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The biggest purchase for years by a director or non exec at Prudential (PRU, 333p), Harvey Mcgrath on Tuesday bought 291,000 shares at 343.29p, investing just shy of one million pounds (Source: London Stock Exchange).

McGrath was appointed a non exec of Prudential on September 1st, and is to take up the role of Chairman in the New Year. He worked at Man Group in various roles, moving to CEO in 1990 to 2000, and Chairman from 2000 to 2007 (Prudential website, Man Group website).

What is a million pounds to McGrath? Back in 2005 in the Andrew Davidson interview in The Times, he was said to be worth GBP 120m. That was with the Man share price at 20 quid. Man are now trading at under 4 pounds, and I’m sure, having run a hedge fund group, that McGrath will have hedged his position in Man. So let’s have a guess at GBP 75m.

In that case an investment of 1 million of the Bank of Englands finest folding doesn’t seem like such a huge punt.

But what this share purchase is is a vote of confidence in Prudential’s strategy to explore a possible purchase of AIG’s Asian business, and a vote of confidence in the groups Capital levels, and longer term probably a great money making opportunity by a hugely successful operator in the financial markets (Independent: Prudential reassures investors on capital levels).

How does this purchase rank on the followthedirectors scale? CEO Tucker bought shares in Prudential back in mid September, investing GBP 100k at between 485p and 511p, but increasing his holding by only 20k shares to 1.5m shares.

I’d like to see Tucker and McGrath followed by other directors of Prudential for this purchase to warrant a ‘Strong’ signal.

View on Prudential: Positive- directors buying

Strength of Signal: MEDIUM

Wow. Aren’t you exhausted? What a week that was. Thrilling too. You never knew what was going to come at you next!

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We’ve seen a few sells this week. Stocks worth noting for directors selling activity are Savills (SVS), De La Rue (DLAR), and Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.).

Savills (SVS) directors have been a pretty good signal for future share price performance, but the disclaimer must be ‘the past is no guide to the future, you can lose everything in the stock market’. On the positive side availability of capital should lead to some pick up in activity in real estate, on the negative side look at Savills huge cost base.

Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) directors say ‘Volatility will impact profit growth’. CFO and Head of Accounting have been selling.

De La Rue (DLAR) CEO and CFO both sold this week, taking profits in a stock which is up 50% relative to the FTSE 250 index. Maybe the good news is all in the price.

On the buy side:

Shire (SHP) directors have been consistent buyers. They have a track record. And five of them are buying. Definitely worth a look.

New World Resources (NWS) fall of 50% in the last three weeks has prompted a number of directors to buy. This coal miner and coke producer is, of course, highly vulnerable to a slowdown in economic activity. The directors seem to be more confident than the stock market.

Heritage Oil (HOIL). We’ve seen a number of buyers in small oil companies over the last two to three weeks, including ROC, Arawak, Heritage, and Serica. This may signal a support level for the energy sector.

And what about Prudential (PRU)? Mark Tucker CEO invested GBP 100k on Monday 15th September at just shy of 500p. He bought 20,000 shares taking his holding to 1.5m shares. I don’t interprete this transaction to be a valuable signal as

  1.  
    1. Only Tucker is buying, no other directors, and
    2. This is a tiny increase in his existing holding. 

Granted, he is up 20% on GBP 100k in a week. Time will tell.

Enjoy the week ahead. Keep calm and think of the long term.

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