Woolworths directors have been buying up shares in the supermarket chain

Photo: Peter Parks/ AFP/ Getty Images.

Four directors of Woolworths have been keen buyers in shares in the supermarket chain.

They’ve all bought in the last three weeks since Woolworths released third quarter results showing it had smashed its sales numbers and was overtaking competitor Coles in terms of growth.

Food sales rose 5.1% to $9.27 billion in the three months to April 2. Comparable sales increased by 3.9%. On an Easter-adjusted basis, total sales increased by 5.6% and comparable sales grew by 4.5%.

Deutsche Bank analysts say the four out of the eight Woolworths board directors who bought stock on market didn’t spend a great deal but they did significantly increase their holdings.

“While these are not huge sums of money, they are not trivial either, with these board members almost doubling their holdings on average,” write analysts Michael Simotas and Daniel Wan in a note to clients.

Among the four directors is chairman Gordon Cairns who spent $179,756 buying 6,740 shares at $26.67 each.

A short time go, the shares were trading at $26.07.

Here’s the share activity by the four directors:

“One would assume that Woolworths’ Directors are well aware of the competitive environment and would be better informed than most on the quantum and impact of investments,” the Deutsche Bank analysts say.

“While there are certainly examples of insider buying ahead of weak stock performance, the recent director stock purchases leave us more comfortable that Woolworths’ sales momentum can continue and margins can expand.”

Both Coles and Woolworths are under attack from discount players including the German chain Aldi which had been making inroads into the eastern states market.

Woolworths is in the early stages of a turnaround program, shedding assets, slashing costs and prices to lure back customers

Australia’s largest supermarket chain is emerging from a bruising 2016 when it reported its maiden loss since listing in 1993.

In February, the company posted a first half net profit of $725.3 million compared with a loss of $972.7 million a year earlier.

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