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Atten Hut! It's The Swiss Army Watch


Inside Wall Street

ATTEN-HUT! IT'S THE SWISS ARMY WATCH

Remember those big Soviet wristwatches that attracted the fancy of Americans at the height of perestroika? Well, now get ready for the big Swiss Army watches. They're starting to get hot, and so is the stock of Forschner Group, the exclusive distributor in the U.S. of the Swiss Army knife and watch.

Some smart investors have been picking up shares of Forschner, even after the company's secondary offering on Mar. 9 of 1.6 million shares -- priced at 11 1/2 a share. Some big institutions wanted more, so the stock jumped to 13 the very next day.

Money manager Ed Antoian of Delaware Management has acquired a 5% stake and thinks the stock is undervalued even at 13. "The company is back on the fast-growth lane" after a slowdown last year, says Antoian. He forecasts 1993 earnings of $1.30 a share, up from his estimated $1 for 1992, and 45~ for 1991.

New products and expanded distribution in the U.S., says Antoian, will help spur growth. Forschner will market more styles of Swiss Army watches, priced at $115 to $750 each. "The watches alone will contribute $10 million in sales this year, up from $4 million in 1991," says Antoian. The products are sold mainly to retailers, such as Wal-Mart Stores and Macy's.

Another giant retailer, Kmart, is expected to start carrying Swiss Army products this year. One big investor says that Forschner and Kmart executives have had talks about a deal. Once Kmart agrees, "its order could be as big as 7% of Forschner's sales," says this pro.Gene G. Marcial


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