September 17, 2014

« 350 Biggest Florida Companies

Profiles - Biggest Public Companies

| 7/1/2013

38 - GEO Group Boca Raton

The GEO Group’s recent conversion to a real estate investment trust already appears to be paying off. While the private prison operator’s revenue increased 5% in the first quarter of 2013 over the previous year, profit was up 56% thanks in large part to reduced taxes. The company’s provision for income taxes was $881,000 during the first quarter of 2013, compared to $8.5 million a year earlier. While GEO Group had to sell off health care subsidiary GEO Care in the restructuring — REITs are restricted from operating and managing health care facilities — the company says its new structure will create opportunities for growth and allow the company to contain costs while maximizing shareholder value. Meanwhile, the for-profit prison operator has also been dealing with a number of publicity headaches this year, the most high-profile case stemming from the company’s offer to pay $6 million for naming rights to Florida Atlantic University’s football stadium. While school officials initially welcomed the deal, students protested the arrangement, saying they didn’t want the FAU Owls to play in a stadium named after a company that has been the target of numerous lawsuits and allegations of prisoner abuse. The GEO Group eventually withdrew its $6-million donation to the school, but protesters have continued to target the company, most recently picketing an annual shareholders meeting at the Breakers resort.

— Amy Keller

65 - Web.com Jacksonville

Jacksonville-based Web.com skyrocketed 20 notches this year after doubling its revenue in 2012 to $407.6 million. The company, which acquired Register.com and Network Solutions in 2010 and 2011, provides website and online marketing services to small and medium-sized companies.

While those deals helped push Web.com past the 3 million subscriber milestone last year, the company’s strategy is to grow its average revenue per user of $13.89 by offering additional services like online marketing and e-commerce.

To increase its visibility, the company last year took over as the title sponsor of the PGA’s developmental tour, previously known as the Nationwide Tour. “We’ve been a very quiet company up to this point,” CEO David L. Brown has said. “But we believe that mass adoption of the internet by small businesses is happening now; we think it’s the time to strike.”

— Amy Keller

72 - FriendFinder Networks Boca Raton

FriendFinder Networks, the parent company of Penthouse magazine and operator of a number of sexually oriented social networks and dating sites, is at risk of being delisted from Nasdaq after it shares fell to less than $1 a share. The Boca Raton company, which went public in 2011 at $10 a share, reported a net loss of $49 million last year and noted in its SEC filings that it has a “history of significant net losses.” The company earned 28.9% of its revenue last year from interactive video websites, like Cams.com, which describes itself as a “100% XXX live porn site with thousands of different cam models.”

FriendFinder Networks reported that it paid $27.9 million in compensation to its models last year.

— Amy Keller

86 - Homeowners Choice Property and Casualty Tampa

Lawmakers’ attempts to shrink state-run Citizens Property Insurance has been a boon for Homeowners Choice Property & Casualty, one of several companies that have been taking policies from the state’s last-resort insurer. Founded in 2007, the Tampa company now has more than 150,000 polices, about 2.5% of the Florida market, with about $340 million in annualized gross premiums.

That growth, combined with several quiet hurricane seasons — the company dealt with about 900 claims related to Tropical Storm Debby and Hurricane Isaac in 2012 — saw the company triple its profit to $30 million in 2012. It moves up 18 spots this year with $163 million in revenue.

The company has also been making moves outside the property insurance arena — purchasing waterfront property (including two marinas and a restaurant in Pinellas County), acquiring a software development firm in India and launching an IT division called Exzeo that plans to market software designed for its own insurance business to other companies. To reflect its diversification, Homeowners Choice rolled out a new name last April and is now doing business as the HCI Group.

Weiss Ratings has given Homeowners Choice a “D” rating because it has grown too fast and hasn’t yet been tested by a major storm, says Gavin Magor, a senior financial analyst at Weiss. Magor says HCI’s moves outside the insurance arena are unusual for a small property insurance company. “It isn’t normal for insurers to diversify into other areas of business. They tend to be more successful when they focus on their primary goal and vision of being insurers.”

— Amy Keller

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