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Here we present a list of eighteen companies that have, on average, beaten analysts’ earnings guidance estimates for the past four quarters (i.e. generated signficant earnings surprises). These companies have also recently announced stock buyback programs.

When companies buy back their own stock, they use excess cash to reduce the number of shares outstanding, which directly increases earnings per share and (at least theoretically) adds value for shareholders. Some might even argue that management teams use buybacks to signal that their stock is undervalued…

Considering the track record of these companies, do you think they will continue to beat analyst expectations? Full details below. (To access a complete analysis of each stock's historical earnings performance, click here).

Earnings data sourced from AOL Money, buyback data sourced from RTT News, and all other data sourced from Finviz.

click for expanded image

List sorted by the average earnings surprise over the last year.

1. Teradyne Inc. (NYSE:TER): Semiconductor Equipment & Materials Industry. Market cap of $3.33B. The company announced a buyback program of $200M on 11/22/10, and has outperformed analyst earnings estimates by an average of 31.50% over the last year. The stock could be undervalued at current levels, with a PEG ratio at 0.67, and P/FCF ratio at 6.78. The stock has gained 68.96% over the last year.

2. Aetna Inc. (NYSE:AET): Health Care Plans Industry. Market cap of $14.47B. The company announced a buyback program of $750M on 12/03/10, and has outperformed analyst earnings estimates by an average of 24.90% over the last year. AET may also be undervalued at current levels, with a PEG ratio at 0.86, and P/FCF ratio at 12.88. The stock has had a good month, gaining 13.13%.

3. Lattice Semiconductor Corporation (NASDAQ:LSCC): Semiconductor Industry. Market cap of $797.78M. The company announced a buyback program of $20M on 10/21/10, and has outperformed analyst earnings estimates by an average of 24.54% over the last year. The stock has gained 92.88% over the last year.

4. Unitrin Inc. (UTR): Property & Casualty Insurance Industry. Market cap of $1.79B. The company announced a buyback program of $300M on 02/02/11, and has outperformed analyst earnings estimates by an average of 23.51% over the last year. The stock has gained 16.69% over the last year.

5. Corn Products International Inc. (CPO): Processed & Packaged Goods Industry. Market cap of $3.60B. The company announced a buyback program of $5M on 11/17/10, and has outperformed analyst earnings estimates by an average of 23.11% over the last year. The stock has gained 37.77% over the last year.

6. PartnerRe Ltd. (NYSE:PRE): Property & Casualty Insurance Industry. Market cap of $5.23B. The company announced a buyback program of $7M on 12/30/10, and has outperformed analyst earnings estimates by an average of 22.47% over the last year. It has a relatively low correlation to the market (beta = 0.42), which may be appealing to risk-averse investors. The stock may also be undervalued, with a PEG ratio at 0.79, and P/FCF ratio at 5.05. The stock has gained 0.47% over the last year.

7. Cypress Semiconductor Corporation (NASDAQ:CY): Semiconductor Industry. Market cap of $3.54B. The company announced a buyback program of $600M on 10/21/10, and has outperformed analyst earnings estimates by an average of 21.59% over the last year. After a solid performance over the last year, CY has pulled back during recent sessions. The stock is 7.46% below its SMA20 and 2.52% below its SMA50, but remains 38.35% above its SMA200. The stock has gained 68.18% over the last year.

8. WD-40 Company (NASDAQ:WDFC): Specialty Chemicals Industry. Market cap of $692.19M. The company announced a buyback program of $25M on 12/14/10, and has outperformed analyst earnings estimates by an average of 20.07% over the last year. The stock has gained 27.84% over the last year.

9. Tiffany & Co. (NYSE:TIF): Jewelry Stores Industry. Market cap of $7.96B. The company announced a buyback program of $400M on 01/20/11, and has outperformed analyst earnings estimates by an average of 19.54% over the last year. The stock has gained 39.56% over the last year.

10. Autodesk, Inc. (NASDAQ:ADSK): Technical & System Software Industry. Market cap of $9.12B. The company announced a buyback program of $20M on 12/14/10, and has outperformed analyst earnings estimates by an average of 19.00% over the last year. This is a risky stock that is significantly more volatile than the overall market (beta = 2.12). The stock has gained 38.74% over the last year.

11. Volterra Semiconductor Corporation (NASDAQ:VLTR): Semiconductor Industry. Market cap of $624.73M. The company announced a buyback program of $15M on 10/25/10, and has outperformed analyst earnings estimates by an average of 18.94% over the last year. The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 7.21% (equivalent to 6.39 days of average volume). It's also been a rough couple of days for the stock, losing 7.85% over the last week.

12. Education Management Corporation (NASDAQ:EDMC): Education & Training Services Industry. Market cap of $1.46B. The company announced a buyback program of $100M on 12/08/10, and has outperformed analyst earnings estimates by an average of 18.02% over the last year. Might be undervalued at current levels, with a PEG ratio at 0.73, and P/FCF ratio at 7.07. Short float at 6.94% (equivalent to 16.96 days of average volume), indicating EDMC is a short squeeze candidate. The stock has lost 13.98% over the last year.

13. ONEOK Inc. (NYSE:OKE): Gas Utilities Industry. Market cap of $6.86B. The company announced a buyback program of $750M on 10/21/10, and has outperformed analyst earnings estimates by an average of 16.78% over the last year. The stock has gained 43.39% over the last year.

14. Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC): Semiconductor Industry. Market cap of $116.40B. The company announced a buyback program of $10B on 01/24/11, and has outperformed analyst earnings estimates by an average of 16.21% over the last year. The stock has gained 5.31% over the last year.

15. Rightnow Technologies Inc. (NASDAQ:RNOW): Application Software Industry. Market cap of $925.89M. The company announced a buyback program of $15M on 11/17/10, and has outperformed analyst earnings estimates by an average of 16.01% over the last year. The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 14.67% (equivalent to 9.68 days of average volume). RNOW is exhibiting strong upside momentum--currently trading 9.23% above its SMA20, 13.91% above its SMA50, and 41.43% above its SMA200.

16. Robert Half International Inc. (NYSE:RHI): Staffing & Outsourcing Services Industry. Market cap of $4.70B. The company announced a buyback program of $10M on 11/03/10, and has outperformed analyst earnings estimates by an average of 15.69% over the last year. The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 11.45% (equivalent to 12.35 days of average volume). The stock has gained 10.46% over the last year.

17. Brinker International Inc. (NYSE:EAT): Restaurants Industry. Market cap of $2.22B. The company announced a buyback program of $325M on 11/10/10, and has outperformed analyst earnings estimates by an average of 15.48% over the last year. The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 11.59% (equivalent to 5.21 days of average volume). The stock has also had a couple of great days, gaining 5.12% over the last week.

18. Service Corp. International (NYSE:SCI): Personal Services Industry. Market cap of $2.62B. The company announced a buyback program of $171.5M on 11/11/10, and has outperformed analyst earnings estimates by an average of 15.16% over the last year. The stock has had a good month, gaining 22.67%.

Source: 18 Underestimated Companies With Buyback Programs