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Directors cooking up at Aga

Four senior directors of Aga Foodservice Group, the engineering and manufacturing group formerly known as Glynwed International, have snapped up shares following Tuesday’s results.

Leading the pack was non-executive chairman Christopher Farrow who spent £23,750 on 10,000 shares at 237.5p each to boost his holding to 21,000 shares in the company. The other three directors, chief executive William McGrath, chief operating officer Stephen Rennie and financial director Shaun Smith each snapped up 5,000 shares at 237.5p, giving them 22,500, 10,595 and 6,000 shares respectively.

Aga’s share price made a strong recovery in the final few months of last year. After a high of 254p last May it slipped to a low of 162p in October before recovering well. In February it set a year high of 247p and despite slipping a little since has managed to hold its ground, today it is unchanged at 236p.

One shrewd investor had seen enough earlier this year however. The highly rated (Artemis UK Small Cos Acc) unit trust, managed by John Dodd, held a secret stake of around 900,000 shares before Christmas but sold out towards the end of January while the price was riding high.

The company’s results earlier this week coincided with the completion of the sale of its pipes systems business to Etax of Belgium for £786 million and the subsequent name change to Aga Foodservice as it aims to concentrate on its Aga-Rayburn domestic and commercial cooker businesses. As well as the much-coveted Aga cookers the company produces in-store bakery equipment for supermarkets. Part of the deal to sell the pipes business includes the agreement to return £386 million to shareholders through a share buyback.

The company(GLYN) wishes to use any other money it may have left over, potentially up to £150 million, to expand and has earmarked the US as a prime market, McGrath said earlier this week: ‘Ideally we would like at least a third of the company to operate outside the UK. We have looked long and hard at acquisitions in the United States…there are now a number of businesses coming out of the states that are undervalued.’

The company announced pre-tax profits down from £94.6 million to £30.8 million and turnover up from £878 million to £969 million for the year to 31 December. Last February it opened a shop in Knightsbridge to tap into the lucrative London market, it plans to open more and also to expand its shop format abroad planning 100 shops in the UK, 50 in the US and 50 or 60 in Europe by 2003.

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