Who's Buying Now?

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

The week's buying

Company

Closing Price 12/18/07

Total Value Purchased

52-Week Change

Allied Capital (NYSE:ALD)

$21.71

$462,910

(33.4%)

Chico's FAS (NYSE:CHS)

$9.89

$244,397

(55.1%)

Harris & Harris (NASDAQ:TINY)

$8.28

$135,701

(36.8%)

Isle of Capri Casinos (NASDAQ:ISLE)

$12.92

$1,576,086

(51.8%)

Visteon (NYSE:VC)

$4.07

$591,186

(48.6%)

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

Tiny opportunities
Although I'm known as a growth investor who's often buying into stocks that are reaching for orbit, I can't help but be intrigued by how well insiders do when they buy after a massive sell-off.

Heating and air conditioning specialist Goodman Global was like that in July 2006: The stock suffered a 20% haircut after reporting disappointing second-quarter earnings. Insiders, sensing an opportunity, bought on the weakness. Twelve insiders, that is.

The stock has nearly doubled since, thanks in part to a $1.8 billion buyout offer.

Will nanotech venture capitalist Harris & Harris, a Rule Breakers recommendation, enjoy similar gains after its recent sell-off? Our 78,000-strong Motley Fool CAPS community seems to think so:

Metric

Harris & Harris

CAPS stars (5 max)

****

Total ratings

586

Bullish ratings

548

Bull ratio

93.5%

Bearish ratings

38

Bear ratio

6.5%

Bullish pitches

105

Bearish pitches

16

Data current as of Dec. 19, 2007.

I've good news for these Fools: Harris & Harris today reminds me of Goodman in 2006. Harris & Harris, you see, has 10 insiders buying, all directors. One significant holdout? CEO Charles Harris who, with his wife, already owns 4.6% of the company, according to Capital IQ.

Some CAPS investors remain skeptical, however. Here's how Irishmac put it in May:

There must be tens of thousands of scientists worldwide, working in colleges, research institutes and companies -- especially in big companies. Where will the breakthroughs come from? Caltech? Samsung? IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) ? Toshiba? Dow Chemical (NYSE: DOW  ) ? ... The odds for TINY must be just that ... tiny. In the meantime, any investor can be sure that every three months or so you'll get a new financial statement showing no revenues, no income, less cash.

Fair points, all. Trouble is, you could say pretty much the same thing about any venture fund. Most VCs I know say that limited partners shouldn't expect much in the way of meaningful returns for seven years, on average.

Makes sense to me. When you think about it, VC funds are best suited for those investors who have 10 years or more to wait for market-busting returns. Look at Google. Founded in 1998, it took six years for the search king to go public and reward its early backers.

I'm with the insiders. I've added Harris & Harris to my CAPS portfolio today.

What's under the hood at Visteon?
Even crazier, I'm seriously looking into ailing auto parts maker Visteon. Here's how crazy that could be:

Metrics

Trailing 12 Months

2006

2005

2004

Return on capital

(2.3%)

0.5%

(10.9%)

(1.8%)

Free cash flow (mil)

($139)

($92)

($168)

($409)

Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.

Ouch.

Insiders are apparently counting on meaningful progress toward a turnaround. Four of them, including CEO Michael Johnston, have bought shares since Monday. More than a half-million dollars in additional personal wealth is now on the line. Impressive, no? It is to me, and I've added the stock 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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