Business Irish

Friday 23 February 2018

Selling outpaces buying three to one as ISEQ bosses cash-in

€20m - Total value of Aryzta shares sold by Owen Killian over just a few days last June
€20m - Total value of Aryzta shares sold by Owen Killian over just a few days last June
Sarah McCabe

Sarah McCabe

Directors and executives at some of Ireland's 13 biggest listed business have traded more than €40m worth of stock in their own companies in the past two years.

A Sunday Independent analysis of the largest Irish listed companies shows that, overall, directors sold more shares in the businesses in the past two years than they've bought.

And some directors and top managers made a killing by picking the right time to buy or sell, while some others' timing looks less shrewd.

Directors of Ireland's biggest businesses sold off €32.8m worth of their own companies' stock between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2015, the Sunday Independent research found. During the same period board members and executives bought €9.1m of shares. Only straightforward purchases and sales were considered, not triggering events like the vesting of options or the huge high-profile Bank of Ireland share disposals by Wilbur Ross and Prem Watsa.

The numbers were skewed by Aryzta chief executive Owen Killian, who shifted €20.6m of his firm's stock in the space of a couple of days - but even excluding those deals, the overall tally shows directors sold more than they bought during the period.

Not every big Irish company saw directors' sales outpace buying. Among those that bucked the trend was insulation maker Kingspan, chiefly due to a €37,080 purchase of shares by non-executive director and McCann FitzGerald partner John Cronin when the share price was €12.36, and a €251,200 acquisition by non-executive director Michael Cawley, the former Ryanair deputy chief executive, when the stock was selling for €12.56. Kingspan's share price is currently trading around the €22 mark.

Ryanair top brass bought more than they sold too. No Ryanair director has sold their stock in the past two years, based on the criteria used in this assessment, but they invested €4m of their wealth in the airline during the period.

Buyers here included chief executive Michael O'Leary, who bumped up his already large stake in Europe's biggest carrier by €2.9m in 2014. He paid €6.96 a share, snapping up 300,000 of them.

Paypal boss and Ryanair non-exec Louise Phelan paid a bit more. She paid €7.12 a share a few months before O'Leary's purchase, buying €49,903 worth of stock, while Michael Cawley invested €1m and former Lamont chief executive officer and non-exec Richard Milliken invested €56,600. Drinks maker C&C, which like Aryzta has seen its share price battered in recent months, is another whose directors have stayed the course. No director sold their C&C shares in the 24 month period. There was one purchase, by chairman Brian Stewart, who ploughed €427,000 of his cash into the Bulmers maker just over a year ago, buying 100,000 shares at €4.27 each. Unfortunately for Stewart, the company's bid to become a pub business and a foray into the US market has weighed heavily on its share price since then, which closed on Friday at €3.65.

Smurfit Kappa and Paddy Power were among the biggest companies whose directors sold much more than they bought. Over the past 24 months, board members of the paper and packaging company pocketed €2.5m by selling Smurfit Kappa shares.

Some directors did substantially better than others in terms of timing and the prices they sold at.

Smurfit Kappa's share price has enjoyed a meteoric rise of late. It has doubled over the past two years, now resting around the €27 mark.

Chief executive Gary McGann sold part of his holding at a high price compared to some of his colleagues.

He sold off 65,000 shares in the middle of June at €25.84 each, pocketing €1.7m.

McGann did much better than Alain Baudant, head of the company's paper and packaging business, who sold 22,630 shares in November at a less lucrative price of €16.68.

Former Kappa president Frits Beurskens did marginally better than Baudant.

He got between €17.49 and €17.53 per share when he sold 22,500 of them, earning him €393,925.

Paddy Power's directors and top managers also sold more than they bought during the two years. Between them, they sold just over €6m worth of shares, compared to purchases of €296,400 of stock.

Finance director Jack Massey was responsible for a large proportion of the selling, pocketing €4.4m from two separate transactions. The price he achieved for his shares could have been higher if he had waited a few months. Massey executed three transactions at prices of €57.62, €59.75 and €73 a share. Today Paddy Power's share price is hovering around the €81 mark.

Non-executive director Stewart Kenny, who co-founded the company back in 1988, sold €1.7m worth of stock in the bookmaker while its share price was just €57.62.

Aryzta's Owen Killian was the single biggest seller of shares of any director looked at.

Killian's sale of around €20.6m of shares at an average price of €79 each in three transactions last June was the largest disposal among the group.

An Aryzta spokesman said it was Killian's first major disposal in his time at the company and that senior management remain very well invested in the business.

Sunday Indo Business

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