April 25, 2011

The Bottom Line: Driven to grow

From humble beginnings, Wright Express has become a major processor of fuel purchases and aims to expand internationally.

By J. Hemmerdinger jhemmerdinger@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Mike Boucher works in the data center at Wright Express in South Portland. Company management regards the loyal work force as a great asset.

Photos by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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Holly Morse, a customer service representative, talks with a customer in the call center at Wright Express.

Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

WRIGHT EXPRESS CORP.

HEADQUARTERS: South Portland

HISTORY: Founded in 1983 by William Richardson and Parker Poole III, relatives of Augustus Wright, who founded the coal delivery company A.R. Wright in the late 1800s.

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 872, including 562 in Maine.

EXECUTIVES: Michael Dubyak, president, CEO and board chair.

WORTH NOTING: Wright Express’ roughly 100 customer services agents in South Portland field some 200,000 incoming calls each month.

FINANCIALS: 2010 revenue was $390 million, up 24 percent from 2009. The company predicts 2012 revenue will hit close to $500 million.

In 2008, Wright Express acquired Salem, Org.-based Pacific Pride Services Inc., a commercial fueling company, and New Zealand-based software company Financial Automation Limited.

In 2010, Wright Express purchased an Australian firm, and in April the company acquired Florida-based rapid! PayCard, which sells systems that enable companies to pay employees with debit cards.

Dubyak called the Florida acquisition a diversification into a new, potentially high-growth industry. He said he will cross sell the debit card system to existing clients.

Earlier this month, Wright Express announced management changes and created a new position, head of U.S. operations, which Dubyak said will give him more time to focus on international strategy.

"I will be spending more time internationally to develop the business," he said.

Dubyak said more expansion is likely to follow, possibly in South America or Europe.

Ben Clark, senior vice president of Bayside Wealth Management, a Portland-based division of UBS Financial Services, said Wright Express' recent purchases reflect broader corporate trends.

He said merger and acquisition activity has recently increased, indicating executives are growing confident in the economy. And after a few years of stockpiling cash, companies have money to invest.

Wright Express' revenue increased in the years leading up to the recession, but dipped from $393.6 million in 2008 to $315 million in 2009.

In 2010, revenue increased 24 percent to $390.4 million, nearly 70 percent from processing fuel payments.

Though net income for the year declined 37 percent to $87.6 million, Dubyak said a better indicator of the company's health is adjusted net income, which is not distorted by fuel hedges.

In 2010, adjusted net income grew 25 percent to $107.3 million.

In 2011, Wright Express expects revenue will reach roughly $500 million, driven partly by international growth.

The company's 2012 goal is $520 million.

Wright Express competitors in the United States include FleetOne, ComData Corporation and FuelMan, a division of FleetCor.

Dubyak said his company is one of the largest processors in the United States and has a powerful proprietary computer network.

He added that during its long history in Maine, Wright Express has acquired a loyal work force with a low turnover rate -- both competitive advantages.

But Dubyak fears a shortage of qualified workers in Maine could hamper future growth. The big question is, "Can we find the talent here?"

That's why he supports more funding for higher education and volunteers as the chair of the board of visitors of the University of Southern Maine.

Jonathan Hemmerdinger can be reached at 791-6316 or:

jhemmerdinger@mainetoday.com

 

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Additional Photos

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Justina Velez talks with a customer while working in the call center at Wright Express in South Portland. Velez is a bilingual customer service representative, working with customers who speak English or Spanish.

Staff Photographer

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