Brio Takes Two Hefty Swigs

Is there room for a newcomer in the crowded soft-drink and juice markets? "Definitely," says Herman Riepl, president of Brio Industries (BRIOF). A Vancouver (B.C.) bottler and packager of carbonated and noncarbonated beverages, Brio is a tiny speck in the business, but it has announced a three-year pact with two still-unidentified beverage biggies. Some investors say the deals will push Brio to profitability by next year.

David Jordan of J.W. Charles, a securities firm in Boca Raton, Fla., expects earnings per share of 32 cents on sales of $46 million in the year ending Feb. 28, 1996, up from an estimated 15 cents on $30 million in fiscal 1995. Because of the big contracts that were bagged by Brio, other drink companies have asked about concluding similar agreements, says Jordan, who has been accumulating shares. Brio got into the business by acquiring HPI Beverages in 1993 for $10 million in cash and stock. And on May 31, 1994, Brio acquired JB Food Industries, which produces juices.

Why is Jordan so hot on Brio? He suspects that Coca-Cola and Quaker Oats are the mystery partners that have signed on. Quaker recently acquired fast-growing Snapple. Jordan thinks Brio is apt to sign more deals with these two, as it demonstrates the efficiency of its bottling and packaging facilities. Brio operates plants in Canada and is opening a fourth facility. Riepl declined to say who the partners were.

Jordan figures Brio, trading at 4 1/16, could double in a year.

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