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Leaning Hard On Banister


Inside Wall Street

LEANING HARD ON BANISTER

The Dow's strength, despite recent pullbacks, has made it difficult for money managers to keep up. Mike Connor is among the few who were able to outscore the index last year: His hedge fund, C-B Partners, gained 57%--more than twice the Dow advance.

What does Connor favor this year? "An old favorite I've resumed buying is Banister Foundation (BAN), formerly Banister Inc.," he says. Trading on the American Stock Exchange at 10, Banister is the largest public construction outfit in Canada. It also operates in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. After recovering from Canada's slump and some bad contracts in 1994 and 1995, Banister has resumed robust growth, lining up big projects in China, Hungary, India, and Israel, notes Connor.

Aside from its improving fundamentals, however, Banister "could end up breaking itself up or being sold to a large engineering or construction company," he says. Trimac, a Canadian conglomerate that owns 23% of Banister, is apt to push the company to maximize shareholder value. Connor says Trimac might just unload its stake--a move, he says, that could effectively put the company in play.

Behind Trimac's zeal for shareholder value, says Connor, is pressure from a group including Texas investor Robert Bass, who owns a 10.7% voting interest in Trimac. Bass is pressing Trimac to boost Trimac's stock--and one suggestion has been to do something with Trimac's huge Banister stake.

The breakup value of Banister stock, figures Connor, is 18. After last year's earnings of 82 cents a share, he sees it making $1.22 this year and $1.66 in 1998. A Banister official says he hopes Trimac will talk to Banister about its plans for its stake.BY GENE G. MARCIALReturn to top

LEANING HARD ON BANISTER

The Dow's strength, despite recent pullbacks, has made it difficult for money managers to keep up. Mike Connor is among the few who were able to outscore the index last year: His hedge fund, C-B Partners, gained 57%--more than twice the Dow advance.

What does Connor favor this year? "An old favorite I've resumed buying is Banister Foundation (BAN), formerly Banister Inc.," he says. Trading on the American Stock Exchange at 10, Banister is the largest public construction outfit in Canada. It also operates in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. After recovering from Canada's slump and some bad contracts in 1994 and 1995, Banister has resumed robust growth, lining up big projects in China, Hungary, India, and Israel, notes Connor.

Aside from its improving fundamentals, however, Banister "could end up breaking itself up or being sold to a large engineering or construction company," he says. Trimac, a Canadian conglomerate that owns 23% of Banister, is apt to push the company to maximize shareholder value. Connor says Trimac might just unload its stake--a move, he says, that could effectively put the company in play.

Behind Trimac's zeal for shareholder value, says Connor, is pressure from a group including Texas investor Robert Bass, who owns a 10.7% voting interest in Trimac. Bass is pressing Trimac to boost Trimac's stock--and one suggestion has been to do something with Trimac's huge Banister stake.

The breakup value of Banister stock, figures Connor, is 18. After last year's earnings of 82 cents a share, he sees it making $1.22 this year and $1.66 in 1998. A Banister official says he hopes Trimac will talk to Banister about its plans for its stake.BY GENE G. MARCIALReturn to top


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