Tenet's ( THC) spending habits, long the
subject of scorn from a group of devoted critics, are coming under fresh attack. But this time, the naysayers include a noted company bull, and the ire is focused on an outlay that Wall Street often goes out of its way to praise. Tiring of the company's hefty losses and failure to deliver a timely turnaround, Tenet watchers are now questioning the prudence of Tenet's stock-buyback plan. In a contentious earnings call Wednesday morning, outspoken fund manager Lee Cooperman of Omega Advisors harshly questioned managers at the big hospital chain for spending hundreds of millions of dollars on company stock even as they back away from earnings guidance. Cooperman's comments came as a surprise in part because in the past he has urged the company to buy back stock when it looked cheap. Meanwhile, a pair of analysts challenged Tenet's decision to pour its dwinding cash flow into shares it has clearly overpaid for in the past. Tenet bulls were evidently unfazed by the developments, pushing the stock up 43 cents to $16.50 Wednesday. But with shares 68% below their year-ago high, Wednesday's session clearly caught the company's attention.