Share tips right from the top

CITY TALK

Our chart on directors' share purchases features a positive signal for Ewart, a small, Belfast-based industrial and commercial property developer and leaser. Last Monday chief executive Barry Gilligan bought 20,000 shares at 60p each, to take his total holding to 63,000 shares - an increase of almost a half. As he owns options on 420,000, of which about half are at exercise prices of between 43p and 46p - that is, he's already quids in - it seems over-egging the cake to buy in the market. So why do it?

"We think this business has excellent prospects," responds Mr Gilligan. The last net asset value was 63p a share, leaving a slight discount to market. "We don't think that is justified," he says, "given there isn't a single non-performing asset in our group."

Some 70 per cent of its assets are on the UK mainland, while it has promising developments just completed or under way in Northern Ireland. These include a 150,000 sq ft new headquarters for BT Northern Ireland and a Hilton Hotel with Ladbrokes.

Ewart seems to have weathered the vicissitudes of business in Northern Ireland remarkably well, with sales rising from pounds 3.7m in 1992 to pounds 7.86m at the last set of figures for 1996. Pre-tax profits rose from pounds 1.15m in 1995 to pounds 1.8m in 1996. Even stripping out a jump in investment income to almost pounds 300,000, like-for-like growth looks very good. Despite this, the share price has been volatile, declining from a high of 75p in 1994 to 60.5p - hardly a stellar performance.

However, investors might like to take a closer look, given the company's solidly improving track record and Mr Gilligan's own vote of confidence.

On a more negative note, Alan Kennedy, a non-executive director of library supplier and newspaper wholesaler Dawson Holdings, decided to sell a substantial part of his stake. He off-loaded 7,000 shares, at pounds 25.25 each, to reduce it to 15,811. Dawson shares have risen steadily since they were floated on the AIM at 500p in 1995. Last September they were at pounds 17. Perhaps Mr Kennedy knows a good time to take profits when he sees one.

Tomorrow Chiroscience (412.5p), the biotech stock, holds a research and development update for analysts. Some positive news is looked for on its local anaesthetic, Levobupivacaine, as well as progress at its US acquisition Darwin, the genome business in which software king Bill Gates held a stake. Darwin has a wealth of potential in its intellectual property.

As interesting may be the bearing the presentation has on Medeva and its main product, Ritalin, the attention deficit disorder drug for children. Chiroscience is working for Medeva on a new variant, which may prove more effective

Rebel investors at Christian Salvesen (321p), the food distributor, who speak for some 2 per cent of shares and are fighting a company break-up by management, briefed analysts earlier last week. Salvesen has a large family ownership, and the rebels claim they have won the backing of 14 per cent of shareholders - suggesting at least some family support.

In which case, will Hays consider another bid for the company? Hays withdrew last time, because it did not want to be involved in a hostile situation. However, if the rebels prove their mettle, Hays may be tempted. There could be developments later in March: watch this space.

It is gratifying to see that, after recommending Quiligotti last week, shares rose a reassuring 21 per cent. The rise is justified, and further gains can be expected in due course, but at these levels, the ceramics group's potential is better reflected.

Up among the blue chips, Williams Holdings this weekend posts its offer document for Chubb. An interesting comparison analysts may care to make is with other security companies as Williams' activities become more closely focused. If it wins Chubb, security will represent almost 40 per cent of turnover. With a good international spread in this arena, it is instructive to compare Williams to some of its international competitors. Tyco of the US trades at a forward PE of 23 times earnings, or a 30 per cent premium to the market; Assa Abloy of Sweden on 37 times earnings, or a 60 per cent premium, and Secom of Japan at 34 times, again a 30 per cent premium. Williams' PE is 13.5 times earnings, an 11 per cent discount to the market.

This may point to the sort of re-rating that could happen if institutions look at the business as something more than a conglomerate. Williams was seeing the institutions this week, and its shares closed at 319.5p, having recovered under pounds 3 after the bid was announced.

RICHARD PHILLIPS

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
News
i100
Sport
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Sport
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: HR Benefits Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager / Financial Services

£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 1999, a highly r...

Jemma Gent: Year End Accountant

£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...

Jemma Gent: Management Accountant

£230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...

Day In a Page

The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower