Will Presidential Airlines get off the ground? It all depends on whether the copilots at Johnston, Lemon & Co. and Wheat First Securities Inc. are able to convince enough investors to buy $6-a-share tickets on a $14.4 million fund-raising flight.
Presidential already has raised $13.2 million by selling stock to company officials and various investors willing to take a flier, so to speak, on a newly formed airline, based at Washington Dulles International Airport, that promises frequent full-service flights to major cities in the eastern United States at "substantially discounted" prices.
Starting an airline is no small undertaking, and because so many carriers have encountered so much financial trouble for so long, a curious investor may wonder whether there is a realistic chance for success.
To start with, several of the folks running Presidential Airlines could form an alumni club for People Express, the no-frills airline that is growing rapidly. Harold J. (Hap) Pareti, the president of Presidential, is the former president of People Express. Geoffrey T. Crowley, senior vice president at Presidential, was the general manager of People Express. Michael J. Nord, vice president for flight operations, was a Boeing 727 pilot at People Express and is a former member of the Navy's Blue Angel precision flying team.
Presidential's team of senior executives, all in their 30s, joined together in the belief they have the experience, the smarts and enough new concepts to make the airline go. Using the "hub-and-spoke" approach -- with Dulles as the hub -- Presidential plans initially to provide same-day, round-trip service between Dulles and five eastern cities that it feels are not adequately served by other lines.
Although Presidential hasn't yet named its first five target cities, its map cuts a swath across the eastern part of the nation that is outlined by Boston, Buffalo, Indianapolis, New Orleans and Miami.
Presidential hopes to break ground soon for a $4.5 million terminal on the west side of Dulles airport. It will have at least five boarding gates available by the fall, when the airline hopes to begin its flights. Passengers will be transported via mobile lounges from the main terminal to Presidential's terminal, where they will board used Boeing 737-200 jet aircraft.
Operating from underused Dulles airport, the company believes, will help reduce its costs.
Presidential says its coach fares will be 33 to 67 percent lower than rival fares during peak periods of travel and as much as 76 percent lower during nonpeak flying times. Presidential's main rivals will include USAir, Piedmont Airlines, New York Air and, of course, People Express -- tough competition. That could make for some bumpy flying weather for Presidential and its investors.
Perpetual American Bank's common stock has been a clear winner since it went public last summer. Starting out at $7.50 -- and difficult to sell because the bank was then in the red -- the stock has moved up steadily as the bank's financial condition has improved. Today, with bank profits rising, thanks in part to real estate sales, the stock is at $24 a share, an increase of 220 percent.
Now, Perpetual has gone to the public once again, this time with a $10 cumulative convertible preferred stock issue. The stock will pay a fixed annual dividend of 8.5 percent, distributed quarterly. It is convertible by shareholders at any time into the bank's common stock at a price of $28.75 per share.
This is the way the conversion works: One share of Perpetual American preferred will be convertible, at any time, into 0.3478 share of common stock. Thus, if the stock reaches $28.75 a share, that price multiplied by 0.3478 would equal $10, the price paid for the preferred. If the stock gets to $30, multiplied by 0.3478, the figure would equal $10.43, more than was paid for the preferred. But the price of the preferred may keep rising, too, changing the relationship. In any event, before converting, the investor also would have to consider the value of the dividend.
The bank can redeem the preferred stock for $10.85 any time prior to July 31, 1986, and for less after that date, but not for less than $10 a share.
The offering of 4.6 million shares sold out quickly, and the preferred stock opened for trading last week above the $10 level. It closed Friday at $11.88.
The bank will net about $43 million after expenses. The underwriters, Alex. Brown & Co. and Merrill Lynch Capital Markets, opted to take their 600,000-share "green shoe," the extra batch of stock the investment bankers like to sell when they have a successful issue.
How will Perpetual American use the money? Dick Lawton, the bank's vice president, said the $43 million will "enhance our capital position" and allow the bank to "pursue acquisitions." The bank is not holding discussions with anyone now, Lawton said, but he noted that Perpetual would like to be, in bankers' lingo, "fully franchised." Perpetual is not yet represented in several major markets surrounding Washington, including the Richmond and Tidewater areas, Baltimore, Annapolis and the Eastern Shore.
A list of the 100 fastest-growing Nasdaq companies, published in the July issue of OTC Review, includes six firms in the Baltimore-Washington and southern Virginia areas. The firms were ranked by their five-year growth in annual earnings per share (EPS).
Merry Go Round, a retailer based in Towson, Md., was 25th on the list, with a five-year EPS growth of 62 percent. Pulaski Furniture, of Pulaski, Va., was 39th, with 51 percent growth. Cerberonics Inc., an engineering services company at Bailey's Crossroads, was 53rd with 47 percent growth. Allied Capital Corp., a Washington venture capital firm, was 66th with 44 percent growth. Dibrell Bros., a tobacco company in Danville, Va., was 81st with 38 percent growth, and Radiation Systems Inc., of Sterling, Va., was in 91st place with 36 percent growth.
Allied Capital also made the list of the "fastest of the fastest," 10 companies that showed the greatest acceleration in growth. Allied Capital's 12-month earnings grew 90 percent, almost twice their five-year rate of growth.
Since the beginning of the year, Merry Go Round shares are up 61.7 percent; Pulaski Furniture, up 4.1 percent; Cerberonics, up 46.7 percent, but at $8.25 still way below their five-year high of $22; Allied Capital, up 13.2 percent; Dibrell Bros., up 37.5 percent, and Radiation Systems, down 18.8 percent as the fast-growing firm hits a down year.
Martin Marietta Corp. has boosted its holdings in Verdix Corp. of McLean to 1.250 million shares, giving it a 16 percent piece of the company. Verdix is a rapidly growing company that specializes in the Ada software language that the Defense Department wants to use to unify its computer operations. . . . First American Bank of Maryland will try to raise $7.4 million by selling stock to its current shareholders. The bank will give stockholders a "transferable subscription warrant" for each share they hold. With four warrants, the stockholder can buy one share of stock for $30. There are 248,308 shares being offered. . . . Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co. of Maryland is offering $110 million of 11.25 percent debentures (bonds) at 99 percent to yield 11.36. They will mature in 40 years, on July 15, 2025, and are not redeemable prior to July 15, 1990. Brokers say the yield will be about 25 basis points, or a quarter of 1 percent, more than the typical corporate bond.