Searching for undervalued companies can oftentimes be a tedious process: reading through countless articles, SEC filings and press releases can usually uncover some gems, although it can be time-consuming. Screening can often be tricky: which metrics should we focus on? What time-frame should we screen for?
Oftentimes, an easier method to uncover cheap equities is simply to observe those that know their companies best: the insiders. Academic studies have shown time and again that investors can outperform the market through following insider transactions; especially when multiple insiders are buying their own stock.
Here are a few of the interesting insider buys we've come across during the past few days that stand out due to multiple insider buys and low valuation:
1. Fisher Communications (FSCI)
Fisher, based in Seattle, operates television and radio stations. With a market cap of $250M, the company should see a strong year in 2012, and a few directors seem to be anticipating this. Whether or not President Obama raises $1 billion, the attack ads on TV and the radio are likely to be non-stop from both sides, including from the super PACS.
Also attractive, Fisher recently sold Fisher Plaza for $160 million, the proceeds of which were used to pay down $61 million of high-cost debt and to institute a $25 million share repurchase program.
2. GeoEye, Inc (GEOY)
GeoEye owns two earth-imaging satellites and three airplanes with high-resolution imagery capabilities. They sell high-resolution images of the earth to federal and commercial customers. At $22/share, the stock trades at 9.8x estimated 2012 earnings and at 1x book value. Cerberus, a >10% owner, has been buying since mid-December at $21-$22/share. A few other directors have also upped their stakes.
Importantly, the company is 2/3 the way through launching a new satellite, the GeoEye-2. The launch of the new satellite, and a possible refinancing of their 10.25% debt at some point, could help propel earnings for years to come.
3. Vistaprint N.V. (VPRT)
Vistaprint sells business cards, calendars, brochures, flyers, holiday cards to small businesses. While a lot of investors believe this to be a not-so-sexy business, Prescott Associates has been busy adding to their stake. The negative insider sentiment turned positive after the stock got crushed in late July, with multiple directors stepping up to the plate.
However, there are a number of cautionary signs here: the recent $118 million Webs, Inc. acquisition was viewed by many as expensive at 13x 2011 revenue. Also, the company is in heavy investment mode, the benefits of which will take years to see if they ever do come about. We would argue that the stock's poor performance over the past year and the recent insider purchases warrant a closer look by investors.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.