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Robert Walters

Robert Walters (RWA, 167p) directors, having sold 4.7m shares from March to September last year, at prices between 330p and 368p, are now starting to buy back their positions.

Robert Walters, CEO, and Giles Daubeney, COO, have this week bought 740,000 shares at around the 150p mark. Allan Bannatyne, CFO, has started a position by investing about £65,000 at the same level. See Yahoo Finance for details.

In August last year Robert Walters was ‘the subject of takeover interest from leisure recruitment specialist Berkeley Scott’ (Telegraph 21/8).

In November last year we saw directors of Michael Page (MPI) and SThree (STHR) investing quite heavily, investing £1.1m between them (see Michael Page comments).

Maybe conditions in this sector, which has a high sensitivity to economic growth, aren’t as bad as the market thinks. Or maybe expect future merger activity within the sector.

Next news Tuesday March 4th- Michael Page earnings release. Expect a comment on current trading.

David Mott was appointed non exec of Shire plc (SHP 1015p) in October 2007.

He said then “Shire is one of the most interesting companies in the industry with an impressive recent track record of launches and an equally exciting pipeline. I’m very pleased to be joining the Shire team at this point in the Company’s development.”

On Monday, he bought 15,000 shares at 998p, spending £150k. This was his first investment in Shire.

As you’ll see from his bio, Mott is on the Astra Zeneca senior executive management team, having previously been CEO of Medimmune.

One to watch.

For all followthedirectors articles on Shire click here.

Graeme Gordon, non exec Liberty International

Graeme Gordon, son of the founder of Liberty Intl (LII, 958p) Sir Donald Gordon,  and Non Executive Director, has invested £250k in Liberty International shares at 992p.

I looked back at historic trading, and Gordon nailed this one back in May 2006, when he bought 43,000 shares at 1001p. By the end of the year he was up 40% on that trade. His co directors started selling ap at the £14 level in late 2006 early 2007, and have sold down to 1120p in late 2007.

So yes, Gordons trade looks interesting from a timing point of view.

BUT – why bother? He’s already got £15m in Liberty shares in his own name, and must have claims on a significant portion of the ‘Gordon Family Interests’ £730m worth of Liberty Intl shares.

So even though this looks interesting, I’m going to discount the value of this signal due the the tiny increase in share ownership by Gordon. Now if he invested £5m, that would be a different matter…..

So Pricegrabber may be sold (S Times article), Experian (EXPN, 461.5p) announced today. Who better at Experian to know the value of interactive businesses than Fabiola Arredondo, previously MD of Yahoo Europe, and a non exec at Experian.

Arredondo and colleagues started buying Experian shares in late November last year, and seem to be doing quite well, up 6% absolute and up 15% against the market (FTSE) since November 29th (for comments of December 10th and November 29th on directors purchases at Experian press on tag ‘Experian’ on the left of this page).

The stock is up about 20% since mid January. Experian hosted an ‘investor day’ in late January (link to slides and presentation).

Interesting article from the Telegraph pointing to Directors Dealings as an indicator for the overall market.

PayPoint (PAY, 600p) gets a good rap from Questor, and the market.

So why then are directors selling big chunks of stock?

This week PayPoint Chairman Anthony Newlands raised £1.74m selling virtually all his shares,

CEO Dominic Taylor sold £2m worth, over a fifth of his holding, leaving him with £7.3m in the company, and

Executive Director Tim Watkins – Rees in December sold a fifth of his holding, leaving him with £3.8m in the company.

On Feb 14th the company issued a reassuring update statement, but I’d be concerned about the growth rate slowing down in the longer term.

So maybe I’d do the same, sell about half my holding (the very rough average % of the directors sales above).

PayPoint terminal

OK, so Wolfson (WLF, 148p) has been a big underperformer since Carey invested about £800k (see comment of Dec 21st) back in November/December.

The shares have fallen by about a quarter since then.

But he’s at it again, buying 100,000 shares at 148p on February 12th.

Carey is somebody I’m prepared to stay with. And if you didn’t buy Wolfson in December, then today presents a better opportunity. Mind you, be prepared for the long haul on this one. I don’t think Carey is buying ahead of good news, but on long term valuation grounds.


Dairy Crest (DCG, 551p) non execs have each bought 5,000 shares at 542p.

Why is this interesting?

1. Solid cash flow milk, cheese and yoghurt business – defensive

2. Able to pass on price rises – offer protection against inflation

3. Year end 31 March – soon- good news in the pipeline?

4. Well liked- read Questor (scroll down to the bottom of the page)

5. 27% off their high

6. Rapidly growing home delivery program- milk and more

Non execs David Richardson, Carole Piwnica, and Non exec Chairman Simon Oliver, each invested £27k in Dairy Crest.

This is a relatively safe, defensive investment, with good news ahead.

Having been fantastic sellers, Warren East (CEO) and Tim Score (CFO) have started to buy back into ARM Holdings (ARM, 95p). They sold extremely well back in February 2006 at 136-137p, and in August 2007 at 152p, realising in the region of £1.5m each.

This week they have spent some pocket money by investing almost £25k each at 94p. I’d like to see them invest more of their (well sold/raised) cash, but if they are as good at timing the buys as the sells, then this could turn into a decent signal.

Of more interest is Non Exec Young Sohn’s maiden purchase of 156,000 shares at 97p. Sohn joined the board in April 2007, and is using current weakness as a buying opportunity. Have a look at his bio, and you’ll find someone extremely well connected within Silicon Valley.

Richard Peskin clearly believes that the Real Estate sector in the UK remains good value. On the sixth of February he committed a further £689,000 to buying 150,000 shares in his baby Great Portland Estates (GPOR, 456p), at 460p.

As Questor says (24/1/08), this isn’t a ‘value’ stock, but one with low exposure to financial tenants, and above sector portfolio performance. That, and Peskins huge experience in the sector mean that for me, Great Portland remains on the buy list.

See previous posts on GPOR of November 19 2007 and also November 25th 2007.

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February 2008