A Pile Of Chips On This Casino

John Boland, who heads investment firm Remnant Partners, scouts for little-known companies that have undergone restructuring, including bankruptcy. One find--Riviera Holdings (RIV)--is fast outgrowing such a categorization. The shares have been on a roll, from 8 in February to nearly 15 on July 23--thanks to big buyers. The company owns the 210-room Riviera Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

Boland is delighted but not surprised by the surge in interest in Riviera: "It's a very cheap play--in the fastest-growing U.S. city," he says. Boland thinks the stock is worth $21 based on estimated 1996 earnings of $2 a share.

But other pros think it may be worth more--in a takeover. Whispers are that Riviera is being eyeballed by larger Las Vegas operators. On June 14, Bidwell Partners, which has acquired 8.3% of Riviera, said it would seek talks to help management "maximize shareholder value." Chuck DiRocco, editor of the Las Vegas newspaper Gaming Today, notes a flurry of insider buying. It looks as if takeover interest is building up, he feels. Riviera CEO Bill Westerman says: "We haven't received an offer that is above the value we think the company is worth."

Westerman, who made the 40-year-old hotel profitable after it emerged from bankruptcy in 1993, says the company is performing strongly this year amid a generally slower Las Vegas market. He notes that Riviera's second-quarter earnings leaped 56%, to 42 cents a share, from 27 cents a year ago. And revenues climbed to $41.6 million, from $37.1 million in the year-ago quarter.

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