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The Boston Globe OnlineBoston.com The Best in Massachusetts Business

Holding on is doing well

Double-digit revenue growth only a memory for most of top tier of Sales 100

By Chris Reidy, Globe Staff, 5/21/2002


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Such was the condition of the economy in 2001 that standing still almost qualified as doing well. At least that seemed to be the case for the state's 10 largest publicly traded companies when they are measured by sales alone.

Between 1995 and 2000, at least five and as many as seven of the companies on each year's top 10 of the Sales 100 list enjoyed double-digit revenue growth. (Disclosure: In a few cases, gains of 9.7 percent were rounded up.)

But in 2001, a year of recession and terrorist attacks saw many local companies in the midst of turnarounds or adopting back-to- basics strategies. Perhaps as a result, only one company in the sales top 10 had a better than 10 percent gain. That was Framingham-based retailer TJX Cos.

Percentage changes could have been affected by a calendar quirk. For some firms, 2000 was a 53-week fiscal year, making comparisons to 2001's 52-week fiscal year a bit tougher.

Although two companies in this year's top 10 had sales drops of 20 percent or more, there was little movement in the top 10, with most companies moving up or down just a notch or two.

The one exception was Boston's Teradyne Inc., which makes computer testing equipment. As the high-technology sector sang the blues, Teradyne's revenue fell 53 percent to about $1.44 billion, and it fell out of the top 10 to 20th place on the Sales 100 list.

Sonus Networks Inc., a Westford company that provides voice infrastructure products, had the biggest sales gain, up 235 percent to $173.2 million. But that didn't guarantee prosperity. Sonus lost $645 million for the year. When write-offs, charges, and other items were excluded, Sonus said its adjusted net loss was $17.8 million.

Defense contractor Raytheon Co. of Lexington again topped the list, with sales of $16.87 billion, flat with last year's. While its civilian businesses had some problems, sales from its defense businesses rose 8 percent, excluding divestitures. Defense spending increased after Sept. 11, and that could benefit Raytheon.

Staples Inc., a Framingham-based retailer of office supplies, also had essentially flat sales of about $10.7 billion in 2001. Staples recently announced a back-to-basics approach that stresses refocusing on the company's best customers: small businesses.

In tough times, consumers seek value, and they found it in the off-price retail chains operated by TJX. The parent of such chains as T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods, and A.J. Wright saw sales rise nearly 12 percent to $10.7 billion.

According to Globe calculations, sales fell about 35 percent to about $10.4 billion for FleetBoston Financial Corp. (By Fleet's calculations, revenue fell 26 percent to $12.8 billion.) Fleet had looked to expand beyond traditional banking, but its brokerage and venture-capital divisions struggled last year, as did its banking business in Argentina. Now Fleet plans to refocus on its core businesses of personal financial services and commercial banking.

Two years after becoming a public company, John Hancock Financial Services Inc. of Boston is on The Globe 100's sales list. How long will it stay there? Speculation holds that Hancock may be gobbled up by a larger company. By Globe calculations, Hancock's revenues rose nearly 2 percent, to $9.1 billion. (By Hancock's calculations, revenues were up nearly 6 percent, to $9.36 billion.)

Gillette Co. brought in James M. Kilts to regain momentum, and the early read is positive on his turnaround plan. As the Boston-based maker of razors, batteries, and toothbrushes cut costs and addressed inventory issues, sales fell 3 percent, to $8.96 billion.

EMC Corp., of Hopkinton, was among many companies hurt by the high-tech slump. As competition intensified, demand weakened for its data-storage products. Sales fell 20 percent, to just over $7 billion.

With consumers looking for value, retailer BJ's Wholesale Club Inc., of Natick, saw sales rise about 7 percent, to about $5.28 billion.

Specializing in asset management and investor services, State Street Corp. in Boston had revenue of about $3.8 billion, up 7 percent by Globe calculations. (By State Street calculations, total taxable equivalent revenue was $3.9 billion, up 8 percent.) To sustain profit growth in a tough economic climate, State Street stressed belt-tightening.

Allmerica Financial Corp. is known for two businesses, life insurance and casualty and property insurance. Insiders speculate that the Worcester company will soon split the two and sell them. Allmerica's revenues rose 4 percent, to $3.31 billion.

Chris Reidy can be reached at reidy@globe.com.

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