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Day Labor: Ready To Work

Inside Wall Street


Peter Massaniso, a specialist in micro-cap stocks who runs Ponte Vedra Partners hedge fund, has been managing stock portfolios for 35 years. So he can remember the days when casual laborers were engaged through union hiring halls. Lately, however, Massaniso has been buying stock in a company that harkens back to those old days--Labor Ready (LBOR) in Tacoma, Wash.

This outfit caught Massaniso's eye because of its distinctive approach. Unlike most others in the temporary-employment field, Labor Ready specializes in blue-collar workers, from carpenters to day laborers. The company (totally nonunion, needless to say) is not so much a hiring hall as a database of willing workers--but the concept is similar. Unlike the union hiring halls, however, Massaniso notes, Labor Ready is growing fast. The company has 146 "dispatch offices," mainly in the West, and its same-store sales, through Apr. 30, are up 53% over last year's level.

In 1995, revenues soared from $38 million to $94 million, and profits more than doubled. Massaniso expects earnings per share to skyrocket from 35 cents a share for 1995 to between $1.25 and $1.40 for 1996. In his view, the shares, now around 25, have a good chance of doubling in the next 12 to 18 months. If so, this latter-day hiring hall stands a good chance of wowing them on Wall Street.BY GARY WEISS

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