Catching A Ride On Ultra Wheels

You've probably seen the sleek, speedy roller skates with wheels that are mounted in a straight line, like ice skates. Known as in-line skates, they've become the rage. But of the handful of companies making the lightweight skates, only one is publicly traded: First Team Sports, the maker of Ultra Wheels.

First Team went public in 1988 at $1.50 a share. Recently, it has climbed from 5 in early December to 8 on Mar. 6. One reason for the advance, says Andrew Lanyi, a managing partner at New York securities house Ladenburg Thalmann, is a surge in orders. First Team, which distributes Ultra Wheels in the U. S., Japan, Sweden, Mexico, and Germany, reported revenues of $3.5 million last yearnearly twice 1989's $1.7 million.

With the increase in sales came earnings of 12~ a share in 1990, compared with a loss of 11~ in 1989. Lanyi figures that profits will about triple this year, to 58~ a share, on projected sales of $13.5 million.

He points out that First Team is expanding its advertising campaign both in the U. S. and overseas. Hockey great Wayne Gretzky and his wife, the actress and dancer Janet Jones-Gretsky, are promoting Ultra Wheels in a four-year contract that started in January, 1990.

Ultra Wheels sell for about $69 to $299 a pair. So far, marketing has focused on sports- and fitness-oriented stores, but the company says it will soon sell the skates through general-merchandise outlets.

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