Greif: Insiders Feast on Packaging Play

03/30/2015 8:00 am EST

Focus: STOCKS

John Dobosz

Editor, Forbes Premium Income Report and Forbes Dividend Investor

Insider buying is usually a good sign for a stock. Especially convincing is when a company’s chief financial officer digs into his own pocket to buy shares of his employer, suggests John Dobosz, editor of Forbes Dividend Investor.

After all, this is the person who presumably has the clearest understanding of the company’s health, and when he puts a significant chunk of his own cash into stock, it gives the investing public the confidence to do the same. When the CEO is also buying, you’re really in good company.

Check out the recent insider activity in the Class B shares of Delaware, Ohio-based Greif (GEF.B). It seems like it was an early St. Patrick’s day feast on company stock by top management.

Nearly 70% of revenue for Greif comes from sales of rigid packaging like plastic and steel drums. Customers include big chemical companies, which benefit from lower oil prices.

Greif’s drums are also used to haul away byproducts of oil and gas exploration, so declines in drilling activity would not be positive.

On March 10, CEO David Fischer bought 4,600 shares at $42.58 apiece for $195,877. Greif’s CFO Lawrence Hilsheimer really went big, buying more than $450,000 in Greif Class B at prices between $42.44 and $44.39 all week long.

That’s a big vote of confidence from a guy who just plunked down nearly his entire $507,000 annual salary on company stock.

An independent director also bought $363,000 worth of Greif’s non-voting Class A shares. Both shares have been paying dividends steadily since the packaging company went public in 1926.

The A shares yield 4.3% and the B shares yield a substantially higher 5.7%, although they trade more lightly than the non-voting class of stock.

The spate of insider buying comes just one week after Greif shares tanked more than 10% following release of disappointing first quarter results.  

For the full year, which ends October 31, 2015, analysts who follow the stock expect revenue to decline 7.2% to $3.94 billion, due largely to a planned shutdown of a European location and currency headwinds.

Sales are expected to rebound 4% in 2016 with earnings growing 14% to $2.54 per share.

Cash from operations of $5.55 per share give Greif plenty of room to keep on paying and hiking its $2.52 annual dividend.

Greif B shares currently trade at a 20% discount to their five-year average price-sales ratio of 0.65. Also on book value, the current multiple of 1.68 represents a 9% discount to the five-year average.

At 8.1 times trailing twelve months of cash from operations per share, the stock sports a 19% discount to its 10.1 average price to CFO multiple since 2010.

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