Health care technology firm leads local stock rebound


Health care technology firm leads local stock rebound

Led by a growing health care technology firm, the stocks of publicly held companies with headquarters in southeastern Wisconsin are bouncing back.
In recent weeks, the BizTimes Stock Index has been knocking on the door of its 52-week high, recovering some of the value inflicted by the recession that began in 2000.
The BizTimes Stock Index closed June 26 at 120.88, well above its 111.21 starting point for the year and just 2.54 points below its 52-week high of 123.42.
In the same period, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed June 26 at 9,055.44, above its 8.990.74 starting point for the year and below its 52-week high of 9,068.05.
The BizTimes Stock Index tracks the cumulative value of the 37 stocks of publicly held companies based in southeastern Wisconsin. The index is compiled for Small Business Times by North Shore Bank.
Twenty-five of the local stocks posted price-share gains in the first half of this year, while 12 lost ground.
Seventeen of the companies have seen double-digit percentage price growth since Jan. 1. That list is led by Merge eFilm, formerly known as Merge Technologies Inc.
Merge eFilm’s stock surged after it was granted permission to move its common stock from the Nasdaq Small Cap Market to the Nasdaq National Market June 3. The stock has nearly doubled from $6.88 per share on Jan.1 to $13.62 on June 26.
The past year has been a period of accelerated change and growth for Merge eFilm, which provides global radiology software and services for the health care industry.
The company changed its name last September after acquiring eFilm Medical Inc., a privately held company that was based in Toronto. Merge eFilm also acquired the assets of Aurora Technology Inc., a private Minnesota corporation with operations in Lake Bluff, Ill.
Merge eFilm then named Scott Veech as vice president and chief financial officer, and in January signed an expanded $5 million line of credit with Milwaukee-based Merchants and Manufacturers BanCorp.
Merge eFilm, which posted 2002 revenues of $20.8 million and net income of $3.6 million, has opened offices in Canada, The Netherlands and Japan.
Cobalt Corp., another southeastern Wisconsin-based health care service company, ranks second on the BizTimes Stock Index growth chart for the first half of the year, as its stock jumped 50% from $13.80 to $20.70.
The other local companies with double-digit growth in their stock prices include eight manufacturing firms, five banking and service companies, one professional service firm and one energy company (see accompanying chart).
Conversely, some of the Milwaukee area’s big-name companies have seen their stock shares drop in the first half of the year.
Menomonee Falls-based Kohl’s Corp.’s stock dropped 9.9% to $50.42 per share, and Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson Inc.’s stock dipped 12.1% to $40.80.
"Certain areas are really taking a hit," said Erika Milosevich, assistant vice president and manager of investment services at North Shore Bank. "What we’re seeing locally is reflective of the country as a whole, and manufacturing in general is not really doing well."
Of course, another sector that has been struggling is the airline industry, and the formerly high-flying Midwest Airlines’ stock has plummeted 57.9% to $2.25 per share in the first half of the year, as the Oak Creek company ponders filing for bankruptcy.

The BizTimes Stock Index is available on line at and

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July 11, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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