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I am trying to find a good reason for Ian Russell, a non exec at Johnston Press (JPR, 12.25p), buying 800,000 shares at 12.25p, taking his holding to 815,000 shares.

All I can think of is that he sees the possibility/a chink/ a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel.

Johnston Press ‘currently operate 18 daily newspapers, 300 weekly newspapers and a huge range of related specialist, locally focussed, print publications. They operate 323 local websites to extend the content and reach of their print products (Company website).

As such Johnston Press is/has been hugely vulnerable to the economic dowturn. On November 12th in an Interim management Statement, Johnston revealed that in weeks 27-44 advertising in property was down 48%, employment 32%, motors 24%, and display 12%.

This is made worse by the huge leverage this group has, with net debt of GBP 465m at November 1st, thankfully down GBP 19m from June 30th (Company website, Interim Management Statement)

So why is Russell buying shares?

This is Ian Russells first significant purchase, but probably not a large % of his assets. Russell was appointed to the board in 2007, was formerly CEO and CFO of Scottish Power, as well as currently being an advisor to 3i (Company website).

Johnston Press shares have fallen from a high of above 350p in April 2007, and now represent option money to investors. It may be that Ian Russell believes they offer a risk worth taking.

The jury will remain out on Johnston until the half year results in August 2009 at the earliest.  But the shares certainly won’t be trading at 12 1/4p by then. They will either be worth nothing, or above a pound.

View on Johnston Press: Positive

Strength of Signal: Weak. Only one director buying, in limited size.

Addendum: Consumer confidence improves for the second month in a row (BBC article on GFK NOP study)

Intertek (ITRK, 815p) on the 17th December announced a very upbeat trading statement, ahead of their December year end: ‘the group is expected to end 2008 with strong trading….expected to continue into 2009’.

This was followed by ditrectors share purchases  as follows:

CEO Wolfgang Hauser initiated a position by buying 1336 shares at 742p,

Non exec Debra Rade trebled her holding by buying 1000 shares at 742p, and

Chief Operating Officer Mark Loughead bought 2500 shares at 775p taking his holding to 14,485 shares.

These are not significant $$ investments, but are a significant increase in shareholdings by three members of the board, and 2/3rds of the executive board.

View on Intertek: Positive

Strength of signal: Medium (would be Strong if the purchases were larger in $$ terms)

Intertek summary taken from the corporate website:

Overview

Intertek is a leading provider of quality and safety solutions serving a wide range of industries around the world.

Our services take us into almost every field imaginable, such as textiles, toys, electronics, building, heating, pharmaceuticals, petroleum, minerals, food and cargo scanning. We operate a global network of more than 1,000 laboratories and offices and over 23,000 people in 110 countries around the world.

Intertek helps customers to assess their products and commodities against a wide range of safety, regulatory, quality and performance standards. Our services include testing, certification, auditing, safety, inspection, quality assurance, evaluation, analytical, advisory, training, outsourcing, risk management, and security services.
Our customers include some of the world’s leading brands, major global and local companies and governments. Shell, Canon, McDonalds, BP, IKEA, Nestlé, ExxonMobil, LG, GAP Inc, Valero, Panasonic, Tesco, ChevronTexaco, Marks & Spencer and Levi Strauss are Intertek customers. More than twenty governments including Bangladesh, Mozambique, and Saudi Arabia are also customers.

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