Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King yesterday sold 50,000 of his shares in the grocer, the latest disposal by a director in the past month.

The shares sold were worth about £190,000 and represented only 4% of King’s holding – he still has shares worth about £5m – but the deal raised some eyebrows in the City.

Espirito Santo analyst Caroline Gulliver observed it was the second “notable sale” by a member of executive management in the past month.

Strategy supremo Darren Shapland has sold 150,000 shares – 17% of his stake and worth £600,000.

Gulliver said: “With the shares trading on 14.4 times our calendar 2011 earnings per share estimates, it would feel as though there is very little room for disappointment in Sainsbury’s valuation.

“While there is little sign that the operational delivery has been derailed, it is difficult to see this news as incrementally positive.”