Much like the anointing of the "winner" of a presidential electoral debate, Wall Street's reaction to corporate earnings often turns upon whether a company is able to exceed expectations. "Beat by a penny," and your stock may soar. "Miss by a penny," and you're almost certain to crash. On Friday, auto parts manufacturer Superior Industries International
Although the "earnings surprise" appears to have taken Wall Street off guard, one person who's not likely surprised by the stock's strong performance is my Foolish colleague Bill Mann. Back in September, Bill pointed out that Superior's president was so exasperated by the market's indifference to his company's stock, he was seriously considering taking Superior private. Indeed, as reported on Friday, the company is moving in that direction, revealing that it's continuing to back its stock. In 2004, Superior bought back over 200,000 shares, and in Friday's earnings release, the company pointed out that it has authorization to buy back 3.2 million more (heavy hint there).
I'm not so certain that these buybacks are a good thing, however, and here's why. In venting his frustration over Superior's falling stock price, company president Steve Borick stated: ".I may buy the whole company back. I've got the money in the bank, and I've got the ability to do it, and it's not a bad idea." (To which this Fool would reply: No, sir. You don't have the money. Superior's shareholders have the money. You have been entrusted to use their money wisely.)
Perhaps Superior's stock was indeed undervalued in July, when it traded at upwards of $30 a share. Perhaps it was a good idea for the company to buy back shares at that price -- in which case, with the stock trading at $27 a share even after Friday's run-up, the stock should be an even better bargain. Then why, pray tell, has no member of company management purchased a single share of Superior stock on the open market? Not when it traded for $30-plus? Not when it traded at $25 last week? Not, in fact, at any price over the past two years?
Telling investors that your stock is undervalued is easy. But sometimes, inaction speaks louder than words.
Read contrasting Foolish views of Superior and its prospects in:
Fool contributor Rich Smith has no interest, long or short, in Superior Industries.