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Over the last two weeks two non exec directors at Experian have been buying up shares, at between 410p and 427p (close last night 427.75p). They are Fabiola Arredondo, who was MD of Yahoo Europe between 1997 and 2001, and Sean Fitzpatrick, previously CEO of Anglo Irish Bank.

Fitzpatrick committed a miserly £70k to Experian shares this week. I say miserly because last week he spent Euro 500k buying Anglo Irish shares, in which he now has a Eu 50m position. I’d like to see a bit more commitment to Experian from Fitzpatrick.

Arredondo meanwhile committed £176k to Experian. This is her first real purchase since the company was demerged from GUS in October 2006

Fabiola Arredondo, Non exec Experian Roger Davis, Experian Non Exec

Another Non Exec, who has been quietly buying shares, is Roger Davis, ex CEO of Barclays UK. He has invested between £600-650k at prices between 410p and 430p, over the last two months.

Also to note: Competitor Equifax in the US (EFX) is 20% off its highs this year, Experian (EXPN) around 35% down.

This is definitely a space to watch.

On November 16th we saw Gt Portland director Peskin buying £1.6m worth of shares (see ‘Another buy by Real Estate sector director’). Since then he has continued to buy, investing a further £1.1m at prices between 458p and 477p.

Gt Portland CEO and CFO Toby Courtauld and Tim Drakesmith have also pulled their chequebooks out. The CEO and Executive Director of Derwent (DLN) too have been active, investing over £500k between them, as have directors at Minerva (MNR) and Real Estate Investors (RLE).

However not all insiders believe the sector is cheap. Note Robert Bowden of British Land (BLND), selling 100,000 at 840p, about 1/5th of his total holding.

The jury is clearly still out, but as I noted on November 19th, I needed one more director to buy shares, and we’ve seen that in Silver and Burns of Derwent London.

Disclosure: I have a position in GPOR

Last Thursday, November 21st, the three amigos at Michael Page International (MPI), CEO Ingham, CFO Puckett and MD Dumon, stepped in to buy back shares they had sold only 7 1/2 months earlier at twice the price.

Steve Ingham, CEO of MPI Stephen Puckett, CFO of MPI

They each bought 170,000 shares at 280p. Puckett and Ingham sold on April 10th around 147,000 shares at 560p each. Dumon sold 428,000 shares on April 10th and May 4th at between 560p and 580p.

I suggested in my post on November 14th that, following the move by Nelson, CFO of SThree (STHR), who bought £100k worth of shares at 211p having sold in November 2006 at 372p, we were likely to see a positive share price move in the sector.

Look for more news from SThree next Thursday, when they give us a ‘pre close trading update’. This is likely to be positive for the Recruitment Sector overall.

What credibility do you give to this share purchase:

1. 40+ years exerience in the sector

2. Non exec Chairman

3. Sold around £750k of stock in May this year (great timing)

4. First purchase in 5 years (I don’t have the data before then)

5. Increased position in company by 300%

6. Bought £1.6m of stock at prices between 496p and 515p, having sold £744k’s worth in May this year at 708p.

Richard Peskin, Non exec Chairman of Gt Portland Estates.

Take a look at Richard Peskin of Great Portland Estates. He looks like a happy guy doesn’t he?

Gt Portland Estates Development Director Noel also put money to work, but only a measly £50k. This is the second purchase in the sector since Hammerson last week (Non exec Clare, who also bought back stock he had sold earlier in the year at prices 50% higher than today).

When we see the third director purchase in this sector then it is time for me to buy too.

Addendum: see FT Alphaville article on sector:

Addendum: 20 November- Peskin bought another 150,000 shares, taking his holding to 583,000, having spent £716,000.

Do you remember Randstads profit warning in July this year? You should. Share prices in Randstad (RAND), Michael Page (MPI), Hays (HAS) and SThree (STHR) have fallen since then by around 30-50%, from year highs to near year lows now.

Michael Nelson, CFO of SThreeInteresting then that yesterday the CFO of SThree, Nelson, dips his toe in the water and picks up £102k of stock, increasing his holding by a third. Even more interesting is that the company are due to announce a trading update on November 30th.

Nelson sold about 14000 shares at 372p in November last year. Looking back to April this year it is also curious to see three senior managers (CEO, CFO and MD) at Michael Page take out £700k to £800k each by selling down their positions, over and above the stock they sold as a result of options exercise, within 7% of the all time high for MPI.

CEO and CFO of Yell (YELL) yesterday bought over £1m of shares between them. Non exec Bunting also picked up about £620k’s worth at the same level (415-416p).

Apart from the fact that this is serious $$ to invest, another reason for picking up on this signal is the fact that Condron and Davis sold stock (around £7m between them) back in December 2006 at around 570p. This was followed by a profit warning in April which precipitated a 17% fall in the share price as a result of analysts downgrading US growth forecasts.

Maybe there is now good news in the pipeline. Look for positive comments on over the next three months.


With the real estate sector underperforming the banks by 10 points (-32% last six months, banks -23%) we might also want to look for some indicators that the underperformance is coming to an end. The only news I can find is a non exec at Hammerson (HMSO), Clare, who more than doubled is holding in the group by investing £102k at prices close to £10. Considering executive board members managed to get out at prices in the £15-£16 range, I think this purchase is significant.

But…. this is the only guy buying, and to make a confident call, I’d love to see some of those executive directors buying back stock, before I do. So Hammerson goes on the ‘watchlist’ pending further news.

Five non exec directors of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) last week bought shares at between 403p and 423p. They increased their shareholdings by a significant amount, by between 25 and 150%, and put in between £40k and £495k of their own money.

For a bank which is supposedly sitting on possible losses of several billion pounds this is certainly interesting behaviour. It also signals to me that the market has oversold RBS in anticipation of the disclosure of these losses.

The top for RBS was signalled in March by Finance Director Whittaker, who sold almost £500k of shares in his employer at prices almost 75% higher than today.  I believe last Thursday and Fridays purchases signal a buying opportunity.

If I look at the sector overall, I find the biggest director buying in Barclays (£600k) and RBS (£2.2m) over the last 30 days. Selling has been in HSBC (Non exec Hughes Hallett almost £1m) and Standard Chartered (Chairman Davies £1.5m) both in mid October. Bothy these stocks rank amongst the best performers of the month, down only 11% and 2% over the last thirty days, while RBS and Barclays rank amongst the worst performers, bar Northern Rock, down 28% and 27% over the same period.

If I were a betting man, I’d switch out of STAN and HSBC into BARC and RBS ahead of write down disclosures below what the market now anticipates. And I’d also be looking for more news about something potentially much more serious, contagion of a US and European slowdown to Asian economies.

In mid October we saw three directors (two executive, one non exec) buying significant positions in Barratt Developments (BDEV) . Was this in anticipation of Gordon Browns aggressive house building targets for the UK in order to satisfy housing demand?

Conversely Simon Hope, director of Savills (SVS) , last week exercised some share options and sold a significant chunk of stock (taking a net £350k off the table), even after a 50% fall in the share price since April.  I would suggest this to be a negative sign for the real estate sector in the UK, and an indication that volumes have significant downside risk over the next six to twelve months.

The best indicator of upcoming risk in the sector was the decision by Jon Hunt, the founder of Foxtons, to sell out in May pocketing £370m.

For a buying signal, we need to see directors from across the sector putting money to work. This could be a while coming.

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November 2007