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Gabelli Asset Management


just can't get enough of itself.

Gabelli Wednesday posted fourth-quarter earnings that beat analysts' estimates, and its board cleared the firm to buy another $3 million worth of its own shares. That's on top of the nearly $6 million it has already bought since its

initial public offering a little over a year ago.

The buyback is aimed at supporting the company's flagging stock. In its Feb. 2, 1999, IPO, the firm sold 6 million shares at 17 1/2 each. Shares topped out at 18 3/4 that day and have slumped since. The stock traded for 16 1/4 at the end of last year, and at midday Wednesday shares traded at 16. (Shares closed up 1/8, or 0.78%, at 16 1/8.)

By contrast, the

Lipper Management Company Price Index

, an index of the 14 largest public mutual fund shops, is up 22.3% over the past year through Feb. 10.

The company's fourth-quarter earnings rose to 49 cents a share from last year's pro forma 30 cents, beating by 3 cents the analysts' expectations as noted by

First Call/Thomson Financial

. Gabelli cited solid mutual fund returns, noting that its assets under management grew 35% last year to $22 billion.

The firm

announced a $3 million buyback just a month after its offering, and doubled that amount in a Sept. 30 announcement. Through Feb. 15 the $22 billion Rye, N.Y., fund shop had repurchased 384,900 shares at an average cost of $15.56, according to a company statement.

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High-profile fund manager Mario Gabelli runs the firm. He and his colleagues specialize in small- and mid-cap investing, with a taste for technology and communications stocks. That style has served investors well. Nearly all of the firm's funds beat their average peer of the past three years, according to


. In a time when about half of fund companies are losing more assets than they're taking in, Gabelli's retail funds were $774 million in the black last year, according to Boston fund consultant

Financial Research


Like many no-load shops, Gabelli has recently

taken steps to expand its distribution, announcing plans to add loaded share classes to sell funds through brokers in October.

Several mutual funds have significant positions in Gabelli shares. The largest is


Baron Growth, which owns more than 1% of the company -- a 1% position in the $525 million fund, according to Morningstar.

Baron Capital Management

is Gabelli's largest institutional shareholder. The firm owned nearly 12% of the company on Sept. 30, according to

, a Web site that tracks institutional stock ownership.

Neither Gabelli nor Baron officials were available for comment.