A ‘rockstar’ biotech entrepreneur, the first company boss in a decade to sell shares and a trio of directors cashing in were all involved in the biggest director deals of the past week.

The three biggest deals involve biotech company Abcam (ABC:AIM), ventilation product supplier Volution (FAN) and office real estate company Workspace (WKP).

The biggest of these comes from Abcam founder and deputy chairman Dr Jonathan Milner, who has offloaded another chunk of his shares in the business.

Dr Milner sold 1.1m shares in the biotech start up for £14.11, netting him a cool £15.5m. Following the sale, his second big transaction after selling £7.3m worth of shares in October, Dr Milner has an 8.74% stake in the company.

Abcam shares have been on a roll since October, rising from around £11 to around £14 today, with the company having acquired a portfolio of business from German life sciences company Expedeon as it looks to grow.

Some analysts believe Abcam continues to trade on an excessively high valuation – it has a 12-month forward price to earnings ratio of 44.5 times according to Stockopedia – and such a high valuation means the share price is prone to a sharp drop on any underwhelming news.

‘ROCKSTAR’ MILNER STILL COMMITTED

Abcam’s shares did drop off a bit earlier this month to around £13.20 after it warned full year profit margins will be at the lower end of its guidance, but its share price has since rebounded.

The company said Dr Milner’s transaction was for ‘tax and estate planning’, and insisted that Dr Milner ‘continues to remain committed to the company’ in his role as deputy chairman.

Known in the biotech industry as a ‘rockstar biotech entrepreneur’, Dr Milner founded Abcam in 1998 and ran the company until 2014, before taking a back seat role and investing in other British biotech start-ups.

FAN COMPANY ‘REMARKABLY STABLE’

Another company whose shares have been on an upward trajectory in the past few months is Volution, which makes industrial and high-tech fans.

Its share price had been remarkably stable between March and September last year, barely moving outside the 170-180p range, perhaps reflecting its lack of news flow and performance being bang in line with expectations, as well as the fact it trades on 12-month forward P/E of 14 times.

But following its full year results announced in October which showed a big jump in revenue and profit, its share price has risen to around 245p today.

Chief executive Ronnie George has since taken advantage, selling 3.05m shares at 230p apiece for a combined total of £7m.

The sale marks the first significant transaction in the company’s shares from an insider, with previous director deals being infrequent purchases for only low amounts and the last significant sale occurring in 2010.

One firm which has been busier on the director dealing front is Workspace, which announced this week that chief executive Graham Clemett, operations director Chris Pieroni and development director Angus Boag all sold shares to ‘generally cover their tax planning’.

WORKSPACE SHARES AT POST-CRISIS HIGH

CEO Clemett and his associate Julie Clemett sold a combined 50,000 shares, while Pieroni and associate Caroline Pieroni sold a total of 85,000 shares, with Boag selling 50,000, all at £12.19 a share, for a combined total of £2.3m.

Workspace shares have risen by a third since their 52-week low of 797p in August, hitting a high of £12.34 in the past week to reach a level not seen since before the financial crisis.

While pre-tax profit was marginally down in its half year results in November, net rental income was up 11% and the company raised its interim dividend by 10% to 11.67p, outlining the firm’s confidence in its future growth prospects.

Though Clemett’s sale of shares in the business comes just four months after his appointment as CEO. He was previously finance director, having joined the company in July 2007.

Every Thursday, Shares will roundup the biggest director deals over the past week.

For a full list of the past week’s most significant director trades, click here.

Find out how to deal online from £1.50 in a SIPP, ISA or Dealing account.

Issue Date: 30 Jan 2020