STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Hennes & Mauritz AB chairman Stefan Persson may be single-handedly propping up shares in the Swedish fashion retailer.
In April alone, the billionaire acquired about 18.2 million shares in Stockholm-based H&M for 2.46 billion kronor ($278 million), bringing the value of purchases since the beginning of last year to 13.4 billion kronor.
The transactions mean that Persson and his family now hold 42.8 percent of H&M, according to Bloomberg calculations based on the latest regulatory filings. As the buying has intensified, H&M’s share price has recovered. Since the end of March, H&M is up over 20 percent, after slumping more than 40 percent in the preceding 12 months.
“We have had a lot of incoming calls from investors wanting to understand why H&M shares have risen so sharply over the last few weeks and whether this has any implications for our fundamental views on the stock," Morgan Stanley analysts Geoff Ruddell and Amy Curry said in a note to clients on April 29. "It does not."
Recent gains in H&M’s share price are primarily driven by the chairman’s purchases, and the analysts remain "as bearish as ever" on the stock, they said.
But the chairman’s purchases have provided some respite to investors as H&M struggles to adapt its business model to a world in which physical shops are less important and a big online presence is key.
Of the 34 analysts who provide their research on H&M to Bloomberg, only two are advising clients to buy the shares. Eighteen have sell recommendations and 14 have hold ratings.
On average, the analysts predict H&M shares will fall about 20 percent over the next 12 months, marking the worst return potential the company has had since at least early 2004.
The Morgan Stanley analysts said they expect the effect Persson is having on the stock to peter out in the next few days because they expect him to limit new purchases to the amount he gets paid out in dividends this month.
There’s also only a “limited risk that the Persson family could look to take H&M private," they said. The family has also repeatedly denied it has any such plans.
By Niklas Magnusson, Hanna Hoikkala and Anna Molin; editor: Tasneem Hanfi Brögger.