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MARKET SAVVY

Dole Insiders Are Buying Shares by the Bunch

May 27, 1999|JOHN DORFMAN, Bloomberg News

Insiders have been heavy buyers of downtrodden Dole Food Co. stock in recent months, according to research firm CDA Investnet Inc. of Rockville, Md., which tracks transactions among directors and executives.

David Murdock, Westlake Village-based Dole's chairman and chief executive, bought 1.3 million shares in March and a million shares in April, bringing his total to more than 13 million shares. President David DeLorenzo bought 3,000 shares in January and 5,000 in March, bringing his total to more than 23,000.

Most analysts, however, dislike the stock. The Bloomberg recommendation database counts one "buy" recommendation and five "holds." On Wall Street, though, "hold" is often a euphemism for "sell."

The stock has been an under-performer since peaking early last year at more than $54 a share. The stock closed at $30.56 on Wednesday, up 6 cents, on the New York Stock Exchange.

So what are the insiders seeing? For one thing, they see a stock with a price-to-earnings ratio of 15, well below this market's norm. They also think that the recent trade wars with Europe over bananas will be resolved in favor of U.S.-based producers.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Slipping From the Peak

Dole Food shares have fallen sharply from their high in early 1998, but company insiders have been net buyers in recent months. Monthly closes since 1995 and latest:

Feb. 27, 1998: $54.31

Wednesday: $30.56

Source: Bridge

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