Arkansas Business: Week in review

    7:03 AM, Oct 18, 2013   |    comments
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    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Arkansas Business) -- It's been another busy week in the Natural State. Lance Turner has your Arkansas Business Week in Review.

    It was a week in which Arkansas Business brought you the story of what's likely the biggest Medicare fraud in Arkansas' history. The US Attorney's Office for Arkansas' Western District, working to recover restitution from the assets of Mountain Home Dr. Stacey Johnson.

    They say Johnson, who died of natural causes in March, over billed Medicare by $14.7 million over three years between 2004 and 2009. They say Johnson did this mainly by submitting patients to too many medical tests.

    According to federal affidavit, one 39-year-old male received more than 90 tests, only 6 of which were determined to be necessary.
    By one account, Johnson's history of over billing stretches to 1985.

    His wife Cynthia telling Arkansas Business she doesn't believe her husband is guilty of fraud but is cooperating with investigators. She's already paid $600,000 toward restitution.

    Also this week: Mercy Health of Chesterfield, Mo., once again moving toward a deal to sell its hospital and physician clinic in Hot Springs.

    The company announcing on Monday that it signed an agreement to sell Mercy Hot Springs to Catholic Health Initiatives and its affiliate, St. Vincent Health System in Little Rock. That deal, expected to be complete by the end of the year, will put Mercy Hot Springs under the oversight and operation of St. Vincent's network.

    Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Mercy had previously tried to sell the hospital to Capella Healthcare of Tennessee, but the deal was scrapped in June.

    On the public company front, earnings season in full swing here in Arkansas, with banks and trucking companies reporting earnings.

    Among them, Simmons First National Corp. of Pine Bluff, reporting quarterly net income of $6.9 million, up about 2.5 percent from the same period last year. Home BancShares, reporting another record quarterly net income of $18.4 million, up 14 percent from last year.
    JB Hunt Transport Services Inc. of Lowell reporting also showing a net income increase, it was up  15 percent to $89.5 million.

    USA Truck Inc. of Van Buren was the lone Arkansas company this week to see a loss, in the red by 602-thousand dollars. But it moved the needle in the right direction, its quarterly loss was better than the $6 million it lost the same time last year. This, as revenue rose 13.5 percent to nearly $142 million.

    On the jobs front, good news in Forrest City. AMTE Waste Solutions said Wednesday that it will open an electronics waste processing facility in the former Forrest City Grocery warehouse on Scott Street.

    The company, which will employ about 75 people, will safely dispose of electronics such as computers, televisions, and cellphones. The center will serve parts of Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi.

    The job announcement comes two years after hundreds of workers in Forrest City lost their jobs when a Sanyo television plant shut down two years ago.

    And finally, Wal-Mart making big plans for its next fiscal year. The world's largest retailer said at an annual investors conference that it plans to spend anywhere from 12 to 13 billion dollars in capital expenditures for fiscal 2015.

    The world's largest retailer says that for the first time it's accelerating its expansion of smaller stores at a faster pace than its supercenters in the U.S.

    Overseas, it's closing some stores in China and Brazil as it aims make those markets more profitable.

    The company also said it expects overall net sales to be up 3 to 5 percent for fiscal 2015. In the near term, however, Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke saying the partial government shutdown, which ended this week, is weighing on shoppers. Duke describing the US economy "tough and unpredictable."

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