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Simmons to merge subsidiary banks

Pine Bluff-based Simmons First National Corp. announced in a Wednesday filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it intends to consolidate its seven subsidiary banks into a single banking organization.

Third round of layoffs at Acxiom begins

A third, and likely final, wave of layoffs at Little Rock-based Acxiom Corp. began on Wednesday as the database marketer continued its push to realign its work force to meet changing industry demands. Acxiom indicated in November 2013 it would cut its overall labor force by March in an effort to save $20 million to $30 million annually. Approximately 200 workers nationwide were part of the latest round of layoffs with around 100 in Arkansas.

Walmart profits tumble

Revenues grew modestly, but profits took a tumble as Walmart reported its fourth-quarter and full-year financials. The Bentonville-based retail giant reported fourth-quarter net income of $4.43 billion on sales of $128.8 billion, an increase of 1.4 percent over last year. The quarter included the negative impact of about $1.8 billion from currency exchange rate fluctuations. Last year Walmart posted fourth-quarter profits of $5.86 billion on revenue of $127.77 billion.

State unemployment steady at 7.2 percent, but labor force shrinks again

Arkansas' jobless rate was 7.2 percent in March, unchanged from February and just slightly below the 7.3 percent in March 2012. March marks 50 consecutive months that Arkansas' jobless rate has been at or above 7 percent. March also continued a trend in which the jobless rate improved but declines in the size of the workforce and number of employed point to ongoing weakness in Arkansas' economy.

Oaklawn, Southland on hot streak

Electronic games of skill (EGS) wagers at Oaklawn and Southland continued their hot streak in March as the two casino-style venues set record highs for the second consecutive month. The latest statistics released by the Arkansas Racing Commission showed Oaklawn topping $100 million in EGS wagers for the first time ever and Southland EGS wagers cleared $200 million for the first time during the month.

ConAgra Foods breaks ground on $100 million expansion in Russellville

ConAgra Foods broke ground on an expanded facility in Russellville. As part of the expansion, originally announced in September 2012, ConAgra Foods is planning to invest about $100 million in the new facility and expects to add more than 80 new jobs. The facility is expanding as a result of ConAgra Foods' acquisition of the Bertolli and P.F. Chang's Home Menu frozen meal business from Unilever. Through the Russellville expansion, production lines will be added to produce the two new items.

Business News Roundup — Tax battle brews at Capitol

State lawmakers are eyeing several areas for reforming the state's tax code. By some estimates, there are more than $2 billion in potential tax cuts already filed in the 45 bills aiming to reduce Arkansas taxes. Talk Business sources indicate that four areas are being seriously studied for major changes. They include income tax bracket reform, a capital gains tax cut, the grocery tax reduction and targeted business tax relief.