Bar Coding The World

When little black-and-white stripes adorn the whole world's packages of food, drugs, and other merchandise, Peak Technologies Group (PEAK) will be one of the big beneficiaries. It is the largest distributor and systems integrator of bar-code data-collection equipment made by about 50 manufacturers, such as Zebra Technologies and Symbol Technologies. Already, Peak counts AT&T, Eastman Kodak, Ford, Motorola, General Electric, and Xerox among its customers. Little wonder Peak shares have soared to 27, up from 11 in early October. But they haven't, well, peaked.

So thinks one New York money manager who has been buying. "Peak is close to completing the acquisition of three big companies in Europe that would give Peak a larger platform to serve Asia, as well," he says. The buys would hike 1995 sales to $160 million, vs. 1994's $114 million, he figures. Earnings, would get a lift of 2 cents to 3 cents a share this year but a big jump in 1996, he says. Without acquisitions, analysts see earnings of 95 cents in 1995 and $1.18 for 1996, vs. 1994's 71 cents. This money runner sees the stock leaping to the mid-30s and then hitting the high 40s next year--after the acquisitions.

Only 6% of Peak's revenues currently come from overseas. Peak President and CEO Nic Toms says industrial companies in Europe are getting more conscious about using bar-code ID systems to standardize and streamline operations.