The heat was on for the best and worst performers among Oklahoma's publicly traded companies in the quarter that just ended.
Shares of Sonic Corp., the Bricktown-based drive-in restaurant company, posted a 30 percent gain over the past three months. Chief Financial Officer Steve Vaughan said the company is well-positioned with its strongest summer revenue months ahead.
On the other hand, Tulsa-based Apco Oil & Gas International was punished by traders for operating in a political hot spot: Argentina.
In April, Argentina's president announced a measure that would allow the country to seize nearly all of the local assets of Spanish energy giant Repsol. Although Apco officials said they didn't expect that action to affect its operations, the stock has been on a sharp decline.
Shares of Apco Oil & Gas fell 73 percent in the second quarter to close Friday at $18.05. At the beginning of the year, the stock traded for more than $80 a share.
For Sonic, the return of the “two guys” advertising campaign helped boost the firm's fortunes in the April through June period, Vaughan said. The television ads feature two comic actors in the front seat of a car at Sonic touting the company's food and drinks.
“We did change advertising agencies in early 2011,” Vaughan said. “We moved to a different creative. I think we figured out — it took us a few months — that didn't work best for our brand. The two guys, people immediately recognize them as representing the Sonic brand.”
The campaign helped get the word out to customers about Sonic's latest offerings, designed to capture customers throughout the day, Vaughan said.
Unlike many of its competitors, Sonic produces less than half of its revenue at lunch and dinner by focusing on afternoons and late evenings with offerings such as happy hours, he said.
The firm reported better-than-expected results in its growth of same-store sales, a key metric that tracks sales of drive-ins open for at least a year. Profits also grew, which pleased franchise owners who operate most of the company's more than 3,500 drive-ins, Vaughan said.
Vaughan said the company successfully introduced new products such as real ice cream to replace soft-serve, and sweet potato tots.
This summer, Sonic will debut some new slush flavors, a couple of new hot dogs and a cookie dough and brownie batter concoction, Vaughan said.
“We're happy with the results and certainly happy with the stock price,” he said.
Apco's sour quarter likely was beyond the company's control, Tulsa money manager Jake Dollarhide said.
“I would say this has everything to do with what's called political risk,” said Dollarhide, CEO of Longbow Asset Management.
More than two-thirds of Apco stock is held by Tulsa-based WPX Energy, which was spun off by Tulsa-based Williams Cos. Inc.
WPX CEO Ralph A. Hill, in a May conference call with analysts, sought to play down the impact of the seized company on Apco, while noting that WPX's investment in the company is minimal.
“Our opinion and the industry's opinion is that this dispute is between the Argentine government and Repsol (the Spanish company), and it's not with the entire energy industry in Argentina,” Hill said.
While Apco's stock plummeted during the quarter, WPX shares declined just 10 percent.
Dollarhide noted that if Hill is correct about the company's fortunes in Argentina, “this could prove to be a very opportunistic buying opportunity.” Apco stock hasn't been this cheap since the depths of the Great Recession in early 2009.
Stocks were generally down in the broader markets for the second quarter, with the Dow falling 2.5 percent, the S&P 500 off 3.3 percent and the Nasdaq pulling back by 5.1 percent.
While none of the other Oklahoma-based stocks approached the gains of Sonic's, strong performers in a quarter that was negative for most state-based stocks included a pair of Tulsa-based energy companies. SemGroup Corp. gained 9.6 percent, and NGL Energy Partners added 7.5 percent.
Other laggards included a pair of Oklahoma City-based energy firms. Shares of PostRock Energy Corp. lost nearly half their value during the three months, and GMX Resources' stock lost more than one-third of its value.