Who's Buying Now?

It's a new week -- time once again to check the most interesting insider purchases. After reading through several filings using insider tracking tool Form 4 Oracle, here are my top five today.

The week's buying:

Company

Closing Price 1/29/08

Total Value Purchased

1-Year Change

Barnes & Noble (NYSE:BKS)

$32.02

$18,446,574

(18.0%)

Citigroup (NYSE:C)

$27.91

$4,998,163

(48.4%)

Johnson Controls (NYSE:JCI)

$34.26

$2,120,718

12.5%

Lee Enterprises (NYSE:LEE)

$12.04

$86,660

(63.2%)

Raymond James Financial (NYSE:RJF)

$27.82

$2,986,738

(10.5%)

Sources: Fool.com, Yahoo! Finance, Form 4 Oracle, SEC filings.

Black and white and -- what do you know? -- read all over
We've been studying borderline businesses in awful industries recently. Mesa Air had the stage last week, for example. Well, prepare yourself, I'm continuing the tradition today; my top choice is nosy newsie Lee Enterprises, which publishes, among others, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Arizona Daily Star.

This isn't an easy call. Look at Lee's 3.14 PEG ratio. Not only is that incredibly high on an absolute basis -- 1.0 is taken to mean "fair value" -- but it's well beyond what larger peers New York Times (NYSE: NYT  ) and McClatchy command (2.69 and 1.56, respectively).

But Lee is competitive with both, and better than most peers, when it comes to gross margin, which has remained remarkably stable above 50% since 2004. Newsprint prices, meanwhile, continue to climb.

Surely the rising cost of raw materials is one of many reasons most of those rating Lee Enterprises in our 83,000-strong Motley Fool CAPS community give the stock a thumbs-down:

Metric

Lee Enterprises

CAPS stars (5 max)

*

Total ratings

56

Bullish ratings

30

Bull ratio

53.6%

Bearish ratings

26

Bear ratio

46.4%

Bullish pitches

4

Bearish pitches

3

Data current as of Jan. 29.

CAPS All-Star NetscribeConsGds summed up the bear thesis nicely in a pitch written in May:

Players like Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) and Google dominate the online advertising world. ... If Lee doesn't react quickly to these changing industry dynamics, it would slowly and steadily but surely will become yesterdays' news.

Perhaps, but insiders aren't buying it. They're buying more shares of Lee instead. Three executives and board members bought shares a week ago today, including CEO Mary Junck, who put $50,000 in personal wealth on the line. Her last sale of Lee stock came last November, at prices 54% higher than when she bought a week ago.

To me, that suggests Junck believes her company's strategy of cuddling close to the small communities in which it operates is working. And even if progress comes slowly, CAPS investor pnouri, another All-Star, is content to wait it out. Quoting from an October pitch:

The earnings for [Lee Enterprises] and [Gannett] have held up well despite a recession in the auto and housing markets. These companies generate cash and they have huge distribution. Once private equity returns, in some form, I think there will be consolidation in this industry and Lee will be up for grabs.

I agree, and have added Lee to my CAPS watch list as a result.

There's your update. See you back here next week when we dig through more insider filings in search of the next home run stock.

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