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OUT WITH A WHIMPER; AREA INDEX ENDS QUARTER UP 23%.

Byline: Ben Sullivan Daily News Staff Writer

The fourth quarter proved generally kind to local companies, with winners far outpacing losers among those that constitute the Daily News Index.

Overall, the 50-member index climbed 22.85 percent in the last three months of the year, opening at 115.74 in October and ending the year at 142.19. With company dividends reinvested, the index eked out a 23 percent return.

Helping fire up the performance were a dozen firms that each saw their share price climb by 50 percent or more, while just seven companies lost more than 10 percent of their value. All told, 37 companies gained over the quarter.

Leading the pack was the Burbank-based television post-production house Four Media Co. Driven by a 130 percent jump in annual earnings announced in late October, Four Media saw its price more than double from $3.75 a share to close at $7.75 on Dec. 31, a 107 percent gain. The company credited the earnings boost to growth in business brought by the acquisition of two firms - Pacific Ocean Post and Video Symphony - and the creation of a third firm, Company 3.

Three other companies vied for second place on the index, generating gains of over 91 percent each.

Semtech Corp. and Vitesse Semiconductor each benefited from sectorwide gains among computer chip makers serving the telecommunications industry. In addition, Camarillo-based Vitesse saw its shares climb after announcing the proposed purchase of Vermont Scientific Technologies, a circuit design firm, which it said will improve its prowess in that field.

Shares in Semtech, headquartered in Newbury Park, rose from $18.625 to $35.875, for a 92.6 percent gain, while Vitesse climbed from $23.625 to close at $45.625, a 93.1 percent gain.

Arguably the biggest sleeper of the season was the Calabasas-based restaurant chain, The Cheesecake Factory. With no major corporate announcements and very little hoopla, the company's shares gained 91.3 percent, starting the quarter at $15.50 and closing out just shy of $30, at $29.65625.

An additional 16 companies in the Daily News index gained at least 20 percent, at a time when the Dow Jones industrial average rose just over 17 percent.

On the downside, it was a tough three months for Woodland Hills-based PacificAmerica Money Center, which earned the dubious title of worst performer on the index, down 93.6 percent by quarter's end. The financial services firm, which specializes in loaning money to people with poor credit, suffered along with nearly ever other player in the so-called subprime lending sector.

PacificAmerica's shares sank to a record low of 43.75 cents apiece Dec. 31, down from $7.375 at the start of October, and from $25 in March. The drop and an industrywide slump nixed a pending acquisition of Pacific America by Santa Monica-based Fremont General Corp.

Also hurt in the last three months was Chatsworth-based Chad Therapeutics, a maker and distributor of respiratory equipment to the health services industry. Chad suffered all year from a lack of new products to match competitors' offerings. A resulting drop in sales and earnings prompted the firm to announce earlier this week that it would lay off 12 percent of its work force.

Chad closed the year at $1.5625, down 45.1 percent for the quarter.

QUARTERLY RESULTS

The five best and five worst performances in the last three months of '98 among the companies that constitute the Daily News Index:

Big winners

COMPANY PCT. CHANGE

Four Media Co. 107

Semtech Corp. 92.6

Vitesse Semiconductor 93.1

The Cheesecake Factory 91.3

North American Scientific 90.8

Big losers

COMPANY PCT. CHANGE

PacificAmerica Money Center -93.6

Chad Therapeutics -45.1

Panavision Inc. -30.8

Dole Food Co. -17.9

20th Century Industries -16.1

SOURCE: Bloomberg News

CAPTION(S):

Box

BOX: QUARTERLY RESULTS (See text)
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 1999
Words:645
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