AT&T will buy the Alltel brand from Allied Wireless, which has been operating a number of U.S. rural markets from Little Rock. The $780 million deal is more than triple what Allied paid for the properties after regulators mandated the divestiture in the wake of the $28.1 billion Alltel-Verizon deal in 2009. The buyout is subject to regulatory approval and is likely to have a major impact on the 270 Alltel employees in Little Rock.

Little Rock approves Peabody transition to Marriott

Little Rock city officials approved a deal to transfer the lease of the Peabody Hotel to the Marriott Hotel brand. The new agreement runs for 15 years with an option to renew. It also includes a $16 million renovation of the property’s 418 rooms and 22 suites.

Moving to the Marriott brand will position the hotel as more attractive for groups looking to take advantage of hotel point systems when planning convention business. City leaders expect the name transfer to result in more convention business, which should lead to more revenue for the advertising and promotion board.

Wal-Mart announces Canadian expansion plans

Two weeks ago, Wal-Mart announced plans to boost domestic spending and growth. On Tuesday, the Bentonville-based retail giant said it plans to add 37 supercenters and will expand its distribution network in Canada. The plans amount to an investment of about $450 million, the company said. It will include construction of new stores, expansion and remodeling of existing stores, and possible relocations of outlets.

Pryor, Boozman ask Obama to support Keystone pipeline project

U.S. Sens. John Boozman, R-Ark., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., were two of 53 senators who sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to approve the Keystone pipeline project. The Keystone pipeline is a proposed 1,661 mile, 36-inch crude oil pipeline beginning in Canada and extending to Texas. Obama has delayed the project calling for more environmental study. Boozman and Pryor said the pipeline is a part of helping the U.S. be more energy secure.

Beebe appoints Scroggin, Belk to agency posts

Gov. Mike Beebe named Preston Scroggin of Vilonia as director of the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission and Ricky Belk of Alma as director of the Arkansas Labor Department. Scroggin is currently the Faulkner County Judge, while Belk currently serves on the Arkansas Workforce Investment Board and has been the secretary-treasurer for the Arkansas AFL-CIO.

J.B. Hunt drives home record earnings

J. B. Hunt Transport Services Inc., announced record fourth-quarter earnings of $84 million, up nearly 16 percent from one year ago. For the full year, the Lowell-based transportation firm posted earnings of $310.35 million, a 21 percent rise from the previous full year. Total revenue in the fourth quarter topped $1.33 billion, while full-year revenue rose to $5.05 billion.

Simmons First sees earnings boost

Simmons First National Corp. posted double-digit fourth-quarter and full-year earnings as growth in its loan portfolios gave the Pine Bluff-based bank holding company a boost. For the fourth quarter, Simmons First reported net income of $8 million, up 27 percent from one year ago. For the full year, the bank reported net income of $27.7 million, up 11.6 percent.

McLarty, partners form real estate investment fund

With an initial $50 million capitalization, a group of Arkansas business leaders has formed a new private real estate fund that will focus on acquiring assets throughout the Midwest and Southeast regions of the country. The founders of the fund, CapRocq Core Real Estate Fund L.P., anticipate adding additional investors with a final closing expected in the first half of 2013. The investment group includes Franklin McLarty, Dewitt Smith, Kevin Huchingson and Ted Dickey.

Bank of the Ozarks acquiring North Carolina Bank

Bank of the Ozarks has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire The First National Bank of Shelby in Shelby, N.C., in a transaction valued at approximately $67.8 million.

First National Bank operates 14 North Carolina banking offices in a four-county area west of Charlotte. As of Dec. 31, First National Bank had approximately $857 million of total assets, $474 million of loans and $652 million of deposits. First National Bank opened in Shelby in 1874.


Roby Brock, a freelance journalist based in Little Rock, writes weekly for the Arkansas News Bureau. His weekly television program airs at 10 p.m. Sundays in Central and Northwest Arkansas. His e-mail address is; his Web site address is