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Fuqua's New Guise And Old Gusto


Inside Wall Street

FUQUA'S NEW GUISE--AND OLD GUSTO

Back in 1993, entrepreneur J.B. Fuqua paid $1 million to Fuqua Industries to remove his name from the company he built into a $2 billion conglomerate during the 1980s. It had fallen on hard times after he retired in 1989 as chairman and sold his stake. The company renamed itself Actava Group in 1993 and in 1995 was merged into Metromedia International.

Now, the name is back. Fuqua, who acquired 35% of Vista Resources in 1989, christened it Fuqua Enterprises (FQE) in 1995. And the new Fuqua is on a roll: On Apr. 30, its shares traded at 27 3/8 on the Big Board, up from 18 in early February.

Last August, Fuqua brought back Larry Klamon, who had driven the old Fuqua so high as CEO. New York investment house Neuberger & Berman has since acquired nearly 5%.

Klamon has been beefing up Fuqua's medical-gear business: In March, he arranged to buy for $40 million in cash a unit of Lumex that makes wheelchairs, hospital beds, and reclining chairs for dialysis. "The acquisition will take Fuqua to sales of $100 million in medical equipment," says analyst Lee Wilder at Interstate/Johnson Lane in Charlotte, N.C.

Fuqua's other business--leather tanning--has been a moneymaker. Big clients include Nike, Dexter Shoe, and Sara Lee's Coach unit. Fuqua is completing a joint venture in China that will use low-cost hides for products in Asia. Says Klamon: "We're selling to Nike in Indonesia, Doc Martens in Thailand, and Reebok in China." Analyst Wilder figures Fuqua will make $1.95 a share from continuing operations this year on sales of $129.5 million, and $2.33 on $139.6 million in 1997.BY GENE G. MARCIAL


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