Fool Awards 2007: Most Shareholder-Friendly Company

Mirror, mirror on the wall, what's the most shareholder-friendly company of all?

Unfortunately, mirrors aren't very astute judges of corporate stewardship. (My last mirror told me to buy Enron, and now I have seven years of bad luck.) So instead, we thought we'd ask you, fellow Fool, to take our survey and let us know which company you think is the most shareholder-friendly in the land.

And the nominees are:

  • Costco (Nasdaq: COST  ) : At Costco, everyone's a winner. Customers get rock-bottom prices, employees get generous salaries and benefits, and shareholders get a stock that's more than doubled in the past five years and should continue to be a winner.
  • IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) : In 2002, IBM had 1.73 billion diluted shares outstanding and earned $3.58 billion in net income. In 2006, thanks to shareholder-friendly buybacks, the company earned $9.5 billion but had to split that income among only 1.53 billion diluted shares. Believe it or not, this stodgy blue chip also might have some emerging-market growth up its sleeve.
  • Portfolio Recovery Associates (Nasdaq: PRAA  ) : Foolish colleague Jim Gillies wrote an article arguing that PRA's stock is a bargain and that its managers see eye-to-eye with shareholders. In fact, he noted, managers are required to own a certain amount of stock, and some insiders have been buying recently.
  • Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A  ) (NYSE: BRK-B  ) : If you want to make shareholders happy, all you have to do is make them money. In true Jerry Maguire-like fashion, Chairman Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger have shown shareholders the money. Never having been split a single time, the "A" shares recently traded at almost $150,000 per share.
  • Sears Holdings (Nasdaq: SHLD  ) : It's been a tough year for Sears Holdings shareholders, but as Morgan Housel notes, don't count out Chairman Eddie Lampert, who has billions of dollars invested in company stock and is not used to losing. Lampert's winning attitude has treated shareholders well in the past and should continue doing so in the future.

Those are your nominees for most shareholder-friendly company of 2007. Don't forget to fill out the survey, where you can cast your vote for this and our other contest categories.

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