Underwriters Boost Lipman on Nasdaq

Lipman Electronic Engineering's (TASE: LPMA) road on Nasdaq has not been a walk in Central Park. Its share refused to gain ground in its first three weeks; trading volumes remained stubbornly low for a company with market cap of $600 million.

But this changed in the last two weeks: Its stock has jumped 20 percent, from $40.9 to $49, and trading volumes have climbed significantly - for which Lipman can, to a large degree, thank its underwriters.

Merrill Lynch and HSBC both started coverage with Buy ratings. HSBC set its 12-month price target at $56, which was 18 percent above the opening level in New York yesterday, while Merrill Lynch chose $60. The warm recommendations sent Lipman climbing 2.6 percent on Wall Street Tuesday night, while the rest of the market slipped back.

In January, and in an over-allocation placement in March, Rosh Ha'ayin-based Lipman raised $99 million on the Nasdaq. Its shareholders, First Israel Mezzanine Investors and Mivtach Shamir Holdings, also sold $31 million worth of stock. Lipman, which provides payment terminals and related solutions, also filed strong financials for the last quarter of 2003 and heartwarming forecasts for the foreseeable future.

HSBC evidently concurs, calling Lipman the fastest-growing and most profitable vendor in the $2 billion point-of-sale terminal industry, which is expected to grow by 15 percent per annum in the coming years. The company's strategy is to zero in on countries where POS terminal deployments are growing fast, while nabbing a leading market share position.

It has been highly active in Turkey and Russia, for instance. In 2003, the U.S. contributed 43 percent of its sales, Europe 35 percent, and Latin America 9 percent.