In an IPO market crowded with lookalike tech companies that have posted nary a nickel in earnings, investors looking to add a little bang to their portfolios might want to take aim at

Firearms Training Systems.

The Georgia-based company, which sells scenario simulators for training soldiers and police officers in how to handle weapons, plans to offer 6 million shares in an initial public offering that is expected to come to the Nasdaq Stock Market this week under the lovely symbol FATS. (Until August, the company was owned by

THIN International N.V.


Montgomery Securities

will lead the underwriting, with

Lazard Freres & Co.


The Robinson-Humphrey Company

offering support. According to the offering prospectus, the stock will be priced between $14 and $16 per share.

Armies and police forces use the simulator system, which combines video imagery and laser-shooting pistols, rifles--even bazookas, to evaluate the accuracy and reaction time of weapons handlers. Operators can manipulate the scenario, incorporating hostages for example, to test the judgment of GIs and flatfoots.

What sort of market is there for customized weapons training programs? A huge and growing one, according to the prospectus. The U.S. military alone will spend $800 million in 1997 training soldiers on how to defend against virtual enemies, terrorists and thugs, the company estimates.

"With the innovative use of simulation and virtual reality, Firearms Training has taken the lead" said Steven Tuen, an analyst at

IPO Value Monitor


And unlike some IPOs this season, FATS boasts solid profit growth during the past two years. For the six months ended Sept. 30, FATS reported net income of $5.3 million, or 33 cents a share, compared with net income of $3.96 million, or 25 cents a share, in the year-earlier period. According to the prospectus, the company has made money in each of the last five fiscal years.

One potential land mine: The company relies on a few big contracts for the bulk of its revenue. Its top five customers will account for 67.4% of total revenues in fiscal 1996,

IPO Value Monitor

said. A defection or two could blast the bottom line.

Investors who buy the shares are cautioned to report their purchases to the proper authorities. Why? Well, the

Internal Revenue Service

is one of the company's main customers, the prospectus says.

By Andrew Morse