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Take a look at this article on the Pragmatic Capitalist, which indicates that Insider sales in the US over the last two weeks outnumber buys by about 30:1: ‘Despite “greenshoots” insider sales spike’.

We observed significant share selling by directors in the UK in April: ‘Directors share sales outnumber buys- is the market expensive?’

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, 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.


Simon Winfield

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Back in October last year, as the FTSE 100 collapsed by 20% in a week, UK company directors stepped in and bought shares, with buys outnumbering sells by 5:1*.

In the months since then, buying has fallen away, to 2.75:1 in November*, slumping to 1.3:1 in December* and in the latest month, January, buys outnumbered sells by only 1.15:1*.

The 5:1 ratio seen in October matches an exact same ratio for December 2002, only months before the market rallied strongly, and is similar in scale to August 2002’s 4:1 ratio.

What to do? Look for buying opportunities. You are highly likely to see directors step in strongly as buyers if/when we see another significant setback in the market.

For all our earlier market related thoughts on followthedirectors see Market Musings.


HSBC- ‘Emerging Markets under Great Stress’

In his letter to the G 20 leaders on November 6, IMF Head Dominique Strauss-Kahn said that emerging markets were now under great stress as the “capital flows that have sustained growth dry up across the board” (Source-IMF website).

The Observer advises that investors will anxiously scan HSBCs third quarter trading statement for ‘signs the financial crisis is spreading to its Asian business‘ (Observer November 9th- Crunch Pummels HSBC again‘).

Our note of October 12th highlighted share sales by directors of HSBC (HSBA, 746p) at between 766p and 884p. We suggested that HSBCs outperformance against the other (UK) banks would come to an end as concerns over emerging markets grew. 

Since October 12th HSBC shares are down 6% absolute or down 16% against the FTSE 100.

Misys- Allscripts

The Wall Street Journal (November 5th WSJ ‘Inside Track’) picked up our story on the purchase of $350k of Allscripts (MDRX) by Misys CEO Mike Lawrie. Misys also announced that Glen Tullman, the CEO of Allscripts, had also bought shares in Allscripts, investing $511k by buying 100,000 shares at $5.11 on October 27th.

Allscripts (MDRX, $7.00) are up 26% since our comment of October 30.

Haynes – growth in DIY car care?

Since our comment of August 31st ‘Haynes directors buy for first time in 6 years‘ we have seen significant further purchases: Chairman JHC Haynes has bought 135,000 shares at between 150p and 155p, on November 3rd and 5th. Digitallook (website) say that takes him to 235,000 shares.

In Haynes’ (HYNS, 150p) First quarter Interim report to end August, the group announced they had seen sales in auto repair manuals up 10% in the US market and up 5% in the UK market (in local currency) for the quarter (for full interim statement see here, click on Press Releases). 

Next news? The interim statement in January.

International Personal Finance plc

Four directors have been buying shares in this doorstep provider of small loans in emerging markets. With their direct relationship with the borrowers, IPF (IPF 146p) are probably in a better position than the more remote large cap banks, and I suggest that the directors of the company have greater knowledge of current trading activity.

Next news is the mid December pre closing analyst briefing. See November 7th comment ‘ Loans provider Intl Personal Finance sees directors buying shares’.

Directors ARE buying shares.

Following our suggestion in last weeks Weekly Review that Directors Dealings were signalling a bottom in the stock market, we’ve looked at Directors Dealing activity in the smaller cap indices using the excellent Digitallook visual tools.

We looked at Directors dealings over one month, and counted the number of companies showing net selling of greater than GBP 50k versus net buying of greater than GBP 50k.

FTSE 350 showed 7 sells vs 52 buys

FTSE Small Cap showed 4 sells vs 21 buys, and

FTSE Aim showed 1 sell vs 46 buys !!!


Disclosure: The author holds share positions in the following: Misys, Haynes.

For all comments on the companies mentioned, use the ‘SEARCH’ box to the left of this post to search the followthedirectors site.

[See also May 4 post: ‘Directors share sales outnumber buys- Is the market expensive?’]

[See also subsequent post on October 31st: ‘ Directors ARE buying shares. Buys vs Sells 10:1’]

A question many of you have is whether directors are currently buying shares, and presumably does that indicate a turning point in the market?

The straight answer is ‘no more than usual’.

If you use digitallooks excellent visual tools facility, you can ask them to show you the number of directors buying or selling over a certain period.

As at last Friday, the number of companies in the FTSE 350 indicating net directors dealings over GBP 50k over the period I asked for (1, 3 and 12 months) were as follows:

1 month to October 10 2008:

26 companies showed net selling over a cumulative GBP 50k, and 32 companies showed net buying.

3 months to October 10th 2008:

58 companies showed net selling, and 54 companies net buying

12 months to October 10th 2008:

144 companies showed net selling, and 130 companies net buying.

I’ve just today run the analysis for the last seven days (to October 13th) and it shows

4 companies showing net selling, and 9 companies showing net buying.

I believe that this is not statistically significant due to the short period and the low number of companies exhibiting activity. Please also bear in mind that digitallook uses data as announced by the stock exchange, which will include the receipt by directors of scrip dividends, share options, and Incentive Plan subscriptions.

In followthedirectors research I exclude all Incentive Plan and dividend receipts, and any sales that are made to pay tax on options exercised. I aim to look at shares sold to receive cash, or shares bought with cash.

For a list of directors dealing activity use the category criteria on the top left of this page, or click on the following: Directors Buys, Directors Sales.

My name is Simon Winfield, and I have worked in leading investment banks in London and New York over the last 25 years, marketing investment ideas to the worlds top institutional investment managers and hedge funds.

Over the years I have met with senior management of hundreds of UK and European companies. I found managements’ body language and what companies didn’t say to investors to be far more valuable than what they did say, and I learnt to take the corporate spiel with a large pinch of salt.

Directors personal share dealings cut through the talk. I see them as a sign of what management really think of the opportunities and risks their company faces, as well as the current and potential company valuation.

In looking at directors dealings I ignore all the ‘incentive plan’ deals, where the company matches what you buy. Why wouldn’t you buy stock if you’re getting it half price? I ignore all the options exercising too, as this is usually seen by directors as pay which needs to be turned into cash.

Anything I write here is my personal opinion, and is not a recommendation to buy or sell shares, just my commentary on activity in the market.

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June 2022