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Dr. Paul Price
Dr. Paul Price
Articles (513)  | Author's Website |

AutoZone – Insider Actions Speak Loudly

August 16, 2012 | About:

Automobile parts retailer AutoZone (NYSE:AZO) has shown a series of significant insider sales with nary an open market purchase. Company management has been retiring shares in a big way at the same time that individual officers and directors have been unloading.


This massive stock buyback has been financed by issuance of debt. As of May 5, 2012, total debt was more than $3.6 billion. This transformed AZO’s book value from a positive $6.11 per share at fiscal year-end 2007 to a negative $31.27 per share by Aug. 27, 2011. It’s significantly more negative on a per-share basis today.


2011 10-K - Stock Repurchase Program:

During 1998, the company announced a program permitting the company to repurchase a portion of its outstanding shares not to exceed a dollar maximum established by the board. The program was last amended on June 14, 2011, to increase the repurchase authorization to $10.4 billion from $9.9 billion. From January 1998 to Aug. 27, 2011, the company has repurchased a total of 127.3 million shares at an aggregate cost of $10.2 billion.

In fiscal Q3 (ended May 5, 2012) the company bought back 1.1 million shares at an average cost of $380 per share. AZO’s 10-K details how more than 100% of net cash provided from operations has been dedicated to this program.


Officially, AutoZone has posted nothing but good news. With all-time highs in revenues and EPS you’d think insider trading would reflect bullishness. They aren’t drinking the Kool-Aid. By August 15, shares have dropped more than $41 (-10.33%) since topping out at $399.10 in late April.


AutoZone’s management has levered up the company while using the billions in newly issued debt to buy back shares that officers and directors were selling on the open market. A great exit strategy for them but perhaps a warning sign for others.

AZO’s enormous debt leaves little margin of error in case of another recession or even a significant industry-specific slow down. Insiders haven’t been waiting around to see how this play will end. Perhaps you shouldn’t either.

  • CEO Buys, CFO Buys: Stocks that are bought by their CEO/CFOs.
  • Insider Cluster Buys: Stocks that multiple company officers and directors have bought.
  • Double Buys:: Companies that both Gurus and Insiders are buying
  • Triple Buys: Companies that both Gurus and Insiders are buying, and Company is buying back.

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Rating: 4.1/5 (13 votes)


Caninvest - 5 years ago    Report SPAM

At first glance what you said on debt is true, and in general debt has moved up in dollar terms very consistently for the past 17 years. However debt analysis requires some analysis of earnings and cash flow. Over the past five years, total debt/ebitda has moved up from 1.59x to 1.98x and is back to its level in fiscal 2000. The ebitda to interest expense has held steady the past five years, down 9.85x to 9.74x.

AZO has been buying back stock for many years and debt has increased in absolute terms; however debt has held relatively steady relative to market capitalization and interest expense and thus the Company has maintained its investment grade credit rating.

Separately on the insider sales, yes they are probably selling high.

Dr. Paul Price
Dr. Paul Price - 5 years ago    Report SPAM

If insiders think the stock is a sell... why should the company be going deeply into debt in order to buy shares from them?

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