Insiders are Spending MILLIONS on These 4 Small-Cap Stocks

Andy Obermueller's picture

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 11:30am

by Andy Obermueller

If you want someone to really pay attention to what you are saying, then all you have to do is put your money where your mouth is.

Consider the CEO of Company X. His stock price is in the proverbial toilet. He can't get a break on Wall Street, and the problems on Main Street aren't looking like they're going to do much for his bottom line, either.  No one is too surprised if he sells shares of his own company's stock.

But what if he starts buying? That's a whole other ball game, isn't it? The executive management and board members know what's really going on and how the company can react to it.

That's the point of monitoring insider transactions.

So today, we're going to look at potentially game-changing companies insiders have been buying.

Using the Bloomberg Professional Service, I performed a special search function to display all insider trades for the past six months with a market value of more than $1 million. Because stock is often part of an executive's total compensation package, I excluded filings that were made to exercise stock options.

Here are what I believe to be the most illuminating insider trades of true game-changing stocks from the past six months...

1. Amyris (Nasdaq: AMRS)
This is a biofuel company, but that's not the whole story -- not by a long shot. The better description for Amyris is as a "synthetic biology" company. Its scientists use special organisms that are basically little living factories that have been genetically programmed to produce a certain compound. This process leverages the natural abilities of plants to process sugar, and renewable sources of plant sugar is the inevitable future of fuel.

Amyris is a pioneer in this field. The company was founded in 2003 and won grant funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop the underpinning of an anti-malaria drug. The effort was a complete success, and Amyris licensed the technology to drug giant Sanofi (NYSE: SNY), the largest vaccine maker in the world.

Now the company is setting its sights on biofuel, specifically on generating cellulosic ethanol from Brazilian sugarcane.

What would be perfect here is for me to tell you that this buy was made by a notable energy expert with unassailable credentials. But it was actually none other than Total SA (NYSE: TOT), the French oil giant. The company made a $24.5 million bet on this technology, buying nearly 4.6 million shares of the $215 million company at $5.78 each.

The stock-price chart for this company is brutal: It's down more than 67% for the year. As the stock fell, however, Total stuck its neck out and continued to buy more. That speaks to the enormous amount of conviction Total must have in this company. It's a line in the sand that screams: "You idiots! Fools! These shares are worth more than this!"

2. GeoEye (Nasdaq: GEOY)
This company was the target of a series of buys, totaling more than $40 million, made by six insiders late last year.

GeoEye is a satellite company that sells images to intelligence agencies, among other customers. International tensions in a variety of "closed" hotspots like North Korea and Iran make this type of signal intelligence invaluable, and such images are the lifeblood of operations in forward areas like Afghanistan. Without good satellite coverage, Osama bin Laden would still be living in his Abbottabad compound.

It surprises people that the military is not the supplier of these images. But the primary contractors for satellite images are Digital Globe (NYSE: DGI) and Geoeye. Both have more business than they can handle.

This series of insider buys happened in the latter part of November 2011 at an average purchase price of $21.98, fairly close to where the stock trades right now. The nice thing here is that this is a true "conviction buy" by individuals. None of these trades were made by a hedge fund or another major shareholder -- only executives and directors.

Their message is clear: As the company's stock falls under its fair value, we're going to buy it. I expect to see more of this -- Shares are trading at 11 times earnings and 11 times anticipated earnings, but for the past two years they've been valued far more richly, at 16.7 times earnings, or more than 50% higher than they are now.
It's a value play then, to some degree. But is it a game-changer?


Satellite technology, and GeoEye itself, changed the nature of intelligence gathering. The company has leveraged its ability to gather extra-terrestrial images for other commercial purposes, and production and other services for its clients now accounts for 20% of its revenue, an area that is likely to grow. This remains an aggressive growth play.

3. Genomic Health (Nasdaq: GHDX)

This game-changer tests patients for cancer using genomic-based therapies. The human genome is the genetic blueprint for the body, and pharmaceutical companies are learning that using the body's own systems against disease is a very effective therapeutic approach.

Researchers have found that the various intracellular signals that cause the body to carry out certain functions can be stopped. There are hundreds of clinical trials for various treatments that target all sorts of maladies, most notably cancer. The proteins that signal a cancer cell to divide, for instance, can be stopped, which effectively ends the tumor's ability to grow. 

I covered genome-based companies in a recent issue of Game-Changing Stocks. Rather than reinvent the wheel, you can find out how to access that issue here.
These insider buys were made by Baker Bro. Advisers LLC, a hedge fund. With its long history of discovering innovations in the health care/biotech space, its leading experts on the cutting edge of the field and with billions of dollars to invest, Baker Bros. is closely watched. It tends to make big bets on a few industry leaders, and its "conviction" buys are a bellwether on Wall Street.

4. SunPower Corp. (Nasdaq: SPWR)
This was the biggest insider play of the past six months, and it's a doozie, both for its size and because of the area -- solar has been largely viewed as dead in the post-Solyndra world, a cruel joke and a metaphor for failed technology.

Not so fast...

I've got to tell you: It blew my mind when I saw who made this trade. It was Total SA -- again. The French oil company made a massive bet on biofuel with its Amyris play, but it's made a gargantuan play on solar.

So far, it has been a loser. The trades were made at $8.88 and the shares have since fallen to $5.44. The question, of course, is what exactly this French oil company is thinking. We'll take that up in my next issue of Game-Changing Stocks.

Risks to Consider: These are all cutting-edge companies with fairly small market capitalizations. As such, you need to be prepared for quite a bit of volatility. 

Action to Take --> All of these companies are worth looking at, and they all have the potential to deliver serious short-term and long-term results. My favorites mirror the Total plays, Sunpower and Amyris.

Andy Obermueller does not personally hold positions in any securities mentioned in this article.
StreetAuthority LLC does not hold positions in any securities mentioned in this article.