A little more than a year ago, as the stock market continued its feverish climb, Bruce Bradley and George Stasen decided to start a new brokerage in Washington. Its goal would be to provide research to institutional money managers in the United States and abroad.
Bradley and Stasen developed a business plan, raised $500,000, found office space, hired staff and, last April, opened for business.
Six months afterwards, the stock market crashed. Investor interest in stocks dropped to zero and Bradley and Stasen began to wonder about their timing.
"It's been a tough year. I'm glad I didn't know then what I know now," said Bradley, former head of institutional sales at Johnston, Lemon & Co., of Washington.
The new firm, called Bradley & Co., was formed with a three-part strategy in mind, Bradley said. The first was public policy research, with an emphasis on the Federal Reserve and economic issues -- subjects handled by former Fed governor Charles Partee who is a consultant to Bradley & Co.
The second goal was to provide institutions with research on companies in the mid-Atlantic region, an area that includes Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and North Carolina.
In essence, investors at home and abroad will begin to hear from Bradley & Co. about the virtues of Circuit City Stores, Giant Food, Reynolds Metals, Danaher Corp. and other area companies.
While these may seem like old-hat recommendations to the established regional firms, the folks at Bradley & Co. believe there are many institutional investors around the world who haven't yet discovered some of our home-grown companies.
The mid-Atlantic research effort is headed by Michael Meek, who formerly worked at Ferris & Co. in Washington.
The firm's third and perhaps most important goal was to provide institutions with research on medical technology companies. Stasen, 60, is a former chairman of the Medical Technology Fund and the Emerging Medical Technology Fund, both now operated by the American Medical Association. Working with Stasen is Nina M. Siegler, an experienced analyst in the field of biotechnology.
For stock pickers, biotech issues can be frustrating. New discoveries always seem to be on the horizon -- just beyond the reach of the bottom line. One ever-present difficulty, said a Bradley & Co. report, is "uncertainty over which companies will succeed in dominating important lines of business and which companies will fall by the wayside."
The securities industry has many firms similar to Bradley & Co. One of the reasons they can exist is that managers of pension funds and mutual funds are always in search of investment ideas and are willing to pay for research they trust.
In practice, once the research fees are agreed upon, the money is usually paid out as commissions for trading stocks.
For instance, Fidelity Investments pays Bradley & Co. $36,000 a year for its research in the medical technology field. But that revenue will be generated by commissions when Fidelity trades stocks -- any stocks -- through Bradley & Co. The commission rate is between 7 cents and 9 cents a share.
Bradley said his firm has retainers from 15 clients and his goal for this year is 30 clients each paying $36,000 a year.
Bradley, who started with a $500,000 revenue forecast for 1987, said he hopes to take in $2 million in 1988 and $3 million to $5 million in 1989. He expects 75 percent of 1988 revenue to come from commissions and 25 percent to come from corporate finance activities.
Corporate finance wasn't a big part of the early game plan because of the lag time involved. But Bradley said that the firm already has done one leveraged buyout, and is working on two biotech financings.
Bradley & Co.'s corporate finance consultant is Mikel T. Dodd, who teaches at Georgetown University.
Bradley & Co. was just starting to build up its commission base when the October blow fell. "October was very slow. November started to come back and December was a good month," Bradley recalled.
Despite the slowdown in trading, Bradley and Stasen said they see a silver lining in the market's decline. Precollapse, they kept running into clients who thought stocks were too expensive, Stasen said. Some of the biotech stocks Stasen likes are much more attractive at today's prices, said.
Bruce Bradley, 45, is chairman of the new company and owns 75 percent of the firm. Before Bradley joined Johnston, Lemon, he worked at Legg Mason in Baltimore and before that ran his own research firm, Bradley Woods, in Washington.
Bradley took a fling at politics in 1976, running as an independent candidate for the U.S. Senate seat that was won by Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md).
Bradley and Stasen find themselves trying to develop a new brokerage at a time when the rest of the securities industry is shriveling up or cutting back. The area investment community will be watching with interest.
Ten stocks in the Baltimore-Washington-Richmond corridor have been included on a new list of 140 rapid-growth stocks published by Standard & Poor's.
The stock and bond rating service said it screened thousands of stocks to come up with its list of companies with strong growth trends. However, S&P cautioned, the results should not be considered a "buy" list.
S&P studied earnings growth in two ways, first by simply using the record of the last five fiscal years and second by substituting the earnings of the last 12 months for the oldest year. The second method emphasizes a company's recent profit trend.
Eight out of 10 of the local companies showed lower five-year growth figures when S&P included the latest 12-month figures -- reflecting a variety of economic pressures.
Here are the 10 area companies and their growth rates. The first figure (A) is the regular five-year rate. The second figure (B) is the rate with the latest 12 months included.
BDM International of McLean. Growth rates, 29 percent (A) and 26 percent (B). A professional services company with heavy involvement in defense work, BDM saw its revenue flatten in 1987 as government contracts were stretched out.
Cadmus Communications of Richmond. Growth rates, 24 percent (A) and 22 percent (B). A printing and marketing company, Cadmus has been growing by acquisition. Its financial printing operation has been hurt by the stock market's fall.
Circuit City Stores of Richmond. Growth rates, 66 percent (A) and 46 percent (B). The change shows the slowdown in the once-hot pace set by this electronics retailer.
Ethyl Corp. of Richmond. Growth rates, 19 percent (A) and 22 percent (B). The company that put the lead into leaded gasoline until it was virtually banned by the government, has moved into pharmaceuticals and financial services.
Hechinger Co. of Landover. Growth rates, 23 percent (A) and 20 percent (A). The home center chain continues to expand around the country.
Manor Care of Silver Spring. Growth rates, 28 percent (A) and 19 percent (B). This national nursing home and hotel company, which once grew rapidly by acquisition, plans to build its own nursing homes.
Marriott Corp. of Washington. Growth rates, 18 percent (A) and 19 percent (B). The $5.2 billion hotel and lodging company has gone global. It recently began trading on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
Morino Associates of Vienna. Growth rates, 73 percent (A) and 51 percent (B). Morino, which went public in 1986, markets software for IBM mainframe computers.
Student Loan Marketing Association of Washington. Growth rates, 40 percent (A) and 29 percent (B). Sallie Mae, as the organization is called, provides funds to institutions for education-related loans.
Vanguard Technologies International of Fairfax. Growth rates, 66 percent and 61 percent. Vanguard provides data processing services for government and industry.