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4 shares the pros are buying and selling

Our regular roundup of trades by professional investors, featuring Sphere Medical, Augean, Pittards and Starcom.

by Daniel Grote, James Phillipps, Selin Bucak on Sep 04, 2017 at 05:00

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Key stats
Market capitalisation£1m
No. of shares out142m
No. of shares floating134m
No. of common shareholdersnot stated
No. of employees70
Trading volume (10 day avg.)5m
Profit before tax£-5m
Earnings per share-3.18p
Cashflow per share-3.08p
Cash per share2.29p

Sphere Medical

Octopus Investments has sold its entire stake in Sphere Medical (SPHR), after the troubled diagnostics firm said it was planning to delist from the Alternative Investment Market.

That places it outside of the reach of the Octopus AIM and AIM 2 venture capital trusts, which had held a combined 4.4% stake in the company.

The two funds sold their stakes on 25 August, three days after the company’s delisting plans, coupled with a warning it would run out of cash unless it secured fresh investment, sent the shares tumbling. The shares are down 90% since the announcement.

Sphere Medical is hoping to secure fresh investment from Wood Investment Management and the Wales Life Sciences Investment Fund, which between them already own 48% of the company.

Key stats
Market capitalisation£26m
No. of shares out102m
No. of shares floating100m
No. of common shareholdersnot stated
No. of employees300
Trading volume (10 day avg.)m
Profit before tax£5m
Earnings per share4.51p
Cashflow per share8.43p
Cash per share1.47p


Veteran value investor and JO Hambro Capital co-founder Christopher Mills has seized on a collapse in the share price of specialist hazardous waste management company, Augean (AUG).

Mills hiked his stake, held in his Oryx International Growth investment trust, from 4.5% to 7.4% of the company, as the shares tumbled 43.2% on the day Augean announced £2.1 million bill from the taxman.

The shares have continued to drift since then, and are now down 57% since the announcement.

Augean has vowed to fight the bill. ‘Based on legal and other advice received by the group over several years, Augean is very confident that the group has met its obligations in respect of landfill tax, consistent with the law and official guidance at the time,’ it said in the 25 August statement.

Mills has viewed the hefty share price fall as an attractive point to increase his stake in the business, which he has been building throughout the year.

Mills also runs the North Atlantic Smaller Companies investment trust.

Key stats
Market capitalisation£13m
No. of shares out14m
No. of shares floating9m
No. of common shareholdersnot stated
No. of employees1648
Trading volume (10 day avg.)m
Profit before tax£-4m
Earnings per share-29.89p
Cashflow per share-25.28p
Cash per share1.48p


Citywire AAA-rated fund manager Judith Mackenzie has upped her stake in leather gloves and handbags maker Pittards (PTTD).

Mackenzie took raised her stake to 21.3% of the business, worth £2.7 million at a share price of 91p. The shares are held in her MI Downing UK Micro-Cap Growth fund, Downing ONE venture capital trust, and other Downing funds.

Shares in Pittards are up 13% so far this year, as the company rebounds from a difficult 2016, when unrest in Ethiopia disrupted production in its tannery, forcing the company to shift production to the UK.

The company last year made a £4.1 million loss after writing down £4.3 million of its stock, but chairman Stephen Yapp said in March this year should bring benefits from restructuring, coupled with stronger demand for leather.

Key stats
Market capitalisation£5m
No. of shares out201m
No. of shares floating129m
No. of common shareholdersnot stated
No. of employees32
Trading volume (10 day avg.)1m
Turnover4m USD
Profit before tax-2m USD
Earnings per share-0.01 USD
Cashflow per share-0.01 USD
Cash per share0.00 USD


Miton’s small cap specialists Gervais Williams and Martin Turner have reduced their stake in Starcom (STARS) amid a tough 2017 for the software and services company.

Citywire + rated Williams and his co-manager Turner brought their holding down to 4.89% from 5.49%, or 9.8 million. This is worth £201,704 at a share price of 2.05p, down 40% year to date.

The majority of the shares are held in their £388 million small-cap dividend mandate the Diverse Income investment trust. There is also some held in the CF Miton UK Smaller Companies fund and the Miton UK Micro Cap trust.

Starcom specialises in developing solutions for the tracking and monitoring of a number of assets, including merchandise and vehicles as well as people. The company has recently brought in former DekelOil chief financial officer Golan Hermolin.

The group reported a widening of losses last year, reaching $1.7 million in 2016, up from $1.6 million the previous year.

But it offered investors some hope in June by announcing a supply agreement with Israeli firm CropX and the value of it would be ‘significant in relation to historic revenue for 2017’.

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  • Sphere Medical Holding PLC (SPHR.L)
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  • Augean PLC (AUG.L)
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  • Pittards PLC (PTTD.L)
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  • Starcom PLC (STARS.L)
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