Baseball season is still months away, but Internet security firm Symantec
For the third quarter, the company posted a 31% revenue increase over last year's numbers and a supercharged 54% increase in profits, with earnings per share clocking in at $0.32.
At yesterday's closing price of $37.85, that makes for a price-to-earnings ratio of roughly 37 for trailing earnings. The P/E falls to about 31 based on projected forward earnings of $1.21 for next year. Those are both pretty steep valuations on the surface -- not Yahoo!
That seems to be Symantec's thinking, at least. Hardly had its earnings release hit the wires, when the company announced it would be increasing its allotment of company funds to repurchase stock from $700 million to $940 million.
However, that might not be the best use of Symantec's money. While it is true that the company's earnings growth rate was 54% last quarter, analysts are only predicting 17% growth for Symantec over the next five years. Now, 17% really does not deserve an "only" moniker, but it is less than a third of last quarter's growth. And it raises that forward PEG ratio to about 1.8 (hint: not cheap).
Meanwhile, the company still has nearly $600 million in convertible debt on its books. Faced with the choice of paying off its debts or buying back its own pricey stock, Symantec chose the latter. Earlier this week, faced with a similar choice, electronic billpayer CheckFree Corp.
So, you have to wonder whether Symantec's board of directors is more interested in juicing its earnings per share -- and its stock price -- than in making the best use of the $2 billion sitting in the company coffers.
Is Symantec making the best use of its money? Join us on the Symantec discussion board and help us count the beans.
Rich Smith does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this article, Symantec in particular. Perhaps that is why he got bit by the sobig virus last year.