You can't keep up with Wayne Snavely, chairman of Torrance-based Imperial Credit Industries Inc., diversified lender and financier.

In the six years that he has run Imperial Credit, Snavely has broadened the once-sleepy mortgage lender into "Finance-a-Rama," and now makes loans (directly or otherwise) on autos, to brand-name franchisees (such as buyers of a Taco Bell outlet), and to small businesses.

He even bought a controlling stake in Dabney/Resnick/Imperial LLC, the Beverly Hills brokerage.

Now he is starting a new investment fund and has filed plans with the Securities and Exchange Commission to form a new, publicly held company, Imperial Credit Commercial Mortgage Investment Corp. Snavely will be chairman and Imperial Credit Industries will take a 10 percent equity stake in the operation.

The new company will invest in apartment and commercial loans, or in securities backed by such loans.

Snavely expects to sell 20 million shares at $15 each, or $300 million, unless investors want more, in which case $345 million will be sold.

Westside-based Jefferies & Co. will co-manage and underwrite the offering. Robert Weerle, real estate specialist, is lead banker for Jefferies.

All parties are in their quiet period and unable to chat about the offering.

View from The Rock

Making the rounds last week in Los Angeles was Ralph Acampora, big gun market analyst for Prudential Securities Inc.

He sees a major correction short-term, and then 10,000 on the Dow by June 1998.

"I am looking for a nice-sized correction here, down to 7,600 or 7,800 on the Dow," said Acampora. But after the correction, a continued bull stampede.

Acampora is very bullish on small-cap stocks, which have not participated in the market as much as the blue chips.

"After a correction, you often get a change in leadership (stocks which lead the market)," said Acampora. "In the next few weeks, we'll see if small caps emerge as the leader."

Like others, Acampora says the basic fundamentals are solid for the bull: Inflation is low (and thus so are interest rates), baby-boomers are saving money and putting it into the market, and Corporate America is aggressively looking for profits.

The fundamentals are so good that Acampora last week was inspired to make an even more bullish forecast. "I see 18,500 on the Dow Jones by 2006. I think we are still in the early stages of this market. I call this a baby bull," he said.

15 down, 15 up

Last week, I wrote in this space that the Dow Jones has been on a 15-year upswing, but don't forget that it went on a 15-year sideways wash from 1965 to 1982.

It turned out I was kind to those difficult years before the big rally.

The Dow Jones actually fell 70 percent in the 15 years preceding August 1982 when inflation is taken into account, according to Oakland-based The Business Picture, a stock market research service.

That means investors who held on through the long bear market lost more than two-thirds of their portfolios, in real terms.

But, of course, anything before the current bull market is ancient history, isn't it?

Hard numbers

Getting good, hard data on the economy which, after all, underlies the stock market is tough. Getting good data on regional economies is even tougher, in part due to government cutbacks.

For example, retail sales for the Los Angeles-Long Beach metropolitan area, formerly collected by the federal government, are no longer available.

But good, regional economic data are important to investors, particularly those interested in regional real estate investment trusts or other companies somewhat dependent on local economies.

Apart from listening to blabber from self-appointed regional economic pundits, what is an investor to do?

For those interested in the Southern California economy, there is some online help: www. investorsHQ.com.

This site is maintained in part by Gordon Pattison, economist with the Santa Ana-based Investors' Property Services Inc., a real estate management company, but the data comes from all over state and federal governments and the private sector.

Conversations with Pattison take refreshingly blunt directions, as he is not one to sing the praises of any market unless the data are there to back it up.

Right now, the Orange County economy is doing fine, but L.A.'s could still use pep pills, says Pattison.

REIT critique

Speaking of REITs, Manhattan Beach-based Alexander Haagen Properties Inc. is not exactly a hot stock, according to Craig Silvers, real estate analyst with brokeage Sutro & Co. Inc.

Haagen's big problem? It can't seem to make enough money from its two malls, the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza and Media City Center in Burbank. The two properties are Haagen's prime holdings.

"We are rating the stocks a 'hold.' Haagen hasn't been able to extract full value from his properties, the malls aren't realizing their potential," said Silvers.

Haagen needs to either come up with a new game plan for improving profits, or a way to sell the two malls, said Silvers.

One nice thing about the Haagen stock, which is traded on the AMEX: It pays a whopping annual dividend of $1.44, or 8.9 percent.

REITs are required by law to distribute 95 percent of taxable income to shareholders. But that payout can be reduced by using cash flow to purchase more properties instead.

Silvers actually considers the big dividend a negative. "They are paying out too much," he says. The money, properly invested, would offer a better long-term investment in the form of stock appreciation, said Silver.

Last week, Haagen reported net income of $601,000, or a nickel a share, compared with $3.1 million, or 26 cents, in the year-earler quarter.

A different measure of REIT performance, funds from operations, fell from 34 cents to 32 cents a share, quarter over quarter. The alternative measure adjusts income (upwardly) for depreciation.

Senior reporter Benjamin Mark Cole covers the investment community for the Los Angeles Business Journal.

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