Market Report: Sports Direct chiefs cash in their shares

Sports Direct International is famous for flogging large amounts of tracksuits and trainers, but yesterday its bosses were making a name for themselves with the sale of large chunks of shares. David Forsey, chief executive, and the finance chief, Robert Mellors, have sold all their shares ahead of next month's reward scheme which will see them receive 1 million new shares in the new financial year.

Messrs Forsey and Mellors have followed the founder Mike Ashley's lead. Last month he sold 4 per cent of his stake in the retail chain. He has 64 per cent left in the 400-shop company.

When Mr Ashley sold his shares the stock price dipped 7 per cent, but the shares recovered some of this loss and were back near an all-time high. The pair sold their shares at 425p, racking up £3.4m. The share price yesterday added 1.1p to 426.2p.

Sports Direct's management don't receive bonuses, so the share rewards are their pay-off for all the hard work at the pile-it-high, sell-it-cheap group.

Ahead of a four-day break the FTSE 100 edged up slowly but eurozone concerns were still weighing on investors' minds. Some traders said fund managers had begun to top up with shares during afternoon trade to make sure they were not holding too much cash ahead of the new quarter. The FTSE 100 added 24.18 points to 6,411.74.

The sweeteners group Tate & Lyle was top of the tree after a positive update and its shares were 25p better at 850p.

At the other end of the table were the miners. There was an adverse reaction to the Chilean copper miner Antofagasta's announcement that it will resume the development of its Antucoya project, and the shares dipped 41p to 984p.

The City loves a good deal, and it welcomed news that the chemicals company Johnson Matthey had splashed the cash.

The world's largest supplier of catalytic converters is spending £107m on the Swedish chemicals group Formox. Johnson is buying the business that produces catalysts linked to the chemical formaldehyde from PAI Partners' Perstorp Specialty Chemicals. The group's technologies will complement Johnson's existing catalyst business.

Johnson Matthey shares produced a 50p rise to 2,300p.

Also being welcomed by the market was the news that the hotels giant InterContinental has sold its five-star Park Lane hotel for £300m to Qatari-owned Constellation Hotels. Some experts had thought the group would take much longer to sell the 447-room property. The deal helped the shares to book a 55p rise to 2,007p, taking them towards the top of the table.

The struggling credit card insurance group CPP has been given a two-week extension to refinance its £80m debt. The small-cap group, which was fined in November for mis-selling its products, had been facing administration if it could not find a solution. Its founder, Hamish Ogston, made a 1p-a-share approach to buy the group this week, and its existing lenders yesterday gave the extension to 12 April.

CPP said the extension will allow it to "continue discussions relating to a number of alternative financing and strategic options with the aim of concluding these discussions prior to the extended maturity". The shares ticked up 0.95p to 3.94p.

A fifth extension to the put-up-or-shut-up deadline for the private equity firm interested in Theo Fennell, jeweller to the stars, has been announced. The struggling Aim-listed jeweller revealed in September that EME Capital had made an approach. Since then a series of extensions have been made, with a new deadline set for 3 May. The jeweller has struggled to make a full-year profit for more than four years. The shares were static at 10.75p.

The Aim-listed explorer New World Oil & Gas raised £6.3m through the issue of 315 million new shares at 2p a share. Shares in the group that focuses on Belize and Denmark slipped 0.75p to 2.12p.

Andrew "Bert" Black, founder of Betfair, splashed out on another 2 million shares at 11p each in the industrial oils recycler Hydrodec, taking his stake to almost 20 per cent. The shares were unmoved at 10.88p.

The explorer Falcon Oil & Gas joined Aim with a placing of 120.4 million new shares at a price of 14p each, raising £16.9m. John Craven, the serial energy entrepreneur who ran Cove Energy which was sold to Shell, is chairman. The shares closed at 14.63p.


Snap up shares in the gold miner Centamin, Investec insists. Its results this week were better than 2011 but were weaker than expectations. But Investec thinks the Egyptian-focused miner "remains an attractive gold growth play albeit one with a generous overlay of Egyptian political risk". It gives the shares, which are currently 49.45p, a 67.5p price target.


Flog shares in the holidays group Thomas Cook, Nomura suggests. Harriet Green, chief executive, is "making all the right noises… but with the exception of the disposal of its Canadian business, we have yet to actually witness the results", Nomura thinks. It rates the shares, which are currently 112.4p, a sell with a 105p price target as "success is certainly not guaranteed".


Hang on to shares in National Grid, Liberum Capital's analysts recommend. The eagerly awaited new dividend policy for the energy group and its positive trading update earlier this week are a reason to do so. They give the stock a 730p price target and the shares are currently priced at 765p.

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