Major City banks and fund managers including Deutsche Bank, Invesco and State Street have rushed to dump tens of millions of pounds worth of Tesco shares since Friday’s profit warning.
This adds to the near £400m of shares sold by its biggest investors including hedge funds and sovereign-wealth funds in the past two months, an investigation by The Independent has found.
The sellers’ identities began to emerge yesterday just as Tesco’s new chief executive, Dave Lewis, began his first day in the job to be greeted by yet another shares sell-off.
As the shares tumbled another 2 per cent on top of Friday’s 6 per cent slide, Mr Lewis declared Tesco needed “a new perspective”.
Share registers showed Deutsche sold 18 million shares worth £40m for its clients yesterday, on top of the £6m it sold in the previous month, Invesco ditched 3.5 million shares on Friday, worth £8m, while State Street offloaded nearly £1m worth.
These one-day sales added to the rush of other major investors to sell Tesco stock in the previous weeks, including Axa, Brewin Dolphin, Scottish fund manager Walter Scott & Partners, ABN Amro, JPMorgan and Legal & General.
Stock-market trading records reveal that at least 25 major City investors sold blocks of more than 1 million Tesco shares totalling £385m in the two months running up to Friday’s shock profit alert, highlighting the massive job Mr Lewis which has ahead of him in persuading the company’s investors to keep the faith.
At the weekend, it emerged that one of Tesco’s biggest and most loyal shareholders, the US investment fund Harris Associates, had ditched nearly two-thirds of its stake in recent weeks, saying it had become “too risky” to retain a big holding.
The Independent’s analysis of the share register shows the Abu Dhabi and Kuwaiti sovereign-wealth funds have both cut their stakes by about a fifth. Walter Scott & Partners sold £52m of shares from various portfolios it manages, Legal & General Investment Management sold £29m-worth and BNP Paribas £29m.
Further investigation shows the likes of Deutsche Bank’s trading desk slashed its stake from 42 million shares to just 2.2 million in a trade recorded on 1 July on Bloomberg data. This was thought to be due to a big client taking a negative view on the company.
More big sellers will emerge in the coming days as the trading data filters through into the records.
Further shares selling yesterday saw Tesco’s shares lose another 2 per cent. They closed down 4.4p at 225.55p.
Mr Lewis, who’s background is in marketing at Unilever, yesterday said he was “wonderfully naïve” about his new job, adding: “I have never run a shop in my life”.