Carnival plc (ADR) (CUK), AOL, Inc. (AOL) – Tale of the Tape: Insider Buying at Three Large Companies

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One of my weekly rituals as an investor is to review insider activity through the SEC Form 4 filings. Corporate executives and board members (“insiders”) are required to fully disclose their stock purchases pursuant to the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and the Investment Company Act of 1940.

Individual investors can benefit greatly from studying insider activity. Whether you are taking a sector view or considering an individual company, learning to read the SEC filings can be a powerful resource and strengthen your overall investment thesis.

Carnival plc (ADR) (NYSE:CUK)

Here are three large insider purchases that caught my eye in recent days:

Multinational cruise company

The Miami, FL headquartered Carnival plc (ADR) (NYSE:CUK) is the largest cruise company in the world, with a portfolio of cruise brands operating in North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. Readers may recognize Carnival plc (ADR) (NYSE:CUK) by its chairman and CEO Micky Arison, the owner of professional basketball team Miami Heat which is competing in the NBA Finals.

Back on May 20, Carnival plc (ADR) (NYSE:CUK) provided new earnings guidance for the second half of 2013. Aggressive marketing has caused Carnival plc (ADR) (NYSE:CUK) to lower its ticket prices, thereby reducing its full year revenue guidance by 2 to 3% compared to prior guidance of flat Year-over-Year (YoY) revenue. The competitive ticket pricing will have a significant effect on earnings, however, which Carnival reduced to a $1.45 to $1.65 range from a prior $1.80 to $2.10.

Shares of Carnival plc (ADR) (NYSE:CUK) fell nearly 10% following the news as investors adjusted their positions for lowered expectations. However, insider buying at Carnival leads me to believe that recent selling is overdone.

Carnival plc (ADR) (NYSE:CUK) board member Randall J. Weisenburger stepped in on May 24 amidst the negativity, purchasing 40,000 shares of stock for $32.96 per share. The transaction value amounted to a massive $1,318,000 when the stock was purchased, one of the largest insider purchases in recent weeks.

While only time will tell if Carnival can recover its former earnings growth, shareholders are paid to wait with a 3.0% dividend.

Online advertising giant

Readers may reminisce about AOL, Inc. (NYSE:AOL) from its tech-bubble heyday when the technology giant became one of the world’s most valuable companies. While AOL, Inc. (NYSE:AOL) no longer maintains its former dominance, the company is one of the largest producers of digital content and sellers of display advertising.

On May 8, AOL, Inc. (NYSE:AOL) reported first quarter 2013 results with impressive profit and revenue growth across nearly all business lines. Earnings rose to $0.32 compared to $0.22 during the first quarter of 2012, while advertising revenue grew 9% year-over-year.

AOL, Inc. (NYSE:AOL) is transitioning from a subscription-based model used at Internet providers such as EarthLink, Inc. (NASDAQ:ELNK) and Time Warner Cable Inc (NYSE:TWC) to an advertising model like Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG). Total revenue grew 2% compared to the first quarter 2012 as gains in advertising (+$29.1 million) offset declines in subscription revenue (-$16.3 million). As fewer customers use AOL, Inc. (NYSE:AOL)’s “You’ve Got Mail” online service, the company is gaining market share in the digital advertising market.

In addition to fundamentals, recent insider buying adds optimism that AOL’s transition is going well. Board member Frederic Reynolds bought 28,000 shares of stock for $34.26 following the first quarter earnings release. The transaction value amounted to $959,000 when the shares were purchased on May 29. Prior to retirement, Reynolds was an executive vice president and chief financial officer at CBS Corporation (NYSE:CBS), a leader in media advertising.

Despite being less than 1% the size of Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), I believe AOL, Inc. (NYSE:AOL) is gaining traction among advertisers. I recommend buying the shares on the back of the strong quarter and recent insider purchases.

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