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Best Buy’s CEO Is Selling Shares…Should You?

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Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE:BBY), the nation’s largest big box electronics retailer, has had quite an impressive run this year (shares are up 220% year-to-date). New CEO Hubert Joly can be thanked for much of the revitalization of the business, but his recent actions could take the stock lower.

Hubert is selling half his stake in Best Buy
On Sept. 6 of this year, the new CEO sold 450,000 shares of Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE:BBY) for proceeds of $16.7 million ($37.03 per year). These 450,000 shares represent 50% of Mr. Joly’s stake in the company. This could be a signal that the stock price has reached a peak, at least in the short term.

Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE:BBY)

Note: Mr. Joly exercised 350,000 shares worth of options on Sept. 6 and then immediately sold the shares. He also sold 100,000 of the 550,000 shares that he owned before Sept. 6.

Other insiders have been selling stock
There have been three other recent transactions that could support a peak in the stock price. On Sept. 4, EVP Keith Nelsen sold 12,748 shares at 37.86 per share. On Sept. 5, Treasurer Christopher Gould sold 7,225 shares at $37.37 per share. Most importantly, on Aug. 27, director Allen Lenzmeier sold 60,000 shares at $35.04 a share, for proceeds of over $2 million. Insider selling could indicate that the leaders of the business think the stock is fairly or over-valued.

Weak commentary on the last quarterly earnings call
On the latest quarterly earnings call, CFO Sharon McCollam highlighted some tailwinds that are coming in the back half of the year:

There are two additional back half impacts that are not investments, but that we would like to discuss. The first is a temporary increase in our mobile warranty costs that is expected to continue through the first quarter of fiscal 2015. This increase is considered temporary because it relates to higher claims frequency on our legacy Geek Squad protection programs that will expire or be operationally restructured out over the next several quarters. The second is a change in the economics of our private label credit card program that is being sold by Capital One to Citibank in the third quarter. This impact is due to the expiration of our previous credit card agreement with Capital One, which offered Best Buy substantially better financial terms than what is commercially available in the market today due to changes in both the regulatory environment and the general consumer credit market overall.

Can Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE:BBY) continue its out-performance with the likes of, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN)Target Corporation (NYSE:TGT), and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) breathing down its neck? Each of these three companies offers electronics at a lower price point, but to Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE:BBY)’s defense, the company has been promoting a strategy to mitigate the risk of competition. Taking on, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN), Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE:BBY) has been pushing its Price Match Guarantee in its recent TV campaign., Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) is also thought to have a competitive advantage on delivery, and has bee recently pushing its Amazon Prime product. Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE:BBY) is also offering free shipping and a strategy of “if you don’t like the TV you bought we will come out and switch it with another one.” I think this is a good move to offer convenience, which is one of the perceived competitive advantages of, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN).

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