COMPANIES 

Chariot down but not out

Chariot Oil & Gas (CHAR) had a tough year. It drilled two high-risk exploration wells offshore Namibia - formerly considered one of East Africa's most exciting oil and gas frontiers - but both ended in disappointment. Unforgiving investors consequently sold off the company's shares, to the point that the market capitalisation of Chariot is now at an 18 per cent discount to its estimated cash holdings of $112m (£70m).

But the lack of exploration success doesn’t seem to have deterred Chariot’s chief executive, Paul Welch, whose previous experience includes 12 years at Shell as well as several roles with successful independents such as Hunt Oil. Mr Welch bought 200,000 shares of the company last week at an average of 29.2p a share, increasing his holding to 500,000 shares.

Chariot has recently diversified its licence portfolio to include attractive acreage offshore Mauritania and Morocco, despite still holding the second-largest acreage position offshore Namibia. Indeed, even after subtracting the prospective resources from the two drilling failures, Chariot still has prospects in other geologically distinct basins offshore Namibia that could contain a total of 10.65bn barrels of oil.

IC view: Trading for less than cash, the market is currently ascribing a negative value to Chariot’s Namibian, Mauritanian and Moroccan licences. This grossly underestimates Chariot’s exploration prospects, yet the problem is a lack of significant near-term catalysts. As such, the shares rate no better than a hold.

Matthew Allan

Don’t follow dotDigital’s directors

Aim-traded dotDigital (DOTD) provides intuitive software as a service and managed services to digital marketing professionals. Two of its directors, Ian Taylor and Simon Bird, sold 8m shares between them on 26 October, pocketing £520,000 each. The company’s chief executive and chief financial officer, Peter Simmonds, also sold 4m shares through his self-invested personal pension (Sipp).

Shareholders shouldn’t read too much into these sale transactions, despite their size, because the shares were sold for a specific reason. After a good set of annual results and a round of investor presentations 12m shares were sold: “to partially satisfy significant demand for 22m shares from a major institution”.

dotDigital’s share price has risen 90 per cent over the past 12 months and these directors managed to sell almost at the top. The company is cash rich, has £4.02m on its balance sheet and its revenue is up 34 per cent on the year.

Robert Ansted

Alkane Chairman in buying spree

Following his recent appointment as non-executive chairman of Alkane Energy (ALK), Roger McDowell has been in acquisitive mode. Since the start of October he has amassed a total of 765,000 shares in the methane power plant producer for an aggregate outlay of £164,951.

The latest deal of three - an acquisition of 265,000 shares - was completed on 24 October for 22.67p a share. It was important for Alkane to secure the services of someone with a broad experience of helping guide businesses through their development stage, and the new chairman has decades of experience in this regard, reflected by his board activities at the likes of Avingtrans, Ultimate Finance Group, IS Solutions, Swallowfield and Augean.

The share price of Alkane is now up by a third on our November 2011 buy advice, helped along in part by a recent £1.6m gas-to-power contract, which forms part of the £21m Dagenham waste-to-power facility. Alkane was subcontracted by TEG Group to provide the gas-to-power capability at the plant and it should complete the contract by the end of 2013. In the meantime, the new chairman will be helping the company to make commercial capital from the increasing imperative for the UK to reduce its output of green house gases.

Mark Robinson

Director buys

CompanyDirectorDateNo. of sharesPrice (p)Value (£)
Alkane EnergyRoger McDowell (ch)24 Oct 12265,00022.6760,076
AquaSourceOliver Spurling24 Oct 121,029,5301.515,443
Ariana ResourcesMichael de Villiers29 Oct 12250,0001.64,000
AstraZenecaDame Nancy Rothwell26 Oct 122752876.57,910
Aurora Investment TrustMJ Barstow30 Oct 1220,00014629,200
AvescoRichard Murray23 Oct 1210,00015915,900
AvescoRichard Murray23 Oct 1210,00016016,000
BlackRock North American IncomeAndrew Irvine24 Oct 1220,00010020,000
BlackRock North American IncomeSimon Miller24 Oct 1220,00010020,000
BlackRock North American IncomeChristopher Casey24 Oct 1210,00010010,000
Chariot Oil & GasPaul Welch (ceo)25 Oct 12200,00029.258,400
CLSJohn Whiteley (cfo)24 Oct 122,227715.515,934
DebenhamsSimon Herrick25 Oct 128,650113.8569,849
DevroPaul Neep23 Oct 123,20032010,240
Finsbury Growth & Income TrustNick Train30 Oct 127,000374.2526,198
Home RetailMike Darcey25 Oct 126,104105.21326,422
Home RetailIan Dusrant25 Oct 127,381105.21327,766
Home RetailCath Keers25 Oct 127,381105.21327,766
HydrodecColin Moynihan (ch)24 Oct 122,210,3269198,929
HydrodecAndrew Black30 Oct 125,000,0009.895494,750
JPMorgan American Investment TrustSimon Bragg26 Oct 121,000924.159,242
Kingswalk InvestmentsRod Gentry23 Oct 12714,2850.584,143
Lowland InvestmentRobert Robertson30 Oct 126,00098358,980
Maven Income and Growth VCT 3William Nixon24 Oct 1215,34368.510,510
MBLPeter Cowgill (ch)26 Oct 12200,000714,000
Parallel MediaDavid Ciclitira (ch)30 Oct 1262,50014.929,325
Pathfinder MineralsJohn McKeon (ch)26 Oct 121,000,0001.919,000
Rio TintoRichard Goodmanson29 Oct 122353077.967,233
Rio TintoAnn Godbehere29 Oct 12313077.96954
Rio TintoPaul Tellier29 Oct 122053077.966,310
Sound OilJames Parsons (ceo)24 Oct 12425,000118501,500

Director sells

CompanyDirectorDateNo. of sharesPrice (p)Value (£)
Amiad Water SystemsSimon Olswang25 Oct 1210,00030530,500
Amiad Water SystemsSimon Olswang26 Oct 1220,00030460,800
dotDigitalIan Taylor26 Oct 124,000,00013520,000
dotDigitalSimon Bird26 Oct 124,000,00013520,000
MP EvansJD Shaw22 Oct 125,00049524,750
MP EvansJD Shaw23 Oct 125,00049524,750

Table compiled by Robert Ansted.

Key to abbreviations: ch = chairman; ce = chief executive; cfo = chief financial officer; fd = finance director; coo = chief operating officer; cs =company secretary; md = managing director

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