Top Stock Price: GNC delivers earnings power as best stocks performer
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Vitamin and supplement provider GNC Holdings led the list of Western Pennsylvania's top-performing stocks last year, rising 81 percent since going public in April.
Higher profile 2011 initial public offerings such as Groupon and LinkedIn may have drawn more headlines, but they failed to deliver the earnings power that GNC [ticker: GNC] brought to the table. The company reported net income of $132.3 million for the year, a 37 percent increase over the prior year and 10 times greater than the profits posted by LinkedIn, the social networking site.
The region's Top 10 performers included three financial companies and four industrials, both sectors hit hard by the recession and among the first to benefit from what has been a naggingly subdued recovery.
Shares of Fidelity Bancorp [FSBI] rose 77 percent last year, fueled by the West View-based bank's fourfold increase in earnings. The other financial stocks in the Top 10 were mutual fund operator Federated Investors [FII], up 42 percent, and Latrobe banker Commercial National Financial [CNAF], up 24 percent.
AK Steel [AKS], which has major operations in Butler, rose 50 percent, making it the region's fourth-best stock in 2011. Other industrials in the top 10 were aluminum maker Alcoa [AA], up 44 percent; Columbia Gas parent NiSource [NI], up 35 percent; and rail industry supplier Wabtec [WAB], up 32 percent.
Wilmerding-based Wabtec has been a mainstay among the region's best stocks. Over the last five years, it has generated average annual returns of 18 percent, topped only by software developer Ansys [ANSS] and Robinson environmental services concern Calgon Carbon [CCC].
Shares of Cecil-based Ansys, which advanced 10 percent last year, have risen an average of 21 percent annually since 2007. Calgon Carbon stock rose 4 percent last year and an average of 20 percent annually over the same period.
Education Management Corp. [EDMC], the Downtown operator of the Art Institute and other schools, turned in the third-best performance, jumping 55 percent.
Education Management and other for-profit school operators have been under fire from some members of Congress and other critics for recruiting practices, tuition prices and the high student loan default rate among their graduates. Last month, the company reported a 9 percent drop in enrollment and a 26 percent decline in quarterly profits.
The other Top 10 performer, TreeHouse Foods [THS] saw its shares shoot up 28 percent last year. While the soups that the Oak Brook, Ill., private label food provider makes on the North Side suffered through the mild winter, the company's profits rose 4 percent last year.
The other regional stock to debut last year did not fare as well as GNC. Shares of TMS International [TMS], the Glassport steel industry supplier that went public in April, fell 24 percent by year's end, leaving the company just out of the Top 50 based on stock performance.
Stocks of only about half of the companies eligible for the Post-Gazette's Top 50 gained ground last year, with 19 of them generating double-digit returns.
The performance is indicative of the problems that the Post-Gazette/Bloomberg index of regional stocks had in 2011. It fell 7 percent vs. a 6 percent increase in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
First Published March 20, 2012 12:00 am