The six NYSE-listed firms looking to list on the Nasdaq are looking in the wrong place. If they want to see their shares sizzle, they might want to try the bulletin board exchange instead.

Nine of the top 10 stocks on Yahoo!'s 52-week "Sizzlers" list trade on the bulletin board, and the average return for the stocks is 3,826%. But just because the returns are impressive doesn't mean the companies themselves are winners.

The bulletin board is an electronic quotation system for unlisted over-the-counter securities. Conservative investors tend to shy away from bulletin board stocks, considering them outposts of the Wild West where almost anything goes.

For example, only one company on the top 10 list, software provider TenFold ( TENF), has produced four consecutive quarters of earnings. A number of the stocks on the list -- like top returner Promos ( PMOS) -- have been in or near bankruptcy and appear on the list only because of financial shenanigans like reverse acquisitions.

As one might expect from bulletin board stocks, these are not heavily traded stocks, and floats are often held in large percentages by insiders. The average three-month volume for the shares on the list is 75,225, and the average float is 11.37 million. But be careful in unconditionally accepting this number too. By removing the 51.9 million shares of Enterprise Technologies ( ETPT), the average float for shares on the list drops to just under 6.9 million shares.

So who is trading in bulletin board stocks, and why? Phil Roth, chief technical market analyst at Miller Tabak, doesn't see professional traders as the force behind the run-up in the highly speculative stocks. "When you get down to the bulletin board, a lot of the trading is done by the public day trader passing stocks and stories back and forth," says Roth. "And in this environment when stocks have advanced for a long time and people have confidence, they will buy anything. A 10-cent stock can go to 50 cents, just for lack of sellers."

Before you get jealous and start tearing through the pink sheets looking for the next Enterprise Technologies, here's a quick review of the financial highlights, lowlights and question marks surrounding the market's 10 most sizzling stocks:

10. Celtron International, Up 2,480%

Celtron International ( CLTR) is a South Africa-based company that sells vehicle-locating systems that enable fleet owners to manage their fleets and help consumers to find stolen vehicles. What's tough to locate, however, are decent financial data for the company. Aside from a wildly upwardly sloping chart and some trading statistics, Yahoo! has almost no relevant statistics on this company -- no price/sales, no price/book, no price/earnings figures.

The company's current modus operandi can be found in its Nov. 18 quarterly report: "We have financed our operations primarily through the sale of our common stock or by loans from shareholders."

9. Enterprise Technologies, Up 2,605%

Vancouver-based Enterprise Technologies reported no revenue for its noninvasive pelvic-disorder treatments in 2002 after pulling the plug on its signature MedCare Program in March 2001. The company is currently searching for potential joint-venture partners that can add the MedCare Program as an ancillary service, as well as attempting to find other revenue streams from its intellectual property base. Without a product or a partner, all that seems to be left of Enterprise Technologies is a penny stock ticker that's somehow been meandering higher this year.

8. TenFold, Up 2,618%

Utah-based enterprise software provider TenFold has something the rest of the Sizzlers don't have: four straight quarters of operating earnings. TenFold also announced this week that it has $12 million in cash and is affirming prior earnings guidance. With a price/sales ratio of 4.68, below the industry average of 7.63, and a moderate P/E ratio of 11.54, TenFold might actually be undervalued.

7. Carrier Access, Up 2,707%

Broadband communications manufacturer Carrier Access might not have trailing 12-month earnings behind it -- operating income finally appeared in June 2003 -- but analysts are predicting the company will have a full year of earnings in 2004. Yahoo! lists the Colorado-based company with a robust 62 P/E ratio and an equally hefty 7.28 multiple to sales. Carrier Access also has more cache then the other stocks on the sizzlers list because it trades on the Nasdaq.

6. Broadview Media, Up 3,872%

For Minneapolis-based TV production company Broadview Media ( BDVM), here's the bad news: The company reported a net loss of $156,462 for the second quarter, wider than its loss of $117,516 in the same period last year. To stem losses, the company is moving away from TV production and into the education market. In November, Broadview Media announced the purchase of Utah Career College, a privately owned, postsecondary institution that offers career vocational training programs.

On a Roll
Here are the 10 stocks with the highest 52-week returns.
Ticker Jan. 8 Price 52-week return
PMOS.OB $5.60 5,500.00%
LRSY.OB .90 5,194.12
DDVS.OB 1.50 4,900.00
CYAD.OB 2.29 4,490.00
HCOM.OB .04 3,900.00
BDVM.OB 7.15 3,872.00
CACS 14.88 2,707.00
TENF.OB 4.35 2,618.75
ETPT.OB 0.46 2,605.00
CLTR.OB 1.29 2,480.00
Average 3,826.69
Source: Yahoo! Finance, Jan. 8, 2004

5. Homecom Communications, Up 3,900%

Homecom Communications ( HCOM) jumped from 1 cent per share to 5 cents per share this year. The company is a former Web designer now fronting for a European technology company, which says in its press releases that it licenses "innovative emerging technologies in the nuclear energy, environmental and chemical industries." It's a shell company in a reverse merger. (A "reverse merger" is a method by which a private company goes public by merging with a publicly listed company with no assets or liabilities, also called a "shell" corporation.)

4. CyberAds, Up 4,490%

Last week CyberAds ( CYAD) announced that its editorial news campaign had been approved for in-flight broadcast on United Airlines as part of the airline's news programming for the month of February. That's good news for the Boca Raton, Florida, holding company that says its "core operations are land development and real estate projects." CyberAds decided to get into the real estate business after acquiring a 22% interest in a luxury motor coach country club called The Vineyards.

The company's other subsidiaries are, a free cellular phone service;, a prepaid Mastercard that helps consumers establish a good credit rating; and, a discount healthcare card service that provides up to 60% discount on medical bills. The only thing CyberAds doesn't do is make money. The company lost $400,000 in the first nine months of 2003 after losing $14.7 million in 2002. But that hasn't stopped the stock from going up, up and away.

3. Distinctive Devices, Up 4,900%

At least CyberAds kept all its businesses in one country. Distinctive Devices ( DDVS) is a multinational mix of intrigue, debt and operating losses -- all resulting in huge shareholder gains.

Distinctive Devices is based in New Jersey and develops software products through its subsidiary in India. The company also manufactures and distributes telecom equipment to companies in India and Russia through Real Time Systems of New Delhi. In addition, the company is engaged in trading gemstones through its subsidiary, International Gemsource. In 2003, company management became increasingly involved with Galaxis Technology of Lubeck, Germany. What began as an arrangement to produce TV set-top boxes in the company's subsidiary's manufacturing facility in New Delhi evolved into a full-scale merger.

No matter where Distinctive Devices sets up shop -- North America, Europe, Asia -- it continues to lose money. The company posted an operating loss of $587,000 through the first three quarters of 2003, after losing $873,000 in 2002.

2. Laser Recording Systems, Up 5,194%

Laser Recording Systems ( LRSY) has no sources of revenue. It used to sell document management systems to the pharmaceutical industry, but it has been inactive since 1993.

In May 2003, the company and three shareholders owning an aggregate of approximately 68% of Laser's outstanding common stock entered into a share exchange agreement -- another reverse merger -- with SCL Ventures, a British Virgin Islands company and its shareholders. SCL wanted the ticker, not the stock. So much for sizzle.

1. Promos, Up 5,500%

When defunct marketing company Promos jumped from 3 cents a share to more than $6 per share in mid-December 2003, it was due to a reverse acquisition of Promos by Long Island-based OmniCorder Technologies. The rise was pure financial engineering. (OmniCorder develops medical imaging applications for drug discovery and disease detection.) You might want to check out the steak before you buy that promise of sizzle.

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