A 4 per cent increase in first half pre-tax profits was not enough to sustain the rise in Mitchells & Butlers shares this week with the restaurant and pub stock already about 20 per cent ahead this year.
Dealers sold after Tuesday’s announcement, which tempted non-executive director Edward Irwin to buy another 10,000 shares, having done the same six months ago when annual results were announced. At 364p, shares fell in the wake of that announcement only to rebound strongly with this week’s 450p trade. Stewart Gilliland bought at the same price last Thursday, making his first trade this week after two years as a non-executive.
Investors in Sage Group appeared willing to put their faith in Stephen Kelly last December as he appealed for patience in the move to a cloud strategy at the software group. Earnings that were well ahead of expectations helped, as did a £348,000 investment of his own money, which doubled his stake and was reported here at the time.
Six months on, that faith has been rewarded with higher interim revenues and a tie-up with US software house Salesforce, driving the shares to a 15-year high. The gains put Mr Kelly 22 per cent in profit on his December investment but he bought again last week, spending £250,000 on more shares.
Non-executive Jonathan Howell bought at 352p on joining the board two years ago, making little gain until Mr Kelly came on the scene last November. Mr Howell bought again at 583p on Tuesday.
Gains at Countrywide were met with a mixed response this week as veteran chairman Grenville Turner parted with two-thirds of his remaining stake, having also sold shares in March. Banking £5m over the pair of trades the disposal has not harmed the shares, which briefly traded above 600p this month, having dramatically crashed through that support level a year ago. Meanwhile Alison Platt, who joined the board last September when shares were in decline, bought for the first time, investing £248,000.
Simon Nixon continues to trim his stake in Moneysupermarket.com, having owned more than 50 per cent of the free float in September 2012. Two years ago the founder sold shares at 200p, banking more as the comparison website continued its expansion. His £56m disposal on Tuesday increased liquidity by bringing his stake below 13 per cent, helping the stock exceed 300p for the first time.
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