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Jeff Bezos’ $4bn share sale does not signal end of tech market rally

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Jeff Bezos is back on the market. For the first time since late 2021, Amazon’s founder and executive chair is selling shares in the company, adding billions of dollars to his net worth.

So far this month, Bezos has offloaded around $4bn of stock. But the sudden sale does not mean a vote of no confidence in Amazon’s future equity value.

True, share price rises are prompting executives to sell more tech stock after a quiet couple of years. In October, Apple chief executive Tim Cook made his largest share sale in two years. A month later, Mark Zuckerberg sold around $400mn worth of Meta shares. Since December, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet, has sold stock five times.

But look at the transactions by the number of shares sold instead of their dollar value and they appear more conventional. Take the Bezos sale. Filings show that he plans to sell up to 50mn Amazon shares by February 2025. At today’s price, this would equal about $8.5bn.

Bezos has made larger sales than this in the past. In 2020, the year after his divorce, he sold 80mn shares. Note, too, that sales this year are part of scheduled selling, known as 10b5-1 plans, rather than knee-jerk reactions to market highs. 

What has changed is Amazon’s market value, which has doubled since the end of 2022. The sales also stand out because 2022 and 2023 were so quiet. Amid a tech stock sell off, company insiders sold less than $11bn of tech shares in 2022, less than a third of the total sold the previous year, according to data from Verity, which tracks filings.

Super sellers, executives at big tech companies who receive a large portion of their salary in the form of stock, led the change. Bezos opted to stop selling shares for the first time in a decade. The exception was Elon Musk, who made large Tesla stock sales to fund his purchase of Twitter.

Heavy cost-cutting efforts, a pause on interest rate rises and excitement about potential gains from artificial intelligence have propelled a recovery in sector share prices. A better way to measure how long insiders believe this will last might be to look at any changes in their stakes in these companies.

Bezos has been cutting his stake year by year. The last share sale did not produce a remarkable change. Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang sold shares last September for the first time in over a year after exercising options. But his stake in the company has changed little over the past five years. Both remain the largest individual investors in their companies.

All that should give other shareholders confidence that these share sales don’t signal a market top.

The Lex team produces timely commentary on capital trends and big businesses. We’d like to hear more from readers. Please tell us what you think in the comments section below or email lexfeedback@ft.com.

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