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Over a year ago, in December 2007, the CFO of Next (NXT, 1150p) increased his holding bynext-spring-summer-09 8%, investing GBP 170k at 1711p. I didn’t view this as a strong signal, as he was a solo buyer, unaccompanied by other directors, and increasing his holding by less than 8% (followthedirectors: ‘Next- Keen but not yet convinced’). Over the next six months Next underperformed the market by about a third.

What I missed in July 2008 was the turning point for Next. Three directors (Chairman Barton, CFO Keens, and Non exec Dawson all bought shares, investing between GBP 16,000 and 37,000 each. I missed it due to the low $$ value of each transaction. It missed my screen. Next duly outperformed the market by over 70% between July and now.

Last week Andrew Varley, the Group Property Director, sold 10,000 shares at 1234p taking his holding to below 70,000 shares (Source: London Stock Exchange). I do think this sale is significant: Varley has been on the board of Next for 18 years, the sale value is more than the combined purchase value of Keens, Dawson and Barton.

View on Next: Negative

Strength of signal: Medium

CFO of Next (NXT, 1740p) David Keens increased his holding in the group by 10,000  shares to 145,000 shares this week, at 1711p, investing around £171k.

David Keens, CFO of Next

Is this significant? Maybe. If you assume that Shirley Keens and David Keens speak with each other, and their finances are related, then this purchase partly reverses a sale by Shirley Keens of 45,000 shares at 2245p on April 17th this year, raising £1m. However the press release at the time claimed that Shirley Keens ‘manages her assets independently’ of Mr Keens.

Simon Wolfson, CEO, in March raised over £3.5m by selling 160,000 shares at prices between 2303p and 2309p.

Another recent buyer is Christos Angelides (exec director), who was credited with being a ‘weather forecaster’ in the last week of July, investing £180k ahead of a desperately needed sunny weekend. Next shares rallied by £3 to £22 in the three months after his purchase.  Last week Steve Barber (non exec) also stepped up, but invested only £8,000.

Why am I not totally convinced? Because Keens has only increased his holding by about 8%, and I’d like to see a little more commitment from both him and other directors in the sector, where we’ve seen purchases by directors of WHSmith, Lookers and Pendragon in the last week.

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June 2022