Asos chiefs sell stock worth almost £50m amid slowdown fear

Asos chiefs sell stock worth almost £50m amid slowdown fear

By Rupert Steiner

PUBLISHED: 22:16, 26 October 2012 | UPDATED: 15:57, 27 October 2012

A raft of senior executives at Asos have sold shares worth almost £50million fuelling concerns its phenomenal run may be about to slow.

The online fashion retailer’s stock lost 5 per cent yesterday as chief executive Nick Robertson sold the maximum number of shares available to him through a three year incentive scheme.

The firm has been one of the best performing retail stocks. Its shares have jumped from 23.5p ten years ago to £22.02. But with annual profits of just £40million and a market value of more than £2billion some experts think the shares may be overvalued.

Robertson said directors are not ‘dumping’ shares and said Asos will continue to expand internationally.
‘What you have seen happening is directors selling shares awarded to management on the back of superb performance when the share price went from £3 to £18 over a three year period,’ he told the Mail.

‘We were the number one retail stock and major shareholders including Standard Life blessed it on the back of superb performance. We have been in a closed period where none of those shares could be sold. This is not directors dumping shares.’
The retail boss used broker Numis to accumulate the shares of all participating staff to sell them overnight at a discount.
This included the 744,792 shares he sold at £21.50 which amounted to a cool £16m.
Finance chief Nick Beighton sold 365,094 at £7.8million, along with international director Jonathan Kamaluddin who made £6.5million and online director James Hart who took home almost £1million. Chairman Lord Alli, who has previously announced he will stand down next month ditched all but 50,000 of his holding, making £16.7million.
He will be replaced by Brian McBride, the former boss of Amazon’s UK business, who stepped down from corporate life to focus on his battle with cancer. Robertson said: ‘The chairman’s position is different. He was granted options 12 years ago when the shares were 12.5p. Now that he is leaving he thought it prudent to sell the options. I don’t think any shareholder will be grumbling. You have got a management team who have not taken anything from the table – what are you supposed to do – sit and watch it?’
Stocks linked to technology have come under pressure over the past week after Google posted an update in which profits from advertising were lower than expected.
On Thursday advertising boss Sir Martin Sorrell warned that the tech boom has come to an end.
Asos was set up in 2000 under the name As Seen On Screen. The idea was to help young people emulate their idols by selling clothes that looked similar or the same as those worn by celebrities on TV or in the movies.
Asos has since moved from what was once a niche site into the mainstream, offering wider ranges including maternity and clothes for small people.
It has just recruited Kate Bostock from Marks & Spencer to head up its clothing lines. This caused internal friction which led to the departure of product director Robert Bready who sold his entire £2.6million holding in the firm.
Buying director Caren Downie also left the firm this week.

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