Micro-Cap corner

Talk about insiders as contrian investors. A real estate investment trust (REIT), Mission West Properties, Inc. (AMEX: MSW) leases and manages research and development (R&D) properties, primarily in Silicon Valley. Microsoft, Apple and Cisco are among its biggest customers–a powerful lineup in different times. No wonder insiders like the stock.

While its tenants’ shares struggled last year, Mission West did well, quite nearly doubling by November 2000, which is especially impressive given the stock’s generous yield. By October this year, the stock had pulled back some 25%–small surprise given the bevy of analyst downgrades. At least a duo of insiders was quick to take the bait.

To be sure, the 21,130 shares picked up by the pair in September and October doesn’t sound like a whole lot. But one should at least consider that both recent buyers were fortunate to have also bought in the first quarter 2000 at $7 to $8 per share. At $10 to $12 per share this time around, that’s nearly 50% more than they paid last year, despite the stock’s recent pullback.

What’s more, while he’s only bought back 1,000 shares so far, Director Lawrence Helzel was clever enough to have sold 20,000 shares at $13-and-change in September. All of which investors might want to consider, given that for all its tech exposure, Mission West yields a rather handsome 8%.

For the truly adventurous, insiders are also buying Aspect Communications Corp. (NasdaqNM; ASPT), a leading marketer of customer relations management (CRM) software used by businesses to route incoming calls and other contacts. Among the buyers, Chief Technical Officer Gary Barnett led the way, picking up 10,000 shares.

Chief Executive Beatriz Infante chipped in for 7,500 shares, while CFO Betsy Rafael and Rod Butters, head of worldwide market development, bought 5,000 shares and 3,500 shares, respectively. Most have limited trading histories, but while CEO Infante appeared a bit rash buying at more than $20 last year, her buy in July 1999 was a real homerun– least for a while.

Finally, since we must leave you, we leave you with this: watch the insiders at J. Jill Group Inc. (NasdaqNM: JILL)! It may be too late to capitalize on their latest acquisitions (a trio of execs exercised and held on September 25 with the stock trading at around $11 per share), but that doesn’t mean we can’t watch them in the future. Hope you bought when we looked at JILL last summer–if you didn’t, here’s to second (or maybe third) chances.

COPYRIGHT 2001 American Banker-Bond Buyer

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group