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I’ve not a lot to say about the Directors of Barclays (BARC, 335p) buying in last weeks placement at 282p, except to say that

1. I can imagine that there must have been a lot of internal pressure on the directors of Barclays to subscribe for shares in the placement, and given that pressure, an increase in their personal holdings of Barclays shares of between 15% and 23% doesn’t seem to me particularly, how shall I say this, convincing.

2. I looked back through recent directors trades, and see in particular that Bob Diamond in March 2008, having exercised and been delivered shares in various incentive and award schemes, sold 974,000 shares at prices of 454p (4/3) and 461p (12/3) to ‘satisfy withholding liabilities’ *. I find it an intriguing coincidence then that he buys [back] almost the same amount, 1,025,000 shares at 282p last week.

* ‘satisfy withholding liabilities’ = pay tax. This is normal routine behaviour when share options are exercised or released to directors.

On the 29th of July we saw the Chairman of Marks and Spencer David Michels (MKS, 257p) add to his holding by buying 47500 shares at 248.75p.

Is this significant ? NO.

1. This is a relatively small amount of money (£118,000)

2. No other directors are buying shares at the moment. The last significant purchase was in January by Stuart Rose, who invested £1m at 411p.

I noted on Match 31st that I had seen significant buying by the CEO, CFO and Chairman of Misys (MSY, 172p). (link to note of 31/3 here). Misys are up more than 35% relative to the FTSE250 index since March 31st, fuelled recently by some outstanding results and a positive outlook (July 24th comment by Reuters here).

Yesterday we saw Dominic Cadbury, the Chairman of Misys, reinforcing his beliefs by investing £617,000, a sizable amount in anybodys money. He bought 380,000 shares at 162.5p, to more than double his holding to 655,000 shares.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see other directors follow suit shortly.

This move strongly reinforces my comments of March 31st.

PureCircle (PURE 205p) manufacture sugar substitutes from a plant called Stevia.

I was drawn to the company by the disclosure on July 1st ( see http://www.purecircle.com) that a non exec Olivier Maes, had spent £162,000 buying 80,000 shares in PureCircle at 203p.

PureCircle subsequently announced a date for their Interim Results, September 17th.

PureCircle were listed on Aim in December at 170p.

I think £162,000 is a large initial position to take for a non exec, and look forward to seeing what news the Interim results bring.

Once described as ‘inhospitable and unsuitable for the agriculture which would be needed to sustain a settlement’ ( Willem de Vlamingh, 1697), Perth Western Australia yesterday was the latest city to boast a Tiffany store.

Is this a sign of the peak in commodity prices and the global mining boom?

(The thoughts of a ‘aren’t commodities cyclical’ cynic)

Griffiths

Griffiths

Martin Griffiths, CFO of Stagecoach (SGC 275p) is taking his money off the table.

As at the beginning of June he held Executive Share Options over 479,000 shares, with varying exercise periods, starting in June and December 2006 and December 2007, and extending mostly to June 2010, with some as far out as December 2011 (Annual report).

Griffiths exercised all 479,000 between 26th of June and 8th July this year, which cost him £365k.

He sold all of them them on the same dates, realising £1379k, a net £1m in his pocket.

Why do I think this significant?

  • He had another 2-3 years before he needed to exercise these options, but chose to exercise and sell now.
  • This 479,000 shares is the total amount in his Executive Share Option pot*. Griffiths today owns less than 20,000 shares.
  • When exercising options, directors usually sell sufficient to pay the tax man and hold on to the rest. Not in Griffiths case. He has exercised and sold the lot.

Griffiths behaviour and the subsequent risk profile of his remaining ‘Plan’ shares indicates to me that the risks to the Stagecoach shares outweigh the medium term returns. So I’d follow Griffiths and take some money off the table too.

*Griffiths also owns 166,000 in the Executive Pension Plan (vestable mid ’09 and mid ’10), and the equivalent of 675,000 in the Long Term Investment Plan, but these are subject to Total Shareholder Return criteria as detailed in the Annual Report, and designed to be taken in cash not shares, so you may not find out whether they have been exercised until the next Annual Report.

References:

Stagecoach Annual Report 2008, pp 35-38

In my post of March 6th: ‘3i CEO Philip Yea buys back £1/2m worth of shares’ I commended Philip Yea for his expertise in trading in his own company stock, 3i.

Note now that on July 14th Yea sold 60,831 shares at 823.5p, taking £500k off the table, leaving him with a residual 275,000 shares.

From March 6th to date 3i (III, 930p) are up 22% relative to the FTSE 100.

Time to take profits then. Thankyou Philip.

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