An Investment Opinion by Randy Befumo
Fool's Gold Special
BRE-X MINERALS (Nasdaq: BXMNF) opened down $2 9/32 at $1/32 this morning after being halted for the last two days on the Nasdaq for news dissemination. The Canadian-based natural resources concern announced Sunday that a consultant it had hired to examine the Busang gold deposit in Indonesia had confirmed there was no gold. Strathcona Mineral Services Ltd. also said that it found evidence of tampering with core samples over a period of time that leaves little doubt that there was a deliberate attempt at deception at some point. Strathcona additionally determined that there was no gold deposit in Busang, contrary to the original claim that there were 71 million ounces of gold on the site.
Bre-X Minerals vaulted to fame in 1993 after it claimed to have discovered the largest gold deposit ever deep in the jungles of Borneo. The stock exploded in early 1996 when natural resources giant FREEPORT-MCMORAN COPPER & GOLD (NYSE: FCX) announced a joint venture with the company, validating Bre-X's claims of massive amounts of gold. Although Freeport's decision in mid-February not to give Bre-X an up-front cash payment dampened shareholder enthusiasm, the fact that Freeport was fronting $400 million to develop the site in return for a 15% take gave many investors a great deal of comfort. With Freeport already working a site in the eastern Indonesian province of Irian Jaya called Grasberg, the idea of a gold deposit in Busang was not outrageous at all.
Bre-X began unraveling on March 19th when the company's top geologist allegedly jumped to his death from a helicopter while en route to a meeting with Freeport officials. The suicide note left by Michael de Guzman caused shareholders to panic. A week later Freeport determined that its preliminary tests found "insignificant" amounts of gold at Busang, causing the Bre-X share price to collapse. Although initially a variety of conspiracy theories began to make the rounds on the Internet, too many investors recognized a classic Canadian natural resources fraud in the making. Reminiscent of ARAKIS ENERGY'S (Nasdaq: AKSEF) collapse after talks of financing by a Saudi prince of dubious heritage dried up in 1996, Bre-X has now returned to the pennies from whence it came. For its part, Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold has fallen from its high of $35 after the deal was announced to $31 today.
Non-standard used-car lender FIRST MERCHANTS ACCEPTANCE (Nasdaq: FMAC) gained $1 1/8 to $5 1/2 after announcing this morning that Greenwich Capital Markets Inc. will inject $50 million into the beaten-down finance company via the purchase of a pool of loans, among other commitments Greenwich made to First Merchants.
DISCREET LOGIC (Nasdaq: DSLGF) moved up $1 3/4 to $12 3/8 after the video editing systems maker announced Q3 earnings per share (EPS) of $0.11 on revenues of $27 million, up 84% year-over-year.
Respiratory pharmaceuticals company DURA PHARMACEUTICALS (Nasdaq: DURA) added $3 1/4 to $37 3/4 after announcing the purchase of two intranasal steroid products from Roche Group for $70 million plus contingent payments. Dura said the products will immediately add to earnings.
ELECTRONIC ARTS (Nasdaq: ERTS) gained $1 1/2 to $30 5/8 after the video game company reported a 36% increase in Q4 EPS of $0.19 on revenues of $144 million. Alex. Brown and Cowen & Co. both raised their ratings on the company to "strong buy" from "buy."
British industrial explosives and chemical company IMPERIAL CHEMICAL (NYSE: ICI) rose $3 to $50 1/4 after announcing an agreement to purchase the specialty chemical unit of UNILEVER (NYSE: EL) for $8 billion in cash.
TRANSITIONAL HOSPITALS CORP. (NYSE: THY), formerly Community Psychiatric Centers, jumped $1 1/4 to $15 5/8 after VENCOR INC. (NYSE: VC) trumped the $14.55 per share takeover bid for Transitional announced by Select Medical Corp. on Monday by launching a $16 per share cash tender offer today. Vencor shares are down $2 3/8 to $40 5/8.
State-run CORPORACION BANCARIA DE ESPANA (NYSE: AGR) gained $1 3/8 to $24 3/8 after the Spanish bank announced that it will reduce its workforce by 2,100 over the next three years.
Broadcaster AMERICAN RADIO SYSTEMS (NYSE: AFM) was amplified $1 3/4 to $33 3/4 after reporting a 130% increase in Q1 revenues and a 144% increase in broadcast cash flow.
Homebuilder D. R. HORTON INC. (NYSE: DHI) was bulldozed for a $1 7/8 loss to $9 5/8 after Merrill Lynch cut its near-term rating on the company to "accumulate" from "buy."
FLUOR CORP. (NYSE: FLR) lost $3 1/4 to $46 3/4 on pre-announcing a fourth quarter operating loss of approximately $120 million. The company had already announced a cost reduction program earlier this year and said today that it will readjust its earnings growth target to 15% from 20%.
Contract research organization PREMIER RESEARCH WORLDWIDE (Nasdaq: PRWW) lost $1 1/4 to $7 3/8 after announcing that it expects its June quarter revenues to decline substantially year-over-year and that it expects to miss earnings estimates for the quarter and for the year.
GILEAD SCIENCES (Nasdaq: GILD) declined $2 to $26 after the company's cidofovir gel for the treatment of herpes failed to receive marketing approval from the FDA.
Correction: In Monday's Lunchtime News Robertson Stephens Inc.
was reported to have recommended PLEXUS INC. (Nasdaq: PLXS). Stephens
Inc. was in fact the company that rated Plexus a "strong buy." We apologize
for the error.
PEPSICO INC. (NYSE: PEP)
(800) 577-6980 (code: 03160)
THE MONEY STORE (Nasdaq: MONE)
MORROW SNOWBOARDS (Nasdaq: MRRW)
(402) 220-4250 -- replay through 5/6
INFORMIX (Nasdaq: IFMX)
Available until 5/16
(800) 839-8790 -- replay
GENZYME (regarding purchase of Seprafilm from Cleveland Clinic)
(402) 220-9054 -- replay through 5/9 at 5:00 PM EDT
AMERICAN RADIO SYSTEMS CORP. (NYSE: AFM)
10:15 AM EDT
(800) 553-0349 -- live
(800) 475-6701 (code: 340629) -- replay from 1:00 PM ET through 5/10
COMPUTER ASSOCIATES (NYSE: CA)
(800) 759-8892 -- replay from 4:00 PM EDT through 8:00 PM EDT on 5/9
(402) 222-8538 -- replay (International callers)
PIER ONE IMPORTS (NYSE: PIR)
(April sales results)
(888) 243-0810 -- replay available after 2:00 p.m. EDT
FEDERAL REALTY INVESTMENT TRUST (NYSE: FRT)
11:00 a.m. EDT
(913) 661-0487 -- live
(402) 222-9905 -- replay
THIS WEEK'S CONFERENCE CALL SYNOPSES