SanDisk Stock Buyback May Imply a Near-Term Top (SNDK, AAPL)

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SanDisk (NASDAQ: SNDK) is still considered a value stock by many metrics, but we are concerned about this freshly announced share buyback plan. In fact, we wonder if after seeing insider sales hitting the tape if this may be the last hurrah for SanDisk at least until its shares take a breather.

After the close came word of a $500 million share buyback plan. There are some things to consider. If SanDisk was truly concerned about its share price or about the effects of insiders and employee stock options creating market selling pressure, maybe this announcement should have come in August when the stock was getting pounded and was down in the low-$30 handles.

After a 3.4% gain to $52.01 today, the current 52-week range is $32.24 to $53.61. A buyback will not hurt, but this should have been announced two months ago. The stock trades at just over 11-times expected 2011 earnings and almost 10.5-times 2012 earnings.

Here is more evidence of a missed timing opportunity: we called it as one of the giant technology stocks that was too cheap back on August 24 and we named it as one of twelve stocks that should outperform Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) as recently as October 12. Shares have risen by more than 60% from the August lows, they have risen by almost 50% from our date we said it was “too cheap” and by 17% from the “outperform Apple” date.

Why SanDisk thinks it needs to buy back stock now is beyond us. Maybe this is just an announcement for a rainy day, but we do not see the benefit. The $500 million is not even 5% of the $12.5 billion market cap.