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After years of dramatic shifts in Connecticut's corporate landscape, 2001 brought few changes in the addresses of the state's largest publicly traded companies.
But for most, the year was far from quiet.
The Courant's annual ranking of the 100 largest companies with headquarters in Connecticut, based on 2001 revenues, shows that almost half reported a decline in sales for the year. A year earlier, 21 had declines.
The recession has not only cost Connecticut 28,500 jobs, but it has cost companies based here billions of dollars in sales. Corporate executives have had to revamp business plans, restructure operations and answer pointed questions from investors.
"Shareholders have high expectations," said William Tracey, a business professor at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain. "The boards and the CEOs are still looking to provide a luster that we had in the market a few years ago."
The preoccupation with business problems may have helped dampen the number of corporate mergers and relocations. Only 13 of last year's Top 100 companies fell from this year's list; a year ago, the number was 19.
Fairfield County continues to dominate, with 61 of the 100 companies having addresses there.
Many of the new names on the list are familiar to Connecticut residents. Travelers Property Casualty Corp., spun off from Citigroup Inc., appears in the No. 7 slot.
The Phoenix Companies Inc., a new holding company for the once-private Phoenix Mutual Life Insurance Co., checks in at No. 20.
And Imagistics International Inc., formerly Pitney Bowes Inc.'s office-systems business, debuts at No. 48 after a spinoff in December.
Other new entrants include two of the nation's largest paper companies, which coincidentally have found new homes in Connecticut: International Paper Co. and MeadWestvaco Corp.
Asbury Automotive Group Inc., a Stamford-based automotive retailer, went public in March and became Connecticut's 12th-largest public company.
The state's second-largest company, United Technologies Corp., remains on the list. UTC said last year it was considering moving its headquarters out of state as part of a merger with Honeywell International Inc. That deal fell through, as the state's largest company, General Electric Co., bid for Honeywell in a deal subsequently rejected by European regulators.
Connecticut continues its strong tradition as a corporate headquarters state, but the 2001 financial results of the companies on the list suggest that many are battling the recession.
At The Stanley Works, revenues were off 4.5 percent.
Kaman Corp.'s sales dropped by 15 percent, and even GE, faced with a decline in demand for its industrial products, reported a decrease of 3 percent.
Not all the declines were recession-related, and economists expect sales to recover somewhat this year. But lower sales mean that corporations have less money to cover everything from salaries to utility bills. And that leaves less to show as profit.
"Down the road, revenues will affect profits. There's no way out," Tracey said. To keep profits up, CEOs have to cut costs.
"The problem is, if it's a publicly traded firm, even if it's a quarter, it's a lot of pressure," said Peter M. Gioia, director of research for the Connecticut Business & Industry Association.
A. Theodore Mollegen, president of Allied Resources Corp. in East Hartford, a business consulting service, noticed corporations starting to cut expenses in the spring of 2001.
"Just about all the companies that we talk to are focusing on what's mission-critical now," Mollegen said. "They make good sense from the standpoint of what the customer needs to do."
Because of competition, corporations typically can't raise prices to compensate for lower sales, said Carl Steidtmann, chief economist with the accounting firm Deloitte & Touche. "It squeezes the balance sheet," he said.
He said that the declines in revenues aren't surprising. Many companies saw sales fall last year when customers decided to deplete inventories rather than place new orders. Others were hurt by declines after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The outlook is for slow and steady growth, on average, this year.
"Slow. Very slow," said consultant Edward J. Stockton. "We've got another year of sloughing around."
If interest rates stay low, that might encourage companies to invest in new equipment and expansion - the types of investments that could boost revenues in the long run.
"When the economy kind of gets into a funk, sometimes you can literally engage in a muscle-up strategy," said James Fairfield-Sonn, a business consultant and professor of management at the University of Hartford. He advises clients to take a step back, become more customer-focused and take steps to build future business.
"The best companies, they keep their eye on that long term," Fairfield-Sonn said.
Economists say that the pressure to keep costs low will continue because of competition. That could lead to more changes in Connecticut's corporate landscape as the economy revives, the pace of mergers picks up and CEOs have the luxury of taking a detailed look at how they do business.