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Monday, August 23, 1999


Funds purchase
6% stake in
Hawaiian
Chocolate

One manager says he wanted
to get in before the rest of the
market sees the potential

Star-Bulletin staff

Tapa

Two private investment fund managers have paid a total of about $1 million for stock in Hawaiian Vintage Chocolate Co., a Honolulu company touted as the nation's only producer of chocolate.

The investment equals more than 6 percent of outstanding shares in the company.

"We wanted to become a part of their growth before the rest of the market place realizes Hawaiian Vintage Chocolate's potential," said Jim Kennedy of Kennedy Capital, a $2 billion fund based in St. Louis.

Also taking stock in the company was Financial Investment & Management Group Ltd., a Michigan firm that opened an office on Maui in 1997.

The two funds today predicted earnings in the range of $2.15 to $2.25 a share in the next three years.

Hawaiian Vintage shares, traded on the Nasdaq over-the-counter bulletin board, were up 12 1/2 cents to close at $1.94 today.

Jim Walsh, CEO of Hawaiian Vintage, today said the fund backing will enable "significant" growth in the next two years through new products, improved distribution and a new factory.

The candy maker, started 12 years ago in Hawaii, grows cacao on the Big Island and makes chocolate in California. The company has been looking for a site to build a factory in Honolulu, to be modeled after the 1971 movie "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."

The company in July also announced plans to open five retail outlets in St. Louis and 31 in six other mainland states by the end of this year. The company is modeling is nationwide marketing expansion on the formula used by Starbucks Corp., getting into busy shopping malls with retail outlets dedicated to its brand.



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