Interactive Investor

Insider: big share sales at BT and this FTSE 250 winner  

After the stars aligned for this mid-cap stock in 2023, the CEO has decided to pocket a massive Christmas bonus. It’ll be a prosperous festive period for this telecoms director too.

18th December 2023 08:12

by Graeme Evans from interactive investor

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Arrows going in different directions

The boss of one of 2023’s best performing mid-cap stocks has raised £8.5 million and the finance chief of BT Group (LSE:BT.A) £200,000 after they sold shares in their companies last week.

Baltic Classifieds Group (LSE:BCG), the online classifieds business that’s worth £1.1 billion after a 55% jump this year, disclosed on Thursday that chief executive Justinas Šimkus offloaded four million shares at 214.1p.

As well as the disposal, FTSE 250-listed Baltic said chair and former Auto Trader chief executive Trevor Mather bought £100,000 of shares in a transaction made on the same day.

Šimkus told investors the decision to sell was “purely for reasons of diversification” as the vast majority of his wealth is tied up in the company’s shares.

He joined the business in 2005 and oversaw its June 2021 IPO, when shares were priced at 165p for a £825 million valuation.

Baltic’s shares topped 250p at the end of 2021, then fell back to near 115p in 2022 before this year’s strong rebound. Analysts at Peel Hunt recently upgraded their price target to 245p, having been encouraged by the strength of half-year results.

The group, whose portals in Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia are visited on average 57.9 million times a month, reported a 36% rise in operating profits to £19.4 million and lifted guidance for annual revenues growth to 18-19%.

Šimkus said: "The stars have aligned extremely well for all of our businesses as we have seen record numbers of advertisers, as well as an improved competitive position and increased yields across our entire portfolio.”

The interim dividend, which is due for payment on 24 January, has been increased by 25% and the company has just returned seven million euros (£6 million) in buybacks.

Peel Hunt said the company had demonstrated the strength of its model in changing macroeconomic climates, adding that there remain opportunities for growth.

Šimkus has made a commitment to not sell any of his remaining 16 million shares, equivalent to a 3.25% stake, for at least 12 months.

BT FD trims stake 

Meanwhile, BT announced on Friday that chief financial officer Simon Lowth has sold 160,000 shares at a price of 125p.

The disposal took place with BT up 6% since Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s autumn statement and 10% higher in the year to date, although still down sharply from the 165p seen in April.

Lowth has been in the £750,000-a-year role since 2016, having been chief financial officer of BG Group until its acquisition by Shell and in the same role for AstraZeneca before that.

BT’s annual report revealed that Lowth’s interest over the company’s shares stood at 686% of his salary, well above the guideline for him to have at least 500%.

Thousands spent on pizza play 

A week when the new boss of Domino's Pizza Group (LSE:DOM) met investors to highlight the chain’s growth potential ended with him spending £58,200 on the FTSE 250-listed shares.

Andrew Rennie marked his first 100 days in charge by setting out his initial impressions of the business and its approach going forward, with a focus on core UK & Ireland markets.

This could include the launch of a second brand, while Rennie promised a new and increased store target with annual results in March. The company, which has 1,316 stores through a franchisee-based system, is set to open at least 60 sites this year.

Rennie pledged no change in capital allocation priorities after the company’s strong cash generation resulted in £398 million of shareholder returns since March 2021.

However, earnings per share are only 5% higher than 2018’s level and the new chief executive is keen to focus on driving long-term sustainable profitable growth.

He said: “Material progress has been made in recent years but there are a number of areas where we can significantly enhance growth.”

Rennie has extensive experience across the global Domino’s system, having spent over two decades with Sydney-listed Domino's Pizza Enterprises in roles that included running operations in Europe and Australia.

He bought his shares at 388p, which represents a 40% rise on the level in the summer but still lower than the 450p at the end of 2021.

Broker Peel Hunt believes there’s the potential to reach 425p after upgrading its target price in the wake of Rennie’s “very encouraging” presentation.

It said: “The network is benefiting from new franchisees joining, aiding faster expansion, and now having the e-commerce platform to enable more agile marketing and promotions.”

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