Reader's shares in steel concern are valuable

February 02, 1994|By Andrew Leckey | Andrew Leckey,Tribune Media Services

Question: I have a stock certificate for five shares of Earle M. Jorgensen Co., dated May 1989. Are they worth anything?

ANSWER: Congratulations. Your shares do have value.

Now a private firm known as EMJ Acquisitions, of Brea, Calif., the former Jorgensen Co. distributes steel, aluminum bars and tubes and operates steel and aluminum service centers.

As a result of a 1990 tender offer when Earle M. Jorgensen Co. went private, each of your shares is worth $41.50 in cash.

Contact EMJ Acquisitions at its headquarters to cash in your shares, advised Robert Fisher, senior vice president with the New York-based R. M. Smythe & Co. stock-search firm.

Q: I would like to know more about the PBHG Growth Fund before investing in it. What is your opinion about its performance and outlook?

A: It's hard to argue with its performance, though there's some risk involved. The $140 million PBHG Growth Fund had a remarkable 46.57 percent total return over the past 12 months, bringing its three-year average annual return to 41.88 percent.

Small-capitalization technology stocks, which performed magnificently in 1993, make up about 40 percent of the portfolio. Portfolio manager Gary Pilgrim held no consumer staples, the worst-performing group. Top holdings include IDB Communications Group, Healthsource Inc., Bombay Co., CML Group, Informix Corp. and Zilog Inc.

This fund, begun in 1985, has an unusual history, according to Eileen Sanders, analyst with the Morningstar Mutual Funds investment advisory. It started out with $20 million in assets, didn't become very popular and dwindled to $3 million in 1992. It then became a "no-load" (no initial sales charge) fund and received considerable publicity, and its assets skyrocketed.

"Over time this fund will have strong results," predicted Sanders. "However, with all those high-tech names, it has been more volatile than 80 percent of its small-company rivals."

Q: How should the food store chain Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. do in an environment of superstore chains?

A: Very few of its profits are in the bag.

Hold shares of the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. (around $25 a share, New York Stock Exchange), which is likely to improve its disappointing revenues and earnings of the past several years even though there's uncertainty about the full extent of recovery, said Debra Levin, analyst with Morgan Stanley.

The stock doesn't have much downside, for it's trading close to its book value.

"Sixty-three of A&P's 240 Canadian stores are on strike after wage negotiations with the labor union broke down," said Levin, adding that 20 percent of the company's store base is Canadian.

"In other areas such as the Northeast, Detroit and Atlanta, it faces sluggish economies with tough competition," he said.

Q: I am interested in investing in Apple Computer. Is this a good time to buy, or should I wait to see if its stock goes a little lower?

A: The apple is being polished. Buy shares of Apple (around $33, over the counter), for the company has done a lot to tighten up operations by cutting its product line and focusing on its customers in the education, home- and small-business markets, said Barry Bosak, analyst with Smith Barney Shearson.

"Apple has done a decent job of redefining how it wants to market products to businesses and to consumers," said Bosak, noting changes in both management and the way Apple manufactures products. "Its family of computers based on the new Power PC chip is a major product, but the Newton personal digital communicator will take some time to evolve into a major product."

While Michael Spindler, president and chief executive, gets high marks for his handling of the company in the short time he has been in charge, the technology and personal computer industry will continue to be unpredictable, Bosak warned.

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