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pounds 10m splashed out by Vardy and Sir Peter.

Byline: By Howard Walker

Car dealership Reg Vardy and its chairman Sir Peter Vardy bought a total of pounds 10m worth of shares in the Sunderland-based group yesterday.

The company has been buying back shares for cancellation ( a common practice in cash-rich listed businesses ( since last July, spending a total of pounds 8.6m before yesterday's purchase.

That saw Vardy buy a million shares at pounds 5 each before cancelling them, leaving a total of 56,166,363 shares in circulation.

In addition, Sir Peter Vardy increased his stake in the company to just over 28pc by snapping up a further one million shares, again at pounds 5 each and representing 1.78pc of the business. His holding, although it includes non-beneficial interests and shares held by third parties closely related to Sir Peter, brings the chairman close to the 30pc mark where he would have to make a formal takeover bid for the business, which was founded by his father, Reg.

However, it is thought highly unlikely that Sir Peter will want to take the business private.

Transport analyst Graeme Summers, from the Newcastle office of stockbrokers Brewin Dolphin, said: "Sir Peter is putting his money where his mouth is. He is a major investor in Reg Vardy, just as there are quite a few institutional investors, and the money speaks volumes.

"He obviously sees it as a good investment and people should take great comfort and faith from that."

Reg Vardy finance director, Robert Forrester, said the company's buy-back demonstrated the strength and resources of the business, which has been hit by a slowdown in the car market.

Mr Forrester said: "For the last 12 months, we have taken the view that the group cannot only fund its own acquisitions process, but is also cash generative, so we believe we can take appropriate steps in terms of enhancing earnings by doing a share buy-back programme. We started this in July and this is the largest single one, but we have done several buy-backs over the last eight to nine months.

"As for Sir Peter, directors' purchases in shares are always perceived by shareholders as an expression of faith and he has been buying shares over the last eight months very much in parallel with the company."

Sir Peter has also gifted 327,772 shares in Reg Vardy ( worth more than pounds 1.6m ( to the charitable Vardy Foundation, which helps to fund faith-based schools in the region including Emmanuel College in Gateshead and King's Academy in Middlesbrough.

Shares in Reg Vardy were buoyed by the purchases, closing up 12.5p yesterday at 512.5p.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 23, 2005
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