Trim compensates for receding profits

MINNEAPOLIS: Shave or a haircut, no dividend. That is the song at Barbers, Hairstyling for Men and Women Inc, which is giving shareholders free haircuts in lieu of a payout.

The company, which has not paid a dividend in its 23 years as a public company, said it had mailed its shareholders, of whom there are about 300, a certificate for a haircut worth US$8.95 in place of a dividend.

The offer can be redeemed at Cost Cutters, Barbers Hairstyling, City Looks and Hair Performers salons.

''We're growing the company and don't have the money to pay dividends,'' said Mr Joe Francis, chairman, who said the company had opened salons in Moscow and Paris last summer and was planning to begin franchising in South America and the United Kingdom.

''Every year some shareholders ask: 'When are you going to pay a dividend?' So we put our heads together and thought of this. Probably many of our shareholders have never visited one of our salons,'' he said.

To accommodate bald shareholders with no need for a haircut, Mr Francis said the company would give shaves instead, albeit reluctantly. Modern-day barbers were not trained in the art of giving a shave, which made it a risky proposition, said Mr Francis, who was a barber for 40 years.

''Barbers got out of the blood-letting business when we separated from the doctors in 1745,'' he said.

He said shaving someone carried added risks in the days of AIDS.

The certificates were contained in Barbers Hairstyling's annual report, which was mailed out last week. Investors who become shareholders before the January 21 annual meeting will also be mailed certificates.

''We can reward shareholders and do a little marketing at the same time,'' said Mr Francis, who said he had checked with his corporate lawyer and been told he could offer the haircuts as a ''bonus'' if he didn't call them a dividend.

In the year to September 24, the company's earnings fell to $68,406, four cents a share, from $202,905, 12 cents a share, the previous year.

The company blamed the decline primarily on its international expansion. Revenue rose from $11.3 million to $11.5 million. Bloomberg