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Local publicly traded companies took lumps in 2015, although there were bright spots

Last year was a rough one for the stock market.

It was even harder on the stocks of companies based in the Buffalo Niagara region.

A portfolio that owned a single share in each of the Buffalo Niagara region’s 20 publicly traded companies would have lost 5.5 percent last year.

That’s more than double the 2.2 percent drop by the Dow Jones Industrial Average and nearly 5 percentage points worse than the decline in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index.

It was the worst decline by the local stocks since a 31 percent drop in 2008, during the depths of the Great Recession. And it was the third straight year that the local stocks failed to keep pace with the broader market.

But it wasn’t a bad year for every local stock. Nine of the 20 local stocks managed to go up last year. Rising sales helped North Tonawanda shock absorber manufacturer Taylor Devices' shares soar by 61 percent to lead all local stocks and Gibraltar Industries shares jump by more than 56 percent.

At the same time, 11 of the local shares declined. The plunge in oil and natural gas prices was especially hard on Batavia condenser manufacturer Graham Corp., whose shares plunged by more than 41 percent, while National Fuel Gas Co.’s stock dropped by 38.5 percent. In between was Cleveland BioLabs, whose shares tumbled by nearly 39 percent as its long and costly quest to bring its radiation sickness drug to market continued.

(Click on the images below to view the local stocks presentation in a visual format or scroll down for the text format.)

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THE GAINERS

Nine different firms saw healthy stock price growth

(1) Taylor Devices
*** After some growing pains in 2014, when the shock absorber manufacturer expanded its North Tonawanda factory into three adjacent buildings, Taylor Devices rebounded with record sales of $30.6 million last year and profits that were just shy of its record high. Its first quarter of the current fiscal year was even better, with profits more than doubling and quarterly sales approaching $11 million.
Ticker: TAYD
12/31/15 price: $16.50
2015 % change: +61%
EPS: $0.82
P/E: 20
Dividend/share: 0
Market capitalization: $54.8 million
Institutions own: 6.9%

(2) Gibraltar Industries
*** The Hamburg-based construction products manufacturer’s shares surged in 2015, with profits on a pace to roughly double and sales expected to rise by about 15 percent. Gibraltar has been cutting costs at its existing businesses and moved into the solar energy market by acquiring a company that makes the racking systems for solar installations.
Ticker: ROCK
12/31/15 price: $25.44
2015 % change: +56.5%
EPS: -$2.32
P/E: —
Dividend/share: 0
Market capitalization: $752 million
Institutions own: 95.1%

(3) First Niagara Financial Group
*** After struggling to absorb its ill-fated acquisition of HSBC Bank USA’s branches in upstate New York, First Niagara agreed to be acquired by KeyCorp in a $4.1 billion deal, worth $11.40 per share, that gave its frustrated shareholders a quick payoff, as opposed to following CEO Gary Crosby’s longer-term restructuring plan to bolster the bank’s profits.
Ticker: FNFG
12/31/15 price: $10.85
2015 % change: +28.7%
EPS: $0.60
P/E: 18
Dividend/share: $0.32
Market capitalization: $3.8 billion
Institutions own: 82.6%

(4) Servotronics Inc.
*** The Elma motion control equipment and cutlery manufacturer’s shares rebounded as the company reported three straight quarterly profits. The company’s troubled cutlery business has steadily reduced its losses, while its motion control equipment unit has been solidly profitable with steadily rising sales.
Ticker: SVT
12/31/15 price: $8.35
2015 % change: +28.7%
EPS: $1.70
P/E: 5
Dividend/share: 0
Market capitalization: $18.9 million
Institutions own: 14.2%

(5) Sovran Self Storage
*** The Amherst company, which runs Uncle Bob’s self storage facilities, had a strong 2015. Its earnings grew by 27 percent through the first nine months of last year as rents at stores open for at least a year rose by 5 percent and occupancy levels improved by a full percentage point to 91.4 percent. It also hiked its dividend by 13 percent.
Ticker: SSS
12/31/15 price: $107.31
2015 % change: +23%
EPS: $3.09
P/E: 35
Dividend/share: $3.40
Market capitalization: $3.9 billion
Institutions own: 91.3%
The Amherst
company, which runs Uncle Bob’s self storage facilities, had a strong 2015. Its earnings grew by 27 percent through the first nine months of last year as rents at stores open for at least a year rose by 5 percent and occupancy levels improved by a full percentage point to 91.4 percent. It also hiked its dividend by 13 percent.

(6) Ecology & Environment
*** The Lancaster environmental services firm just completed its most profitable year since 2011 as E&E reshaped its business and slashed costs under new CEO Gerard Gallagher. But a Connecticut-based investment firm is pushing the company to go private, and the founders who are its controlling shareholders are all in their mid-to-late 70s.
Ticker: EEI
12/31/15 price: $10.23
2015 % change: +12%
EPS: $0.75
P/E: 14
Dividend/share: $0.48
Market capitalization: $44 million
Institutions own: 48.8%

(7) Financial Institutions
*** The Warsaw-based company, which runs Five Star Bank, isn’t a big player in the Buffalo Niagara region, with less than 1 percent of all deposits, but it bulked up its presence in November announcing it was buying Buffalo money management firm Courier Capital Corp. The No. 11 Buffalo bank added branches in the Rochester area and plans the same in the Buffalo market.
Ticker: FISI
12/31/15 price: $28.00
2015 % change: +11.3%
EPS: $2.00
P/E: 14
Dividend/share: $0.80
Market capitalization: $382 million
Institutions own: 60.4%

(8) Greatbatch Inc.
*** The medical device maker, which has major operations in Clarence, received FDA approval in late November for its Algovita spinal cord stimulation system to treat types of chronic pain. Greatbatch also moved to bulk up its product line and expand its presence in Asia and Europe by agreeing to pay $1.73 billion for Massachusetts medical device manufacturer Lake Region Medical.
Ticker: GB
12/31/15 price: $52.50
2015 % change: +6.5%
EPS: $1.20
P/E: 43
Dividend/share: 0
Market capitalization: $1.6 billion
Institutions own: 83.1%

(9) Evans Bancorp
*** The region’s No. 6 bank, based on deposits in the Buffalo Niagara region, is looking lure customers away from Key Bank and First Niagara Bank as those two institutions work toward a merger next year. The community bank, with 2 percent of the region’s deposits, has had steady, but fairly flat, profits since 2012.
Ticker: EVBN
12/31/15 price: $25.72
2015 % change: +5.8%
EPS: $1.95
P/E: 13
Dividend/share: $0.72
Market capitalization: $107 million
Institutions own: 42.9%

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THE DECLINERS

Cheap oil and slowing sales hit some firms

(1) Graham Corp.
*** The plunge in oil prices has been hard on Graham Corp. The Batavia manufacturer makes big condensers and other equipment that are used in oil refineries and chemical plants. With oil prices down, work on refinery projects has slowed, as has development in the Canadian oil sands region in Alberta, which had been a big market for Graham.
Ticker: GHM
12/31/15 price: $16.82
2015 % change: -41.5%
EPS: $1.23
P/E: 13
Dividend/share: $0.32
Market capitalization: $164 million
Institutions own: 73.6%

(2) Cleveland BioLabs
*** The Buffalo drug development company continues with the long process of trying to convince federal regulators to allow its radiation sickness drug to be stockpiled for emergency use – a key step for Cleveland BioLabs to start generating revenue. Meanwhile, it shored up its short-term financial position by selling a majority stake to a Russian investor for $25 million.
Ticker: CBLI
12/31/15 price: $3.49
2015 % change: -38.8%
EPS: $0.01
P/E: 304
Dividend/share: 0
Market capitalization: $36.5 million
Institutions own: 3%

(3) National Fuel Gas
*** The plunge in natural gas and oil prices hit the Amherst energy company hard, forcing huge write-downs in the value of its oil and gas reserves that led to big reported losses. While National Fuel has scaled back its once-ambitious drilling plans, it now is pumping more money into expanding its pipeline network to move cheap natural gas to markets in the Northeast and Canada.
Ticker: NFG
12/31/15 price: $42.75
2015 % change: -38.5%
EPS: -$4.50
P/E: —
Dividend/share: $1.58
Market capitalization: $3.6 billion
Institutions own: 68.5%

(4) Columbus McKinnon
*** The strong dollar and weak industrial markets throughout the world made for tough times during 2015 for the Amherst material handling equipment maker. Despite continued weakness in China and weak demand from heavy equipment manufacturers, Columbus McKinnon executives are predicting that sales and profits will start growing again during the first half of 2016.
Ticker: CMCO
12/31/15 price: $18.90
2015 % change: -32.6%
EPS: $0.80
P/E: 23
Dividend/share: $0.16
Market capitalization: $365 million
Institutions own: 91.7%

(5) Computer Task Group
*** CEO Cliff Bleustein said the Buffalo information technology company expects “continued head winds” for the next few quarters. Its customers face a challenging economy and CTG is reshaping its business to bulk up its staffing services and de-emphasize the healthcare services that had been its major focus in recent years.
Ticker: CTG
12/31/15 price: $6.62
2015 % change: -30.5%
EPS: $0.32
P/E: 21
Dividend/share: $0.24
Market capitalization: $124 million
Institutions own: 51.4%

(6) 22nd Century Group
*** The Clarence cigarette manufacturer started generating revenue from its super premium Red Sun cigarettes last year after ramping up production at its North Carolina factory. It then took a step toward a new market by asking federal regulators to allow it to market other cigarettes for their very low nicotine content, possibly to help people stop smoking.
Ticker: XXII
12/31/15 price: $1.40
2015 % change: -24.3%
EPS: –$0.21
P/E: —
Dividend/share: 0
Market capitalization: $99.6 million
Institutions own: 3.4%

(7) Moog Inc.
*** Moog CEO John Scannell has said it felt like the Elma motion control equipment maker was “swimming upstream” in 2015, with the strong dollar hurting its export sales, along with softness in its aircraft and defense markets. That prompted Moog to cut costs last year, but the company expects its profits to rebound in 2016.
Ticker: MOG.A
12/31/15 price: $60.60
2015 % change: -18.1%
EPS: $3.35
P/E: 18
Dividend/share: 0
Market capitalization: $2.2 billion
Institutions own: 90.5%

(8) Astronics Corp.
*** The East Aurora aircraft electronics and lighting systems manufacturer got off to a good start in 2015, with its shares jumping 33 percent in the first quarter, but the shares tumbled during the second half after the company said sales growth in 2016 would likely be up about 3 percent, less than analysts were expecting.
Ticker: ATRO
12/31/15 price: $40.71
2015 % change: -15.4%
EPS: $3.13
P/E: 12
Dividend/share: 0
Market capitalization: $992 million
Institutions own: 86.5%

(9) Synacor Inc.
*** The Buffalo-based Internet content provider beat back a challenge from two big investors who wanted Synacor to put itself up for sale, but its stock continued to lag. CEO Himesh Bhise is reshaping Synacor to expand its advertising business and get more of its revenue from recurring sources, such as by providing software as a service.
Ticker: SYNC
12/31/15 price: $1.75
2015 % change: -12.5%
EPS: -$0.34
P/E: —
Dividend/share: 0
Market capitalization: $50.9 million
Institutions own: 13.5%

(10) Rand Capital
*** The value of the Buffalo venture capital firm’s investments in a portfolio of 32 companies rose by about 2 percent through the first nine months of last year, but Rand executives also had nearly $5 million in cash that was available for new investments in early-stage and growing companies.
Ticker: RAND
12/31/15 price: $3.77
2015 % change: -7.8%
EPS: $0.72
P/E: 5
Dividend/share: 0
Market capitalization: $23.4 million
Institutions own: 11.8%

(11) M&T Bank
*** M&T’s three-year quest to buy Hudson City Bancorp to expand its branch network in New Jersey and the New York City area finally came to a successful close in November, but only after the Buffalo Niagara region’s biggest bank spent heavily to bulk up its systems to detect money laundering.
Ticker: MTB
12/31/15 price: $121.18
2015 % change: -3.5%
EPS: $7.48
P/E: 16
Dividend/share: $2.80
Market capitalization: $15.6 billion
Institutions own: 94.7%

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