MARKET REPORT: Berkeley bosses offload £48m of shares

Bosses at luxury housing developer Berkeley Group cashed in another £48m of shares a day before stock dipped amid a gloomy sector report.

With shares trading at £38.50 on Thursday, founder Tony Pidgley sold 750,000 to make £28.87m, while chief executive Rob Perrins sold 500,000 to make £19.25m.

The pair sold the same amount just over one month ago when shares were worth £35.75, meaning Pidgley has cashed in £55.67m and Perrins £37.05m since the start of September.

They were among six Berkeley bosses who were paid shares worth up to £92m in total last year in one of the most lucrative paydays in UK corporate history.

The record windfall came from a long-term incentive deal set up in 2011 when shares were worth around £10. They have since soared almost 300pc on the back of the housing market recovery, dipping slightly yesterday amid a gloomy report from mortgage lender Halifax. Researchers found public confidence in the outlook for British house prices had dropped to its lowest in nearly five years, due to pessimism about the economy. Berkeley fell 3.5 per cent, or 137p, to 3807p. Persimmon fell 2 per cent, or 59p, to 2831p. Taylor Wimpey fell 2.7 per cent, or 5.5p, to 201.9p.

But investors cheered a turnaround at components maker Laird. Bosses said full-year profit was likely to come in at the top end of market forecasts – up to £65.2m – and reported a 19pc rise in revenue to £245m over the latest three months.

Only one year ago the FTSE 250 group, which makes antennas for cars and electromagnetic shields for smartphones, was issuing a profit warning that sent shares tumbling nearly 50 per cent. But bosses hailed strong demand for vehicle antenna, growth in its thermal metals division, and their own turnaround plans. Shares were up 4.3 per centc, or 6.5p, to 158.75p – still about half their price before last year’s profit warning.

Israeli billionaire Teddy Sagi’s gambling software firm Playtech also got a lift after buying gambling analytics software Bet Buddy for an undisclosed fee. Shares rose 1.5 per cent, or 14p, to 962p.

Germany proved a standout market for Hertfordshire based IT services supplier Computacenter. It made £453m in Germany over the latest quarter, up 26 per cent, compared to £335m in the UK, up 8 per cent, and £127m in France, up 34 per cent.

Overall the firm reported a 27 per cent boost in revenue to £931m. Investors were nonplussed, however, with shares dropping 0.55 per cent, or 5.5p, to 999.5p.

Higher prices for car insurance helped Hastings Group Holdings report a 25 per cent rise in premium income to £714.3m. The firm has added more than 30,000 new policies to its books over the latest nine months to reach a total of 2.6m, with revenue up 22 per cent to £538.3m. Shares dropped 0.5 per cent, or 1.8p, to 317.7p.

The markets were also weighed down by retail software group Attraqt. It downgraded its revenue forecast for the year by 10 per cent after its finance chief Eric Dodd unearthed inaccuracies in the timing of contracts and start dates. But bosses said the firm, which made revenue of £5.5m during the first half of the year and a loss of £0.4m, still expected to be making a profit in the second half of the year. They also expressed confidence in their new forecasting. Shares fell 18.4 per cent, or 8p, to 35.5p.

The staggering results on Thursday night from US tech giants Microsoft, Google and Amazon gave a major lift to UK firms exposed to the sector. Polar Capital Technology Trust was up 3.3 per cent, or 36p, to 1135p, while Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust was up 1.6 per cent, or 6.9p, to 443.6p.

The FTSE 100 crept up 0.25 per cent or 18.53 points to 7,505.03.

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