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We have reaffirmed our Neutral recommendation on American Capital Ltd. (ACAS - Analyst Report) following a detailed analysis of the company fundamentals in light of the current economic environment and the recent share buyback announcement.

American Capital’s third-quarter 2011 operating income of 19 cents per share fell below the Zacks Consensus Estimate by a penny. However, the results outpaced the prior-year quarter’s earnings by 2 cents per share. The favorable result was due to a drop in operating expenses, partially offset by a decline in interest and dividend income.

Recently, American Capital announced the buyback of its $58.7 million common stock in the open market since early November. The company repurchased total 8.4 million shares of its common stock at an average price of $6.97 per share.

During the third quarter of 2011, American Capital repurchased a total of 9.1 million shares of its common stock in the open market for $75 million. The average purchase price was $8.21 per share. American Capital foresees additional stock repurchases or dividend payments by the end of December 2012.

The authorization of the new share buyback program and resumption of dividend payments raise our hopes for enhanced investor confidence in the company.

American Capital’s successful restructuring of debt provided it with sufficient operating flexibility and the company also continues to lessen risk from its balance sheet through a number of initiatives including repayment of debt. Moreover, new investment opportunities are expected to continue along with the economic recovery.

However, we believe limited accessibility to capital and increased funding costs have weakened the company’s strategic position in its sector. An unsettled economic environment is also a cause of concern.

We believe that the risk-reward profile for American Capital is currently balanced and hence, we have reaffirmed our Neutral recommendation on the shares. American Capital currently retains its Zacks #3 Rank, which translates into a short-term ‘Hold’ rating. Among American Capital’s peers, Ares Capital Corporation (ARCC - Snapshot Report) also retains a Zacks #3 Rank.

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