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Directors’ Deals: JD Sports chair raises stake on optimistic outlook

After a bumper Christmas season, Andrew Higginson, who last summer became non-executive chair of retailer JD Sports, has increased his holding in the company.

On January 11, the company said Higginson had acquired a total of 159,704 ordinary shares at an average price of roughly 151p apiece — making the transaction’s total value around £240,000. Higginson now has an interest of 458,646 shares, still just 0.01 per cent of JD’s issued share capital.

So far, JD Sports has shrugged off the cost of living crisis — the company expects to make a pre-tax profit next year of more than £1bn for the first time. The company said in a post-Christmas trading update that profit for the current year, which ends on January 28, is set to exceed prior guidance of £950mn. Shares in the company are up by more than 35 per cent in the last month.

Chief executive Régis Schultz recently told the Financial Times that demand was resilient among JD’s young consumer base, thanks in part to a tight employment environment and rising minimum wages in some markets.

Shortly after becoming chief executive last September, Schultz sold off 15 “non-core” brands to Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group.

Meanwhile, Schultz has been awarded 996,066 ordinary shares as a buyout award. In a January 13 stock exchange announcement, the company explained that the award is “of equivalent value to the cash annual bonus that was due to be paid to the chief executive by his previous employer”. He forfeited the bonus when he joined JD from Dubai-based Al Futtaim Group in September.

Schultz now holds 0.02 per cent of the company’s issued share capital.

Christie director halves holding

An insider at 177-year-old surveyor Christie Group has sold more than half of his stake in the company following a tumultuous year for the property sector.

Executive director Paul Harding and his wife offloaded £199,750 worth of shares at 117.5p each, leaving them with a £197,250 stake, worth 0.63 per cent of the small-cap business.

The move comes ahead of April’s results for the 12 months to December 31, a period which includes the fallout from the government’s “mini” Budget, in which rising interest rates shrank real estate investors’ budgets and dragged down the values of all kinds of commercial property.

In its most recent results, which cover the six months to June 30, Christie Group recorded a 68 per cent jump in pre-tax profit thanks to an 18 per cent uptick in revenue. The company said at the time of the results announcement, three days after the “mini” Budget, that it still anticipated “a successful full-year performance” despite gathering economic clouds.

The agency, which specialises in hotel and leisure deals, put the increase in business activity for the first half of 2022 down to buoyancy in the post-Covid hotel and leisure market. It said that overseas buyers were particularly eager to buy, accounting for half of its hotel industry fees for that accounting period.

However, the company’s debt position could present problems during an extended period of high interest rates. As of June 30 2022, its net debt was 169 per cent of its equity, though this was a marked improvement on the previous year’s results, when the company had net liabilities of £6.5mn.

The results also shed light on the impact of the ongoing labour shortage on the business. “Recruitment, while challenging, has generally proved successful, although with vacancies filled later in the year than originally planned,” it said.

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