BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE : JUNE 22, 1998 ISSUE
INSIDE WALL STREET

Two Ways Of Playing This Duo

When TeleSpectrum Worldwide (TLSP) named Keith Alessi its chairman and CEO in mid-March, the stock zoomed from 3 to more than 6 in just a week. Alessi is seen as a no-nonsense boss: He's credited with turning around Jackson Hewitt, a tax-preparation outfit, last year. Its stock soared from 5 at the start of 1997 to 68 in January, 1998, when it was acquired by Cendant. Since Alessi took over TeleSpectrum, a telemarketer, its stock has risen to nearly 10.

But there's another way to play TeleSpectrum: through CRW Financial (CRWF), which provides fund transfers and cash advances to casinos. CRW owns 6.9 million shares--some 30%--of TeleSpectrum. CRW stock trades at 5 5/8.

''CRW should be regarded as a direct proxy for TeleSpectrum,'' says Mark Hollingsworth of Dominion Capital Advisors in Suffolk, Va. He figures the shares owned by CRW are worth about $61 million, or 9 3/8 per CRW share.

Hollingsworth is convinced that TeleSpectrum will soon take over CRW. He figures TeleSpectrum will have to pay about 9 for each CRW share. CRW Chairman and CEO Brian O'Neill--who is ex-CEO of TeleSpectrum--controls about 32.8%, which includes CRW's 30%, so it would be simple for TeleSpectrum to cut a deal, says Hollingsworth.

Both CRW and TeleSpectrum are bound for higher ground, he predicts. Although Hollingsworth expects TeleSpectrum, which posted a loss last year, to lose money again this year, he predicts it will be in the black next year, earning 45 cents a share. He thinks the stock is worth at least 18. ''Shareholders of both companies will end up winners,'' says Hollingsworth, who owns shares in both. CEO Alessi says the matter is being discussed and he would do a deal that makes sense to shareholders.

BY GENE G. MARCIAL

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