Last time I wrote about Piedmont Natural Gas (NYSE:PNY), it was just after the company had issued its third-quarter earnings announcement. Back then, after taking a gander at the firm's financial results and operating fundamentals, I suggested that while Piedmont's business looked attractive, its multiples seemed a bit rich. With that in mind, I opined that "Foolish investors -- particularly those of the Ben Graham persuasion -- may want to wait for a discount before picking up Piedmont."

Which makes me wonder: Do Piedmont execs read the Fool?

After all, the company's price has fallen roughly 1.5% since its Q3 report, and on Friday -- the day the firm released its fourth-quarter and fiscal-year results -- Piedmont also announced a significantly juiced-up share buyback program.

For starters, in a move that accounts for the stock's 2-for-1 split in October 2004, Piedmont's board doubled to 6 million the number of shares management is authorized to repurchase. Beyond that, the board also approved a plan to buy back an additional 4 million shares of Piedmont stock, bringing the grand (potential) buyback total here to 10 million.

Coincidence? Well, probably so, but I prefer to think not.

For now, the question of the quarter is this: Should you follow the company's leaders? After all, while Piedmont's Q4 results weren't exactly thrilling, they were promising, with the firm posting a loss of $0.06 per stub versus a decline during the year-ago period of a whopping $0.16. What's more, Piedmont pumped up its fiscal-year 2005 earnings, delivering $1.32 per share on net income of $101.3 million.

That EPS figure represents an uptick of nearly 4% over fiscal 2004's result and, while it's not always the case, share repurchase programs are generally positive signs for investors. At least they indicate that management has the courage to act on its convictions.

That said, I'm sticking to my convictions, too: The dip in Piedmont's stock price has been modest, and I continue to think the company's shares look relatively pricey. Peers such as SCANA (NYSE:SCG), NiSource (NYSE:NI), and Income Investor recommendation Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK), for example, all sport price-to-earnings ratios that fall below Piedmont's. With that in mind, I think investors with a hankering for gas utilities should eye cheaper fare.

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Shannon Zimmerman is the lead analyst for the Fool's Champion Funds newsletter service and doesn't own any of the companies mentioned. The Fool has a strict disclosure policy.