Luskin's Inc., the Baltimore-based electronics and appliance retail chain, disclosed yesterday that it has held informal talks with a potential buyer, but refused to offer details of the talks.
"We've been asked by the purchaser not to disclose who they are," said Luskin's treasurer William F. Love Jr. Love said one rumor, that competitor Circuit City is considering a takeover, is false. However, the Richmond-based chain plans to expand into the Baltimore market -- Luskin's home turf -- according to stock market analysts who follow the two companies.
The potential purchaser "came down, spent four hours here, asked if we were interested in talking. We said 'yes.' They looked at a couple of the stores, and we're waiting for them to get back to us," Love said.
In response to a morning of unusually heavy stock trading yesterday, Luskin's announced it had been approached by "an unsolicited potential purchaser."
Trading was halted for 44 minutes following the announcement and then resumed with the stock off 50 cents at $7. Prior to the announcement yesterday, Luskin's stock hit its peak price for the past year at $8.75. The stock closed unchanged yesterday at $6.50 in very heavy trading. Yesterday, 115,600 shares changed hands compared with 59,000 shares traded in the entire month of June. On Monday, Luskin's was the fourth-largest percentage gainer in over-the-counter markets.
The company said talks did not include negotiation of price or other details of a potential purchase. The announcement said the company has received unsolicited, informal inquiries in the past, but these had not resulted in substantive negotiations.
The Luskin family and other company insiders own almost 80 percent of the 4.37 million shares outstanding. Chairman Jack Luskin said that no insiders were trading the stock, and company officials said they did not know why trading had been so heavy prior to the announcement.
The consumer electronics industry is facing considerable turmoil. It is suffering from market saturation, especially in home video equipment, and from fierce price competition among retailers.
"We seem to be in the midst of a major shakeout in the industry and a consolidation," said Edwin L. Underwood, an analyst at Scott & Stringfellow in Richmond. Major price wars have broken out in such markets as Los Angeles and New York.
Wall Street speculation on who might be interested in Luskin's includes Dixons Group, Britain's largest electronics retailer. Dixons recently entered the U.S. market with a purchase of Cyclops Corp. of Pittsburgh, owner of the Silo electronics retail chain. Silo, which has stores from from Pennsylvania to Arizona, had $500 million in revenue in 1986. Dixons subsequently bought St. Louis-based Tipton Centers Inc., with 24 stores in Missouri and the Midwest, to complement the Silo operation.
"Word has spread through the industry that Dixons is on the prowl," said Barry Bryant, an analyst with Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc., who said he hasn't heard any specific rumors linking Dixons to Luskin's, which has 52 stores. "It would be logical for them to look at Luskin's, especially if Silo and Luskin's markets don't overlap."
Luskin's reported first-quarter losses of $233,000 on revenue of $29.4 million. In 1986, the company had profits of $950,000 on $140 million in revenue