One strategy that has shown to be effective in beating the market over time, regardless of the economy, is tracking insider buying. The premise is simple in that insiders are just like the rest of the public in how they desire to make more money, and as a result, when these people purchase shares we can join them on the way higher. The following are stocks that have recently had notable insider buying of at least $100,000 and seemed poised to move higher as the fundamentals and/or future prospects look compelling. As another caveat, please only consider this as a starting point in your investment research as these are only the opinions of the blogger:
Level 3 Communications (LVLT) offers a diverse array of core network services that serves as the backbone of the internet and content delivery services. The company has a sizable annual revenue base approaching $6.5 billion and a market capitalization over $4.5 billion. The company's stock has been volatile, but board director Peter Van Oppen seems to think the stock will be moving higher in the near future. Mr. Van Oppen purchased 10,000 shares on April 29 equating to approximately $200,000 worth of stock and is even more significant as this more than doubled his existing ownership stake.
Operationally, the company has not been performing well -- missing consensus analyst estimates badly in each of the last four quarters. In addition, it continues to be plagued by a sizable debt load in excess of $8.5 billion. Nonetheless, the company trades at a relatively cheap .7x price to sales ratio and showing nice operating margins at 11%. Moreover, Level 3 Communications counts some well-respected value firms as major holders, including Southeastern Asset Management and Fairfax Financial, which is typically a bullish indicator. All aspects considered, I still need to see more progress in the company both bringing down its debt and improving free-cash-flow, but this is worth keeping on the radar. I think its better capitalized competitor, Akamai Technologies (AKAM), is a more compelling investment.
Akamai, much like Level 3, provides content delivery and a variety of related services. The similarities seem to stop there, as Akamai is firing on all cylinders. The company just reported a stellar quarter that provided great guidance, sending the stock to a new 52-week high over $45. However, the company still looks reasonably priced and has a stellar debt-free balance sheet with approximately $3 per share in net cash. Moreover, the company sports stellar operating margins over 25% and recently had some large insider purchasing as well.
Key Energy Services (KEG) operates in the oil and gas drilling industry offering a variety of rig-based and fluid management services. The stock has been dreadful in the past year, not sitting far from its $5.61 52-week high. Nevertheless, board director William Fertig bought 20,000 shares on May 2 displaying confidence that he sees the stock moving higher.
The company did miss consensus estimates badly in the most recent quarter, but exceeded consensus estimates in each of the prior three quarters showing us that perhaps it was just an aberration. The company is trading at a relatively reasonable .5x price to sales and .7x price to book, which is enticing. In addition, the company is trading at an attractive 10.5x forward P/E which I think makes the company worth a look. If looking for more stability, sizable competitors Transocean (RIG) and Nabors Industries (NBR) are worth considering.
Transocean offers offshore drilling worldwide and is based in Switzerland. The company is much larger in size with annual revenues in excess of $9 billion and a market capitalization at $19 billion. In addition, the company has been in the news lately, as shareholder activist Carl Icahn looks to have some of his nominees become board members and raise the proposed $2.24 annual dividend to $4 per share. Nonetheless, the company is trading at a paltry .4x PEG ratio while greatly exceeding consensus estimates in each of the last four quarters. Moreover, a forward 9x P/E is definitely reasonable as the company continues to look past the horrendous 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Lastly, when adding in the potential $2.24-$4 annual dividend, this translates to a 4.2%-7.5% dividend yield, and I think this stock should serve investors well.
Nabors is no slouch in size, with over $6.5 billion in annual sales and a $4.5 billion market capitalization. The company has performed well operationally by exceeding consensus estimates in each of the last four quarters. In addition, the company is reasonably priced at a .65x price to sales ratio and .7x price book. In addition, the company just started a respectable 1.1% dividend yield which should continue to grow as it currently sits at just a 9% payout ratio. Splitting a position between these three energy stocks is an option worth considering to eliminate company specific risk.