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  Stocks with pizzazz also offer risk

BENJ GALLANDER and BEN STADELMANN

Sunday, January 28, 2007

An American investor recently complained to us that Canadian stocks are boring, with few companies possessing any zip or pizzazz. Our system at Contra the Heard precludes any investment in so-called "hot" stocks, since we're buying the beaten-up, the downtrodden and the ignored. As carnivores of fundamentals we devour the steak, and don't spend a lot of time listening for the sizzle. However, here's a look at some Canadian stocks with entertainment value, though shareholders may find their returns less than amusing.

With the cold and flu season upon us, CV Technologies comes to mind. This company became publicly traded in 1997 and skated fast from penny status in 2004 to earn a coveted promotion from the Venture Exchange to the TSX. They make Cold-fX, "Canada's #1 selling cold and flu remedy" and "the official immune enhancer of the NHL." The company stresses marketing and has engaged Don Cherry as a spokesman. Annual net sales for fiscal 2006 increased 48 percent to $47 million and the product was launched into the U.S. market. However, the last two years have seen choppy trading tracks, mostly in the $2-to-$4 range.

Fun Technologies had a really cool idea going there for a while, providing online games and sports content. The company offers free and fee-based skill games via its own Internet sites and has awarded a million-dollar grand prize. Fun Sports embraces fantasy leagues and information sports services and has distribution agreements with AOL, the NBA and Nascar.com. The stock was listed on the TSX at $3 in the fall of 2004 and ran to $8 last March. Since then, losses have mounted and volumes thinned. Looking at their chart, perhaps downhill ski racing will be their next big thing.

Another sports-oriented kid on the block is Kangaroo Media. This outfit is involved in major sports properties such as NASCAR, Formula 1 and the NFL. Fans are able to create a customized viewing experience by using a hand-held Kangaroo TV device. Proprietary technology delivers video, audio and data from cameras placed around the venue with a fly-on-the-wall kind of intimacy. But big ideas often come with costly development expenses and ongoing losses. After an updraft from $1 near inception in 2004 to over $8, investors hopped elsewhere this past year.

And how about that flashy Canadian stalwart, Imax Corporation? World famous for their monolithic screens and fiendish sound systems that turned nature films into thrillers, the company was slow to project Hollywood features. The intersection of declining revenue, rising expenses and difficulty in finding a buyer when they put themselves on the market has led to the stock getting crushed — as when Bambi met Godzilla — from over $12 to the $4.50 range. Film, no matter how whizzy, is an uncertain prospect in the digital age. However, this one is of enough interest to be on our Stock Watch list.

Many companies enjoy having their stock prices run up during the early years of hype, hope and possibility. However, sustaining and further increasing value over the long term is another dimension altogether. Investors in young, exciting companies often get trapped holding after the top, as the company peters out or hits the wall altogether. That puts a severe damper on zip and pizzazz.


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