PREMIERSHIP strugglers Southampton have spent nearly £200,000 buying back its own shares.

Southampton Leisure Holdings, the company that runs the club, purchased 450,000 ordinary shares two days ago at 44p per share.

It is by far the biggest single transaction of share-buying by the club or its directors this year, but they declined to comment on the reasons behind the £198,000 trade.

However, one local finance expert said it may be a case of the club's bosses, including chairman Rupert Lowe believing the shares are undervalued.

The expert said: "Buying back your own shares is a common device when the share price is weak.

"The club has got the cash to be able to buy back their own shares, and would rather invest in itself than with any other company."

As previously reported by the Daily Echo, the Saints' main directors have steadily bought up chunks of shares over the year.

Earlier this month managing director Andrew Cowen continued the accumulation trend by spending more than £6,000 on 12,500 shares at 50p each. Both £407,000-a-year Mr Lowe and £301,000-a-year Mr Cowen, along with finance director David Jones, who earns £116,000, stand to become millionaires if the share price rises and they decide to cash in.

Mr Jones has already gone on the record to say there "is a feeling that the club is undervalued".

At the same time he knocked back any suggestion that the club was being lined up as a buy-out prospect.

Saints, which netted a healthy annual profit of £2.9m against a turnover of just under £49m, instructed London-based stockbrokers Collins Stewart to carry out Monday's transaction.

Meanwhile, general shareholders will receive their windfall dividend payments on Friday, October 22.

They will get 3p a share out of a collective pot of £856,227.

The club currently stands fourth from bottom in the Premiership, having gained just one point in five games.

At the time of going to press, shares in the club were valued at just over 44p - some 15p lower than a five-year high in July.