CAROLINA MAY BE TAKEOVER TARGET

CAROLINA MAY BE TAKEOVER TARGET

Carolina Freight Corp., one of the nation's largest trucking companies, is the rumored target of a corporate takeover, according to some Wall Street analysts.

Recent heavy trading in the company's stock has prompted speculation that another transportation company may be buying shares in the Cherryville, N.C., motor carrier.Norfolk Southern Corp., a holding company for one of the country's largest railroads, and United Parcel Service, the $8 billion small package delivery giant, have been mentioned as likely suitors.

But other analysts who follow the trucking industry closely say it is unlikely either corporation is making a bid for Carolina.

I think it's more a case of somebody trying to hype the stock, said one analyst. There is more speculation than reality behind this move.

Carolina has been one of the trucking industry's most successful companies. But the carrier posted lower-than-expected fourth quarter earnings and recently has been underperforming both the market and other trucking stocks.

During the fourth quarter, Carolina's stock price fell 43.5 percent compared with a 30 percent decline for a larger group of trucking stocks. The Standard & Poors 400 fell 23.9 percent during the same period.

A Wall Street trucking analyst also said Carolina's stock is trading at close to book value, which also may be prompting interest in the carrier.

Investors have been speculating that a major trucking industry bankruptcy later this year could produce a sharp business surge for carriers like Carolina.

The fact that the company is underperforming the market and trading at close to book value could be responsible for the heavy trading, said an analyst.