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Share sales by MS high command

A million here, a billion there. But there's plenty more where that came from...

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November Securities and Exchange Commission reports for Microsoft share trading show that Bill Gates sold $1.7 billion of Microsoft shares last month. The selling dates were in late October, after the trial had commenced. The first Gates videotape extract was played in court on 2 November, so the sale was not an emotional reaction to that event. But in terms of Gates' previous selling patterns for shares, this was a pretty significant sale. Gates has 141,221,948 Microsoft shares remaining, worth about $62 billion. Other executives reporting sales were Jim Allchin ($4 million), Paul Maritz ($69 million), Nathan Myhrvold ($160 million) and Bernard Vergnes (Chairman, Europe -- $2 million). Pete Higgins reported the sale of $17 million of shares in November, but they were sold in August, making him in breach of SEC rules that require reporting by directors and officers of a company by the tenth of the month following the disposal. Sloppy reporting of insider dealing at Microsoft was common until the start of the present case, when Microsoft evidently decided it wanted to avoid irregularities in share dealing. Paul Allen sold a total of $710 million, on his own behalf and to the account of several of his charitable foundations. He is a regular substantial seller of Microsoft shares, and has around $17 billion remaining. He also has substantial cable TV holdings, and upgrading these for interactive services will cost a pretty penny. It will be interesting to see next month, when the SEC filings are known, if there is a panic by Microsoft insiders as a result of how the case is going that tempts them to sell while the Street is looking so favourably at Microsoft: with the share price at $124.25, there would seem to be plenty of downside potential in the weeks and months to come. ®

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