Gov. Mike Beebe said he thinks progress is being made on resolving issues important to Arkansas companies doing business in China and in convincing job prospects to come to the Natural State. Beebe held a conference call with reporters on Tuesday night to provide an update on his trade mission to China.

The Arkansas governor had travelled to a Walmart store in China and met with regional and national Chinese officials. Beebe said he felt those meetings "advanced issues related to policies" for Bentonville-based Walmart and Springdale-based Tyson Foods, both of which have major operations in China. Beebe declined to explain what policies he discussed with Chinese leaders.

He also said he had two meetings with economic prospects that might eye Arkansas for the location of business operations. One prospect was in the early stages of consideration, while a second prospect was further along.

Another quarter brought another quarter of record earnings for Lowell-based J.B. Hunt Transport Services. The large "multi-modal" transportation company posted record net income of $67.7 million during the first quarter, up from $50 million during the 2011 quarter. The per share earnings of 57 cents surpassed the consensus estimate of 52 cents. Total revenue for the quarter was $1.165 billion, ahead of the $1 billion in the 2011 period.

"Changes in packaging, fuel costs, inventory levels, replenishment and end consumer point of purchase behaviors, among others, have had an effect on how our customers manage logistics," John Roberts, J.B. Hunt president and CEO, said in the earnings report. "We continue to operate under our long stated strategy of directing investments towards solutions that customers need and are willing to pay for with reasonable rates and structured contract terms. The results of the first quarter provide ongoing confirmation for this disciplined and balanced strategy."

Bank of the Ozarks Inc. posted a strong first quarter profit of $18 million and company officials reported new lending activity that would provide "excellent prospects for growth" in the future.

First quarter net income of $18 million was up 23 percent from the same period last year when Bank of the Ozarks recorded $14.6 million in net income. Diluted earnings per common share for the first quarter of 2012 were $0.52, a 21 percent increase from $0.43 for the first quarter of 2011.

Company officials indicated that new lending improved in the quarter. Loans and leases, excluding loans covered by FDIC loss share agreements (covered loans), were $1.89 billion at March 31, 2012 compared to $1.81 billion at March 31, 2011. Including covered loans, total loans and leases were $2.65 billion at March 31, 2012, compared to $2.34 billion at March 31, 2011.

Dillard’s Inc. has amended and extended its $1 billion senior secured revolving credit facility, the Little Rock-based upscale retailer announced. The facility, which now expires on April 11, 2017, has higher availability with the same amount of inventory pledged.

The amended facility is available to the company for general corporate purposes including, among other uses, working capital financing, the issuance of letters of credit, capital expenditures and, subject to certain restrictions, the repayment of existing indebtedness and share repurchases.

Bailey Properties LLC of Little Rock and Summit Housing Partners LLC of Montgomery, Ala.bama, announced Thursday they have merged to form a new company, BSR Trust, LLC.

The new firm, which signifies a major expansion for both companies, will create a portfolio of 111 multifamily properties located in 10 states with almost 600 employees.

The management of BSR Trust will be a combination of the leadership teams from Bailey Properties and Summit Housing Partners. No layoffs or downsizing are expected and offices will be maintained in Little Rock and Montgomery.

The number of statewide foreclosures declined 79 percent from a year ago, affecting 1,107 Arkansas homeowners, according to Irvine, Calif.- based RealtyTrac. But activity actually doubled from the fourth quarter of 2011 when the entire market stalled after a court ruling threw a wrench in the foreclosure pipeline.

"The low foreclosure numbers in the first quarter are not an indication that the massive reservoir of distressed properties built up over the past few years has somehow miraculously evaporated," said Brandon Moore, CEO of RealtyTrac. "There are hairline cracks in the dam, evident in the increases in activity among both judicial and non- judicial [foreclosure] states in March."

A September court ruling questioned the ability of out-of-state mortgage companies to conduct non-judicial foreclosures in Arkansas and other states, leading to the slowdown in foreclosure activity.

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 roby@talkbusiness.net; his Web site address is www.talkbusiness.net.