Archive for Sunday, February 8, 2004

The Motley Fool

February 8, 2004


Name that company

I was founded in 1902 as the Scientific Materials Co. In 1925 I took the name of my founder, who wanted me to be a one-stop shop for scientists. Today I provide more than 600,000 scientific-research, clinical-laboratory and safety products to 350,000-plus customers in 145 countries. I supplied products for the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb, and Dr. Jonas Salk used my reagents in developing his polio vaccine. I process more than 30,000 orders per day, and my annual sales top $3 billion. My stock has more than quintupled in value over the past decade. Who am I?

(Last week's answer: Automatic Data Processing)

Know the answer? Send it to us with Foolish Trivia on the top and you'll be entered into a drawing for a nifty prize! The address is Motley Fool, Box 19529, Alexandria, Va. 22320-0529.

A tarnished constellation

Back in the late 1980s, I invested a little money in Orion Pictures at around $7 per share. I sat back and watched the shares triple in value over the next few years. Since I was aiming to invest for the long term, I left the investment alone and made the mistake of not reading the annual reports. While Orion had some successful films, such as "Silence of the Lambs" and "Dances With Wolves," it was also developing debt problems. In 1992, it filed for bankruptcy, and I ended up losing all of my money. But I did learn to pay attention to reports instead of assuming everything is fine. -- Ed Hogsett, Washington Court House, Ohio

The Fool Responds: Keeping up with your investments is indeed critical. A company may seem to be doing well enough if you see lots of customers. But perhaps it's generating sales by marking down products too much, decreasing profits. Perhaps its inventories are piling up, unsold. Financial reports can offer important details. By the way, in 1997, Orion and its vast film and TV library was sold to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

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