Investors find it pays to stay home
Markets » Utah firms showing solid results in first nine months.
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It has been a tumultuous year for Utah investors, but those who stuck close to home and purchased shares of companies with headquarters in the state in many instances were well rewarded for their efforts.

The Salt Lake Tribune /Bloomberg Index, which measures the share-price performance of the 27 leading publicly held companies based in Utah, was up more than 17 percent in the first nine months of 2009.

The gain rivaled that of the Standard & Poor's 500 index, which also was up about 17 percent through the end of September, and eclipsed the 11 percent increase in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

"Clearly the technology sector has been leading the way so far this year with [the tech heavy] Nasdaq up 44 percent," said Sterling Jenson, senior managing director of Wells Fargo Capital Management in Salt Lake City. "But we've also seen some pretty good strength in the materials sector, which includes copper, gold and chemicals."

Utah's Huntsman Corp., the chemicals conglomerate with headquarters in Salt Lake City and The Woodlands, Texas, had the state's best-performing stock through the end of the third quarter. Its shares were up 165 percent from their 2008 close. They closed Wednesday at $9.11.

In June, the company announced it had reached a settlement agreement that brought in $2.7 million in cash and financing resulting from the failed merger last year with Hexion Specialty Chemicals, a unit of the New York-based Apollo Management.

"The settlement was certainly the number one milestone for us so far this year," said Peter Huntsman, president and CEO of Huntsman Corp. "But we've also been getting a lot of recognition for our growing geographic diversity that has resulted in 70 percent of our sales being generated outside the United States."

Dynatronics Corp., a small Utah company that manufacturers and markets equipment used by physical therapists and sports medicine practitioners, was the second-best performer. Its shares, which closed Wednesday at 77 cents, were up 149 percent.

The company last week reported significant improvement in bottom-line results for its fiscal year that ended June 30. Net income for the year was $103,324, compared with the previous fiscal year's loss of $8.4 million.

"So far this year we've increased our sales force by 25 percent, which has really paid off. Also, we recently signed a preferred-vendor agreement with Western Rehabilitation Health Network, which operates 114 clinics in Utah, Idaho and Colorado," said spokesman Bob Cardon.

Another top performer was EnergySolutions, the Salt Lake City-based radioactive waste disposal company. Its shares were up 63 percent. They closed Wednesday at $9.22.

"One of our strengths has been our stable earnings, which were achieved during what many have called one of the most difficult years since the Great Depression," said Philip Strawbridge, EnergySolution's chief financial officer.

Not every Utah company performed as well, though.

Zions Bancorp, the holding company for Utah's Zions Bank, saw its shares decline 27 percent, to close Wednesday at $17.97. Shares of Headwaters Inc., the construction materials conglomerate, fell 43 percent and Wednesday closed at $3.87. The shares of Raser Technologies, which has run into problems bringing its geothermal plant near Beaver to full production, were down 59 percent. They closed Wednesday at $1.53.

steve@sltrib.com