Scanning The World

Those ubiquitous bar codes are showing up everywhere. Soon almost no product will escape the graph-like identification marks. That's what Nicholas Toms, chairman and CEO of Peak Technologies Group, expects will happen. Peak Technologies, which distributes and develops a broad range of equipment for bar-code applications, will be growing at breakneck speed to meet the demand, says Toms. The company's stock has come under pressure recently after rising to 13 in December from 6 1/2 in mid-October. It is now trading at 9 1/2.

Peak is not a supplier to retailers or supermarkets, where the field is already crowded. Some 80% of supermarkets and 50% of retailers use bar-code scanners at the checkout counters. Peak is concentrating on the nonretail end, where bar codes are just starting to make headway. For instance, Motorola, one of Peak's customers, has started using bar codes and scanners to keep track of shipments and inventory. Other big customers: Xerox, Newell, and New York City's public schools. Toms says Peak has designed and installed a bar-code identification system for 44 schools, used for security and for accounting for items and equipment, including books.

James Hickey, a partner and analyst at William Blair, a Chicago securities firm, believes Peak's stock is significantly undervalued based on the company's "huge growth opportunities" in the nonretail part of the business.

One money manager estimates earnings of 49 a share for 1992 on revenues of some $82 million, nearly double 1991's $43.8 million. Hickey sees earnings of 75 to 80 in 1993.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.