America's leading printer of stock certificates and currency is cashing in on the fall of communism.
Thanks largely to new contracts in Russia and Lithuania, the United States Banknote Corp. expects to post a 33% jump in revenues this year and another 20% in 1992.
"There's a whole new market opening," says chief operating officer Stanley Kreitman.
"It's certainly a windfall" for U.S. Banknote, adds Stephen Jonathan, a vice president and trader at Citicorp's emerging-markets currency desk.
Just a year ago, the future looked a lot bleaker for the venerable New York-basaed printer.
With Wall Street in a slump and companies increasingly replacing paper certificates with computerized systems that record ownership, U.S. Banknote's primary source of revenue was in jeopardy.
Now the unexpected breakup of the Soviet Union has suddenly brightened its prospects.
Varied Design Requirements
U.S. Banknote has supplied one million stock certificates to the new Moscow Stock Exchange and is currently printing 300 million bank notes in six denominations for Lithuania.
The Lithuania contract alone is expected to produce revenues of $10.5 million to $13.5 million. The company charges $35 to $45 per 1,000 bank notes, depending on complexity of design and the amount of anticounterfeiting steps taken.
Mr. Kreitman says the company, whose main operating unit is the 196-year-old American Bank Note Co., has concluded a similar deal with Estonia and is hoping to do more with other former Soviet republics.
The new foreign business will contribute about half of this year's 33% revenue increase, to $165 million, according to Mr. Kreitman, who also serves as the firm's president.
Broad Range of U.S. Contracts
The company has also been steadily increasing its printing of postage stamps, food coupons, identification cards, and government security notes because the U.S. government has opted to contract out a growing part of its business.
Furthermore, it has benefited from patents it holds on holograms, the reflecting images built into credit cards to deter counterfeiting, Mr. Kreitman says.
Investors have taken notice. U.S. Banknote's stock has risen sharply this year. The shares are trading on the American Stock Exchange at about $5.75, well above the 52-week low of $1.625.
'Managing the Growth'
"They're great at bringing in new business, and management is capable of managing the growth," says Tom Kempner, a fund manager with the New York-based investment partnership of M.H. Davidson.
U.S. Banknote is steadily paying down some $107 million in debt taken on last year to finance investments and carry out a leveraged buyout of International Banknote Co., its biggest competitor. Mr. Kempner predicts that should help earnings per share, 5 to 10 cents this year, to rise to 25 cents next year and to 50 cents in 1993.
The company expects to have operating income of $22 million this year, twice as high as in 1990. Net income is projected to increase to $5.3 million from $4.9 million.
U.S. Banknote is not the only firm competing for printing business overseas.
Canadian Bank Note Co., a privately owned company based in Ottawa, signed a $32.4 million contract last month with the National Bank of the Ukraine to print the republic's new currency.
The Canadian company also plans to set up a joint venture - splitting ownership with the Ukraine government - to print bank notes, passports, postage stamps, and bonds.
A third company, BA Bank Note, a unit of the Montreal-based Quebecor Inc., is negotiating a printing agreement with one of the new republics.
An executive with BA Bank Note in Ottawa declined to elaborate.