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Most followed: Retail bosses cash in on success of ASOS and Sports Direct

It tends not be a good sign when founders sell their stakes in companies.

Take today’s examples of ASOS (LON:ASC) and Sports Direct (LON:SPD), which both fell when Nick Robertson and Mike Ashley dumped sizeable chunks of their respective businesses.

But the pair can be excused for making a quick buck given the amount of money they have both made their shareholders.

Online fashion retailer ASOS is AIM’s most expensive share at £51. Had you invested £1,000 in 2011, you would now be sitting on a tidy profit of £210,000.

Sports Direct has become the dominant force in the sportswear retail market and is valued at £4.1bn on the stock market.
Sports Direct has been inducted into the FTSE 100, while ASOS would join the top flight if it were not for its junior market listing.

While it was not revealed exactly how much Nick Robertson pocketed, ASOS said that he and finance chief Nicholas Beighton have trimmed their holdings in the company, selling shares at £50 a pop.

The pair announced their intention on Wednesday to dispose of a chunk of shares awarded through the management incentive plan. In conjunction with certain other members of the senior management team, 1.88mln shares have been placed in the market, raising £94.1mln in total.

It follows another stunning set of final results from the company, which continues on its path of impressive sales growth.

Analysts had pencilled in a figure of £53.7mln for pre-tax profits in the year to the end of August, but the company topped that with £54.7mln, up 23% from £44.5mln last year.

The figures prompted Citigroup analysts to up their target price to £70, which suggests Robertson would have made a few bob more had he kept hold of his shares a little while longer.

Sports Direct’s founder Mike Ashley, best known as the owner of Newcastle United, sold off £106mln worth of stock, but still owns more than 60% of the company – a stake worth £2.5bn.

The selling price was a discount of 50p to Wednesday’s closing price of 713p, and this dragged the shares down 6% to 669p on Thursday.

Total sales in the nine weeks to September 29 rose 15% to £463mln, with gross profit up 19% to £200mln, it was revealed on Wednesday.

Pharmaceutical firm Shire (LON:SHP) shot higher after an impressive third quarter update prompted an earnings guidance uplift.

Product sales were up 13% year-on-year to US$1.19bn, while underlying pre-tax profit improved 24% to US$332.8mln from US$268.6mln. The company increased its guidance on full-year non-GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) earnings growth to the mid-to-high teens, prompting a 6% hike in the share price to 2,675p.

AIM entrepreneur David Lenigas’s latest venture Rare Earth Minerals (LON:REM) caught the eye as the company revealed the first hole of a phase two drilling campaign identified 59 metres of the same clay formation previously encountered during phase one drilling on the El Sauz and Fleur Lithium concessions in northern Mexico.

SolGold (LON:SOLG) is wanted after resources-focused broker RFC Ambrian initiated coverage after a visit to the company’s Cascabel project in Ecuador. The broker rates the stock a ‘speculative buy’.

“We were impressed by the potential at Cascabel and by the quality of the management team that we met at site,” the broker said, adding that Cascabel “shows real potential to be a significant porphyry gold-copper discovery”.

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