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hdlm, you've got a way with pointing to numbers that matter. I know DOV better than CSL and management at DOV has incurred a lot of debt, too, as your numbers show. The interesting year was 1998 when DOV lt debt went from $262m to over $600m. That year they bought back about 8% of the shares outstanding, which was around 18mill shares at around $27 per share -- about $485m paid with mostly borrowed money. In 1999 they got a huge infusion of cash from the sale of the elevator business but used none of it to pay down the debt, they went shopping for other companies instead.
They could sell an asset to buy other assets, and the cash flow was enough to finance the purchase of the stock with the increased debt. That made earnings look a little better, I suppose.

CSL management seems to have felt that debt would stay relatively cheap and that they could buy more earnings than the rising debt would cost. They were right until 2000/4 when the recession hit, earnings dropped, and the debt began to loom larger. Any expansion plans will have to wait until earnings recover.

There was no particular reason for CSL to buy its stock back, there are only 30m shares outstanding. And CLS's share price has held up well despite 2000/4. That isn't the case with DOV, where the currency problems abroad and their heavy concentration in technology and oil equipment led a lot of investors to sell DOV stock last year.

Anyway, do you know why CSL is still considered a tire company?

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