Heritage Oil (HOIL 337p) gushed 26¾p to 338p following a positive drilling update from the Kurdistan region of Iraq. It is the first-ever well to be drilled on the Miran licence in the region and testing is anticipated to take up to one month to complete’ (thisismoney.co.uk, market report 25 march 2009)

Oman holdings sold for $28m (Company announcement today April 8th) “This transaction demonstrates Heritage’s strategy of realising value for shareholders within the portfolio” Tony Buckingham, CEO.

In the last couple of weeks we’ve had a positive drilling report, and disposals realising value to be reinvested in core assets, yet Heritage Oil shares are trading at 337p, down a couple of % today. News in the price? Time to take profits?

Heritage Oil are up 33% absolute, and up 79% relative to the FTSE 250 index since our comment on September 21st 2008.

We said then that we had noticed two non exec directors Michael Hibberd and Gregory Turnbull buying 50,000 shares each on 5th September at 215p and 212p respectively.

Hibberd followed this up with a further purchase of 75,000 shares at 182p on September 16th, taking his holding to 300,000 shares. Hibberd must have believed Heritage Oil shares to offer value to invest around 250,000 pounds and almost double his holding.

For full comments on Heritage Oil see September 21st :  ‘Non execs build equity positions in Heritage Oil (HOIL)’

I’m happy to take profits here in light of the positive news, and the stalling share price.

View on Heritage Oil : Neutral

Caveats:

Cazenove comment as reported on FT Alphaville March 25th: ‘At 311p, Heritage is trading at a 23% premium to our core NAV. At these levels, a certain amount of bid speculation and exploration success is priced in. However, given the potential upside from a successful flow test in Kurdistan and the company’s takeover appeal, we remain with our OUTPERFORM recommendation’

Evolution comment as reported by FT Alphaville  on the same day: ‘VALUATION AND RECOMMENDATION – On 3rd March we wrote that we thought Kurdistan was a free option in Heritage’s share price with little downside risk if exploration failed. The downside appears to have been eliminated. Our old target price of 400p included a risked upside of 123p for the Miran structure based on 500m boe of recoverable reserves. Following today’s news we are raising our target price to 500p to reflect the success and the potential upside to our reserves assumption’

Tom Cross, CEO of Dana Petroleum (DNX 1223p) has a great track record- again!

Back in June last year he and a colleague, David MacFarlane exercised options and sold significant amounts of shares in Dana Petroleum (DNX, 1223p) at close to 19 pounds a share.

In the market turmoil of October Cross bought shares back at 10 pounds a share CHEAPER.

Since then the market has bounced, as has the oil price, and the shares are up 50%.

I’m sure there’s more to go, and longer term you might want to follow Cross’s lead, not mine.

But having seen great results (‘surge in annual net profit‘) for the year to December 2008 (note to self: 10 months were ‘in the bag’ when Cross and Dayer bought shares), I’m happy to take Dana off the ‘STRONG signal, ‘Directors buying’, ‘Positive’ list, with a 47% absolute return and a 34% relative outperformance against the market (FTSE 250 index).

Note of October 19th ‘CEO invests at 853p having sold at 1886p in June’:

Only last week, October 15th, followthedirectors wrote ‘Technical director thinks DANA Petroleum undervalued‘.

One day later. the CEO Tom Cross, and one of the non executive directors Philip Dayer, also bought shares in Dana Petroleum (DNX, 831p).

Non exec Philip Dayer bought 5787 shares at 864p, taking his holding to 9387 shares. CEO Cross bought 43490 shares at 853p, taking his holding to 1,044,890 shares.

So this isn’t a significant move on Cross’s part. But when you look at the $$ amount invested (GBP 370k), and the coincidental purchase of shares by three other directors in the week (Brian Johnston non exec, and Stuart Paton Technical and Commercial Director, as well as Dayer above), then Dana Petroleum starts to look interesting.

View on Dana: Neutral

For all Dana Petroleum comments see here.

It wasn’t that long ago (end of October), when Allscripts were trading at around $5, that we spotted an announcement by Misys (MSY, 124p) that their CEO, Mike Lawrie, was buying shares in Allscripts (MDRX, $10.84), the medical software group in which Misys own a majority position.  Lawrie was followed shortly afterwards in his purchases by Glen Tullman, CEO of Allscripts.

We thought this purchase in shares of a subsidiary unusual, and suspected Lawrie of believing there to be better opportunities in Allscripts than in Misys.

The WSJ’s Inside Track picked up on our story on November 5th.

Since our note of October 30th (link here), Allscripts are up 96% in absolute terms, and up 120% vs the Dow Index.

Misys shares in dollar terms are pretty much unchanged over the period.

So Lawrie was right. Very right.

Why take Allscripts (MDRX) off the positive list? Because we think the share price now matches the markets expectations in the medium term:  Q3 profits were out last week, and despite ‘better than expected results’ the stock was down 28c on the day (MSN Money).

Extract from our note of October 30th 2008:

‘Mike Lawrie, CEO of Misys plc (MSY, 118p), and Chairman of Allscripts after Misys completed a purchase of the majority of the shares in the company, has bought 70,000 shares in Allscripts at $5.0921 (27th October- source London Stock Exchange– type MSY into Code box).

Lawrie already has a $1m shareholding in Misys (excluding his share options and performance plan shares). Does he now think Allscripts is the cheap (er) way to invest in the group?’

View on Allscripts: Neutral

For all our earlier comments on Allscripts click here.

Directors share performances

We’ve analysed the share performance of all transactions commented on on this website.

That totals  comments on more than 100 company transactions, and over 350 transactions by individual directors, both executive and non exec, from November 2007 to February 2009.

If you had followed transactions by executive directors, where they were not accompanied by transactions by non execs, then the companies you would have bought or sold would have underperformed the market by 6%.

If you had followed transactions by non executive directors which were not accompanied by transactions by executive directors, then the shares you would have bought or sold would have outperformed the market by 9%.

These performance numbers relate to the share performance of the companies compared to the relevant index, and over the ‘holding period’, which may be from my comment to now, or earlier if I ‘closed’ the ‘view’.

The holding period amounts to very roughly 200 days, so these numbers are very significant on an annualised basis.

What about the number of directors transacting, does share performance have any correlation there?

Yes it does, a positive one. The greater the number of executive directors transacting at any time, the worse the performance. Conversely the greater the number of non execs, the better their performance.

I’ve weighted the share performance results with the number of directors transacting. The executive directors performance deteriorates by around a further 4 percentage points, and the non execs improves by a similar amount, calculated on a ‘per director’ basis.

Is this a suprise?

No, I suggested a divergence in performance of directors and non executive directors when I started this analysis 14 months ago.

Non execs have a much better understanding of the environment in which the company operates, and also of the valuation of the company shares, as they are able to ‘stand back’ and better analyse the environment.

Executive director share signals are clouded by disposals for tax, or buying shares to qualify for the incentive scheme. But they also have their noses to the grindstone, and therefore are less able to observe what is happening around them, to both their firms competitive position but also to stock market perceptions of their company’s shares.

This might also explain why so many executive directors bought into what they thought were cheap bank shares over the last 12 months. See Nils Pratleys article ‘Bankers lead way through the trap door’, which discusses this blinkered approach, and gives LTCM, Barclays and Yell as examples.

Is this a common phenomenon, or just apparent in bear markets. I don’t know. Most commentators, researchers, experts point to those with the most information, the CEOs, CFOs, making the best decisions. It may be that in recessions and bear markets, the individuals with a greater awareness are the non execs not the executive directors.

Time will tell.

If you require any further information, or would like to discuss these findings, please email me at followthedirectors@gmail.com, and I’ll get back to you.

If you manage institutional equities or hedge funds, then I am happy to provide a service analysing your equity portfolio on a regular basis.

Regards

Simon Winfield

http://followthedirectors.co.uk

followthedirectors@gmail.com

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Wow- ‘Liberty undermined by fundraising chatter’ (Independent)’ (LII, 365p)

Sounds very underhand to me.

But wait – only a month ago, Liberty International announced results and said they ‘intend to take further action to improve our liquidity and financial strength, including potential further asset sales and new capital raising’ (February 26th Liberty International Preliminary Results announcement).

Judging by the share price since then, the bears have been covering their shorts (Liberty up 15% from Feb 25th to last night, FTSE unchanged) , and we are reminded through market gossip that the capital raising is imminent.

The cynic in me says that Goldman are not involved, hence the move to a SELL with a target of 302p (Independent article). Where were you Goldman when the price was near 1000p in August last year, and senior management of Liberty were selling shares?

Since our note on August 31st (link below), Liberty International are down 62% in absolute terms, or down 44% relative to the FTSE 100 index.

The ‘directors selling’ signal was reinforced in January 2009, when we saw Harold Newton and William Black selling shares.

Hopefully all will be revealed in the next few weeks, maybe as soon as the Company’s EGM on April 1st (EGM notice here).

Look for opportunities to close the negative view on Liberty International below 300p.

Click here for all Followthedirectors comments on Liberty International:

January 11th, 522p: Liberty International shares continue to be vulnerable

August 31st, 984p: Liberty International- PDMR selling

February 20th, 958p:Liberty Internationals Gordon buys shares. So what.


On September 30th last year, with MAN above 300p,  we saw directors of MAN Group plc (EMG, 219p) buying warrants at around 57p, rather than buying the shares outright.

Probably a good thing really, as MAN Group shares lost 40% of their value in the following six weeks, more than twice the 57p paid for the options.

For our comments on MAN Group in September, read ‘MAN Group Directors step in to buy after results announced’ (WEAK signal).

So what now with the reorganisation and renaming of funds?

With no new directors purchases since September last year, I’m happy to stay on the sidelines here. If management don’t feel the shares offer value, with a yield above 8%, then why should you.

I’d agree with Tempus here, ‘A buy for the brave’, but let the MAN directors show their courage first!

A reader asked me whether the recent share purchases in Robert Walters were significant.

This is my response:

Re Robert Walters Directors Share Purchases.

The share purchases you refer to took place on March 20th and are by CEO Robert Walters, who bought 143,000 shares at 82p taking his holding to 2.3million (excluding any options), COO Giles Daubeney, who bought 48,000 shares at 82p taking his holding to 1.66m, and CFO Alan Bannatyne, who bought 18,000 shares taking his holding to 108,000 shares.

Are these a good indicator of likely future share performance?

Long term (2+ years), I’d say yes.
Walters and Daubeney have a good track record, in that they sold respectively around 4.2m shares at prices between 246p and 360p, and 1.6m shares at between 246p and 368p, over the 16 month period between May 2006 and September 2007. The shares reached a high of 393p in July 2007! (source http://www.Digitallook.com)

So judging on historical performance, you can see these guys got out when the going was good! Does that mean it’s rightfor you and me to be buying the shares now?

First, let’s look at the sales. They took place over 16 months. They were consistent and measured. You’d probably need to assume that the buying by Walters and Daubeney that started in February 2008 might also go on for more than a year.

Secondly, is it possible to call the bottom. No. Walters and Daubeney bought shares at 150-151p in February 2008 (460,000 shares and 216,000 shares respectively).
Walters also paid 90p in November 2008. If you look at the specific purchases from last week, they are a small incremental financial commitment to already significant positions, and therefore do not signal any near term positive news. If they had increased their holdings by 20-30% that would be a different matter.

Thirdly, my analysis of 357 directors transactions over the last 15 months shows that Executive directors transactions have performed pretty much in line with the markets (-1.5% relative), whereas non executive directors have outperformed the market by 6.7 % (relative).

When Executive Directors purchases are supported by Non Executive directors purchases, the relative share performance improves substantially.

So if you are looking to buy shares in Robert Walters, wait for a non executive director purchase to complete the signal.

Regards,

Simon Winfield

Mixed messages me thinks on IG Group (IGG, 183p)

January 20th 2009 saw a presentation and announcement by IG Group for the six month period to end November 2008  (can be found on company website), from which I have copied the following phrase:

‘trading since the period end has continued to be strong’

This was supported by presentations and discussions with investors and brokers, in the vein that activity continued to be strong due to the high level of volatility in the market.

March 10th 2009, in an ‘Interim management statement’ , IG Group said that

‘growth against very strong comparatives, is challenging (in UK and Australia)’

‘overall growth of the Group is impacted by a very strong comparative period’

‘UK has been affected by the implementation of more stringent risk controls in October’

‘The uplift of revenue that the group typically experiences on a higher volatility day is becoming progressively less marked’

The FT commented : ‘IG yesterday said revenue in both the UK and Australia – its two biggest markets – had fallen by 7 per cent to £31.5m and £6.4m respectively during its third financial quarter’.

FT article.

Times article.

And not surpisingly, the share price falls by more than a third, from 260p to 180p.

So what happened? January 20th was already 51 days into the quarter.

Either trading collapsed since January 20th, or the company hadn’t detected a deterioration in trading when they announced Interim results on January 20th.

But wait! Somebody must have had an inkling of the risks inherent in the shares. Maybe the COO, Peter Hetherington believed the shares to fully reflect the positive news, with risk on the downside. He sold on January 28th and 29th 700,000 shares, reducing his position in the group by almost 40%.

We commented on Hetheringtons sale on February 2nd, when the share price was 280p.

View on IG Group – close negative view with 34% absolute and 32% relative (to FTSE 250) return.

On February 2nd we closed our negative view on 3i (III, 206p) with a 67% return relative to the market, or a 76% absolute return (post here).

We were a little wary of recent directors purchases, suggesting that they were in support of the incoming CEO Michael Queen.

The market appluaded McQueens appointment and rewarded the shares with a 23% run in the following two weeks. Since then however concerns have arisen over 3i’s credit rating, and the shares have given up all those gains.

On February 4th Richard Meddings, non exec, added a further 5,000 shares at 225p, and on 24th February Willem Mesdag, another non exec, doubled his position by buying 25,000 shares at 198.5p.

Over the last month therefore we have five of the seven non execs buying shares, althouh admittedly in limited volumes. Total purchases by non execs add up to only 70,000 shares.

However due to the number of non execs buying shares, we are moving 3i from a MEDIUM strength signal to a STRONG signal.

View on 3i: Positive

Strength of Signal: STRONG

For all posts on 3i click here.

Chairman Elect Sir Peter Gershon has invested GBP 133k in Tate and Lyle (TATE, 282p), ahead of his arrival at  Sugar Quay.

Is this purchase a vote for himself, or a money making opportunity?

When in September six of the seven non execs of Tate bought shares (see Tate sweetener, directors see opportunity in weak share price, September 26) , the share price had outperformed the market by around 50% over the following two months.

Having hit the earth with a bang, giving up all its relative gains over a falloff in fizzy drink demand, it seems the newest non exec, Chairman Elect Peter Gershon sees value.

View on Tate and Lyle: Remains positive- high number of non execs buying shares over last 5 months.

Strength of Signal: Remains STRONG

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