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TOY RETAILERS ARE LIKELY TO BRING HOLIDAY CHEER TO INVESTORS

SHARE TOY RETAILERS ARE LIKELY TO BRING HOLIDAY CHEER TO INVESTORS

Q. My wife and I own 75 shares of Toy's R Us and are interested in buying 75 more. Do you think, with Christmas around the corner, that this is a good idea?

A. No matter how the rest of the nation's retailers do this holiday season, this national operator of toy supermarkets should have a stocking full of profits.Toy's R Us (around $37 a share, New York Stock Exchange), which reported strong third-quarter earnings, is an attractive investment at its current stock price, said William Smith, analyst with Smith Barney, Harris Upham & Co.

"Product lines such as the Nintendo video games, in particular the new miniaturized Nintendo, are expected to be the darlings of the Christmas season," said Smith.

Improving sales of action dolls and board games are also expected to enhance Toy's R Us sales figures. Another positive factor is a new joint venture with McDonald's Corp. of Japan, in which that fast-food chain will open restaurants in Toy's R Us stores. Toy's R Us, by the way, is already a successful retailer in Europe and Canada.

Q. I am interested in buying 10 shares of Hershey Foods, but with America so health-conscious, is this a bad time for the chocolate industry?

A. The health movement hasn't neutralized America's sweet tooth.

Hershey Foods (around $34, NYSE), which produces candy and pasta and operates restaurants, is worth buying from a long-range perspective because of its excellent earnings history and recently improved profit margins, said Noemi Ghez, analyst with Goldman, Sachs & Co.

The company has 40 percent of the chocolate-bar market. Its overall product line, from which it derives two-thirds of revenue, includes the Hershey bar, Mr. Goodbar, Hershey Kisses and Reese's Pieces. In addition, last year's purchase of Peter Paul/Cadbury sent the company to the top of the confectionery market.

"Many people aren't aware that Hershey is in the pasta business," said Ghez. "In addition, it recently announced it will be test-marketing its microwave pasta."

Q. I am an avid fan of Cable News Network and other Turner Broadcasting ventures. Do you recommend stock in Turner Broadcasting System?

A. Stand by, please. It may not quite be time to flip the switch to this investment.

Turner Broadcasting Class "A" (around $48, American Stock Exchange), television broadcasting and sports, is an attractive long-term investment due to the potential value of the company's assets in the event of a takeover one day, said John Reidy, analyst with Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc. It is well-known for its cable news, television broadcasting and sports properties.

"I see Turner Broadcasting's asset value as $70 a share, making its current price a good buy," said Reidy. "However, I suggest (you) hold off on a purchase at the moment until there's a dip in stock prices."

The stock has been strong lately based on recent developments, such as CBS Inc. selling the company cable rights for the 1992 and 1994 Olympics.

Q. I recently found a stock certificate for Consolidated Manganese Co. Inc. among my deceased father's papers. Is this company still in existence and does the stock have any value?

A. This company, established to mine manganese, wasn't mining any profits.

Stock of Consolidated Manganese, a company based in Nova Scotia, is worthless, said Robert D. Fisher, vice president with the New York-based R.M. Smythe & Co. stock-search firm. The company's stock has been inactive for decades and the company officially ceased to do business in 1974.

Q. I am employed full time as an electrician and I breed pedigreed dogs as a hobby. Are expenses and losses incurred in this venture tax-deductible?

A. Such items are deductible to the extent of income gained from the venture, said James Schlesser, tax partner with Deloitte & Touche. For example, expenses for dog food, maintenance, veterinarian costs and the like are deductible to the extent of income derived from the sale of dogs.

"To prove that your venture is not a hobby, but a trade or a side business, you must have income from three out of five years," explained Schlesser.

Q. I am holding 500 shares of American Bankers Insurance Group. I'm wondering if there's a future for this stock or if I should take my losses and sell.

A. You must have purchased your shares several years ago because American Bankers Insurance Group (around $12, over the counter) is currently near its two-year high, noted Richard Wholey of Chicago-based Wayne Hummer & Co.

The company derives 85 percent of its premiums by wholesaling insurance to banks, savings and loan associations, finance companies and retailers. Earnings are expected to reach a record $1.75 a share in 1989 and the dividend is a respectable 4 percent.

"Innovative methods of selling insurance coverage should keep American Bankers Insurance Group on an upward path," said Wholey.

Q. I have 200 shares of CPI Corp., which operates the Sears photo centers. Any suggestions?

A. That strong alliance with Sears Roebuck & Co. could stifle the growth of CPI Corp. (around $30, NYSE), said Sharon Conway, based in Chicago with A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc.

CPI would be hurt if Sears, which is under financial pressure, is forced to cut back its number of stores. The company operates 900 Sears portrait studies, 280 one-hour photo finish minilabs and 25 high-speed copy stores. Its balance sheet and cash flow are strong, and it recently announced the repurchase of up to 2.5 million shares and raised its dividend.

"I'd hold the stock, but would keep a close eye on earnings and future events involving Sears Roebuck," said Conway.

Andrew Leckey answers questions only through his column. Address such inquiries to Andrew Leckey, Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.