Who's Buying Now?

It's Tuesday, and that means it's time to check the most interesting insider purchases from the last week. After checking through numerous filings using insider tracking tool Form 4 Oracle, here are my top five from the last seven days:

Company

Closing price 10/10/05

52-week change

Endurance Specialty (NYSE: ENH  )

$32.55

3.9%*

GMHCommunities Trust (NYSE: GCT  )

$14.60

27.75%**

ITTEducational Services (NYSE: ESI  )

$49.35

38%

Trico Marine Services (OTC BB: TRMA)

$26.60

25%**

WashingtonTrust Bancorp (Nasdaq: WASH  )

$27.05

5%*

Sources: Fool.com, Yahoo! Finance
* returns calculated for Endurance Specialty, GMH Communities, and Washington Trust Bancorp on a total return basis, including the effect of dividends
** GMH Communities began trading in November 2004; Trico, in April 2005

Black gold for the Great White North
We'll lead off with Trico Marine Services, which is based in Houston and owns a fleet of oil and gas tankers that operate in the Gulf Coast region. According to the company (and, specifically, this release and this follow-up), the fleet has remained largely unaffected despite recent events.

No wonder, then, that Trico issued what appeared to be pleasing guidance last Friday. Indeed, the company says that charter hire rates for its ships are expected to be $42 million to $43 million, up 5% to 7% from the previous quarter. It also said that it expects its average dayrates to steadily increase through the fourth quarter.

In the wake of this good news, Trico also said on Friday that it plans an offering of 3.9 million shares of new stock. The press release says the proceeds are primarily for killing off existing debt. With more than $130 million of it on the books as of the second quarter, more than total stockholders' equity, that's the sort of thinking I'd champion. And one major shareholder seems to agree.

Norwegian financier Christen Sveaas, a former director of Stolt-Nielsen SA, which owns and operates Stolt Offshore (Nasdaq: SOSA  ) , decided to not wait for the follow-on offering and instead spent more than $4 million to boost his position to roughly 2.3 million shares. That's intriguing, but really shouldn't mean that much in light of how bad Trico's business has been (it recently emerged from bankruptcy).

Still, Sveaas appears to be as famous a financier in Norway as Berkshire Hathaway chairman Warren Buffett is here in the United States, but with some of the panache you'd expect from The Donald. (Seriously. I found out more on him by reading a profile in the September 2000 issue of Wine Spectator.) His interest has me at least curious. For now.

Swept up by a vornado?
Next up is GMH Communities, a real estate investment trust (REIT) specializing in providing housing to college students and military personnel. Exactly one week ago, the company completed an offering of 9.3 million shares worth $125 million.

The deal itself wasn't that interesting. But the details were. That's because more than 8% of the shares in the follow-on offering were bought by Vornado Realty Trust (NYSE: VNO  ) , a commercial real estate firm with major operations in New York and Washington, D.C., that manages some 87 million square feet of property. The purchase bolstered Vornado's already sizable position in the company. (It owns more than 30% of GMH.)

Strategically, the continued buying makes sense in that Vornado spent much of last year acquiring new properties or managing joint ventures. This, similarly, could help the trust to expand into new residential settings where, historically, price fluctuation occurs to a lesser extent. But it's anybody's guess whether the deal will actually add value for shareholders.

ITTin full Blum
Finally, Blum Capital Partners continued its buying spree of shares in ITT Educational Services. Indeed, from last Tuesday through Friday, Blum picked up another 60,000 shares for its private equity funds. This, Fool, is what former superstar fund manager Peter Lynch used to call "backing up the truck." Which makes ITT all the more worthy of further investigation.

That's all for this week See you back here next Tuesday, when we dig through more insider deals in search of the next home run stock.

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Endurance Specialty is aMotley Fool Inside Valuepick.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers usually favors two scoops of ice cream over the inside scoop. Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. You can find out what is in his portfolio by checking Tim's Fool profile, which is here. The Motley Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.


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