Thursday, October 11, 2007

Paperstand (PGR, RAD)

The WSJ’s “Heard on the Street“ column discusses Progressive (PGR), saying that the co hasn't been making much progress lately. Once admired as the auto-insurance industry's scrappy upstart, Progressive now struggles against idling growth, an uninspiring brand and a dual-pronged business model that puts it squarely against bigger rivals. The co's earnings are flagging as a result. And its battered stock, instead of being a buying opportunity, still isn't a bargain. "Progressive's competitive advantage was that it had a better mousetrap for better pricing," William Wilt, of Morgan Stanley, says about Progressive's innovation in the ‘90s of offering quotes over the Internet, and then passing the cost savings to customers. "But like any business, competitors learn to catch up," says Mr. Wilt.

Barron’s Online “Inside Scoop” section reports that Rite Aid (RAD) largest shareholder raised its stake. On Fri, Canadian pharmacy chain Jean Coutu Group snapped up 1.9m shares for $9.1m. Jean Coutu now owns 251.9m for a 31.9% stake in the retailer. "Jean Coutu is showing a commitment to Rite Aid going forward," says Ben Silverman, of "It is a positive that they actually increased their ownership stake buying on the open mkt, especially coming in after the stock hit a 52w low."

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