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I’m thinking of taking some profits on 3i (III, 400p) (theoretical ex rights price 250p)

There will be no new news from this private equity group until the Interim Results, which are to be released in July, maybe with the AGM which is on July 8th (company website Financial calendar http://www.3igroup.com)

In reviewing the media on 3i I’ve come across a few ‘soundbites’ which are worth noting:

May 11th in a CNBC interview 3i Group Communication Director Patrick Dunne admitted the rights issue to be opportunistic: ‘we don’t need the money’.

He then went on to say that private equity valuations were ‘not quite at the go-shopping point’ yet. He also suggested that the target return of 20% was ‘being reviewed‘, that the returns ‘would be much more volatile going forward‘.

I was also drawn to a couple of questions in an article by Simon Nixon at the WSJ, also on May 11th: ‘investors need to ask themselves two questions: Has 3i sufficiently written down its existing £8 billion of assets under management, including £4 billion on its own balance sheet? And will future returns be sufficient on a risk-adjusted basis?’

3i shares are up 94% absolute or 74% relative to the market since our comment of February 25th ‘3i – Five of the seven non execs have bought shares in the last month’.

I’ve sold today half my position in the group.

For all followthedirectors comments on 3i click here.

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.

So Yea was right, again.

Yea, until last week the CEO of the UK venture capital group 3i (III, 219p), sold GBP 500,000 of shares back in July 2008 at 823.5p (see ‘3i- Hooray for Yea- now take profits‘-followthedirectors.co.uk July 23rd)

3i shares are now trading at 219p, a fall of 76%. The FTSE 100 index has fallen over the same period by 24%. In my calculations that means that 3i have underperformed the index by around 67% since July last year, when Yea sold his shares.

Last week 3i announced a new CEO, Michael Queen. Queens appointment was swiftly followed by a raft of directors purchases, which may have some significance (see below).

I’m always a little wary of these sort of directors dealings. Are they expressing their support for the incoming CEO, or do the directors think they can make money by buying shares ahead of significant cost cutting announcements or changes in strategy?

As a result of my concerns I’m only going to give these signals a MEDIUM rating, pending further director buying activity. But having said that, I’m happy to close my negative view on 3i, and to take some very nice profits.

View on 3i: POSITIVE

Strength of Signal: MEDIUM

For all posts on 3i click here.

Directors purchases (source London Stock Exchange):

Michael Queen, CEO, bought 100,000 shares at 216.6p, initiating a position. Jan 30th.

Willem Mesdag, Non exec, bought 25,000 at 210p, initiating a position (I estimate). Jan 29th.

Guy Zarzavatjian, PDMR, bought 305,000 at 210.7p, postion unknown. Jan 29th.

Lord Smith, Non exec, bought 5,000 shares at 213p, taking his holding to 9500 shares. Jan 29th.

Robert Swannell, Non exec, bought 4,000 shares at 210.3p, taking his holding to 17,000 shares. Jan 29th.

Baroness Hogg, Chairman, bought 5,000 shares at 213p, taking her holding to 5,000 shares. Jan 29th.

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.

I’m going to start to look more closely at using recent director dealing activity as a signal ahead of news. (I’m unsure about the reliability of what is essentially a long term signal being used as a forecast for short term movements in share prices. We’ll see how it goes shall we.)

All stocks listed below have news out next week.

All these stocks have seen director dealing activity which I have commented on. Click on the stock ticker to take you to the comment(s).

My favourite pick for positive feedback from an analysts visit is MISYS.

ENO neutral bid situation. Interims 13/5

ARM warm already had +ve Q1 on 29/4. AGM 13/5

CPG warm already had +ve trading update 27/3. Interims 14/5

MSY POSITIVE CEO, CFO, COO increased positions by 14%/50%/60% in late March. Analyst visit 14/5

AMEC POSITIVE CEO increased position by 50% spending £500k in April. AGM 14/5

CKSN POSITIVE CFO and CEO increased positions by 90% and 45% mid March. Trading Statement 15/5

III warm CEO Rea bought £500k on March 4th. Prelims 15/5

GFRM neutral already had trading update 1/5. AGM 16/5

All news dates are taken from Google Finance. They have not been verified with the companies themselves.

3i logo

3i Groups (III, 820.5p) CEO Philip Rea has ample experience in dealing in his companys shares. Experience that is worth noting.

In May/June 2006 he bought 30,000 shares at an average price of 830p

In August 2007 he sold 76,203 shares at 1070p.

And now, on March 4th 2008, he is seen buying 60,000 shares at 809p

In the Interim management Statement of January 24th, Yea stated: ‘Our mid-market position and the depth of our international network have allowed us to continue to source good investment opportunities notwithstanding the more difficult economic outlook.’

If there is one person who knows what is going on on the ground, in terms of the economic performance of the companies 3i have invested in, then it’s Rea.

Reas purchase of 60,000 shares takes him to 336,000 shares, so this is what I would deem a significant investment in proportion to his current holding in the company. I’d like to see a few other directors lifting their stakes too.

But because Rea has his ear to the ground, I see this as a vote of confidence not only in 3i, but also in the broader market.

For all posts on 3i click here.

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