a 12 percent increase over 1983, and record operating earnings of $128 million, a 21 percent increase over 1983. Company officials attributed the increase to strong performances by its pharmaceuticals division, particularly the drug Reglan. The company said its consumer products segment experienced a slight decline in sales and a substantial decline in operating earnings, primarily because of pet care operations in the United States.
Delays over establishing the reserve fund forced the company to postpone its annual meeting until May 30 at the company's Richmond headquarters.