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I want to talk about share purchases made by BT Group plc (BT.A, 92.5p) Directors and PDMRs on June 1st, namely Ian Livingstone, Tony Chanmugan, Sally Davis, Rod Louwhoff, Gavin Patterson and Al-Noor Ramji, who between them bought over 1/2 million shares at 89p (source: London Stock Exchange)

Warning bells ring as soon as I see this number of directors buying shares all at the same time.

So a close look at the BT Group Annual report 2009 (May 13) reveals the reason as follows:

Page 58: ‘All executive directors and members of the Operating Committee will, immediately after payment, use their annual cash bonus for 2008/2009, after tax, to purcahse shares in the company’.

Page 60: ‘The CEO is required to build up a shareholding of 2x salary and the remaining directors 1.5x salary.’

Looking at the declared cash bonus for Livingstone of 343,000 pounds, netting of 40% tax, gives around 200,000 pounds. Livingstone bought 224,000 shares at 89p on June 1st.

We thoroughly support this requirement to purchase shares, as it aligns the Executive members of the Board and the Operating Committee with shoreholders, but it means that for ‘signals’ generated by directors dealings we need to look at activity by non execs.

Sir Michael Rake, the non executive Chairman, has been buying shares. He bought 12,000 at 166p in September, 20,000 at 127p in November, and 28,000 at 72p in March.

These purchases are relatively small, and have not (yet) been reinforced by activity by other non execs.

Further buying activity by other non execs would send a positive signal.

View on BT Group: Neutral (no signal from directors dealing activity).

See other comments by followthedirectors on BT Group here.

Back in August last year, the CFO of BT Group (BT.A, 99p) Hanif Lalani, invested GBP 100,000 at 171p.

On Friday he was joined by his CEO Ian Livingstone, who bought 99,500 shares at 99.7p, taking his holding to 759,000 shares, in addition to over 2.5 million deferred compensation and incentive shares.

This isn’t a buy signal.

Livingstone has been in and out of BT all year, and this purchase does not signal any change in behaviour. Livingstone bought at 230p in February 2008, sold at 233p and 172p in May and August, and bought at 163p in August also. Make of that what you will!

For a positive signal on the stock, we need to see more non execs buying. Chairman Sir Michael Rake bought at 127p and 166p in September and November 2008, almost doubling his holding by buying 32,000 shares. BT has seven other non execs, and they haven’t bought yet.

View on BT Group: Neutral

Signal from directors dealing activity: WEAK

It was reported to the London Stock Exchange that the Finance Director of BT Group (BT.A, 171.3p) Hanif Lalani, had bought 58,515 shares in BT at 170.90p, investing £100,000.

Although this increases Lalanis position in BT by more than 50% (to 169,812 shares) I view this move as being of little use as a signal to investors.

1. Lalani is acting alone amongst the board members in buying BT shares. A stronger signal would be generated by other board members buying.

2. £100k is not significant in the context of Lalanis income, and probably not in terms of his net wealth either. Hanif Lalanis income including benefits but excluding any ratchet on his deferred bonus plan amounted to £1,076,000 last year (source: BT 2008 annual report).

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