Maestrano Group PLC (LON:MNO), a provider of artificial intelligence (AI)-backed analytics, tracked 30% higher to 3.4p in late-afternoon as it clinched a deal to provide a machine learning platform for a pilot project on Japan’s railways.

The deal with Nagoya Railroad Co will see the firm use its platform to detect defects in overhead powerlines, gantries and signals on a section of rail track for two months, although this could be extended following successful completion.

Meanwhile, Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC (LON:RBS) was one of the biggest blue-chip fallers, down 3.2% at 223.3p following a downgrade to ‘underweight’ from ‘equal weight’ by analysts at Barclays, who said that returns from the bank will “fade”, dividends will be slow to arrive and that there is potential for major Brexit downside.

A disorderly Brexit was a key part of the analysts’ 130p downside case for the shares, which factors in a weaker UK macro outlook with net interest margin compression as rates stay lower, loans contract, higher impairments and more costly resolution of legacy items.

3.00pm: Clipper Logistics trundles lower as Sun Capital abandons buyout plans

Clipper Logistics PLC (LON:CLG) delivered bad news to investors at lunchtime by announcing that US private equity Sun Capital had abandoned a possible takeover of the firm, sending the shares down 4.6% to 278.5p.

The firm said while discussions had taken place regarding a possible offer, the two parties had been unable to agree terms that would have been “recommendable to Clipper shareholders, given the medium term growth prospects of the Company”.

In the risers, waste-to-energy tech firm EQTEC PLC (LON:EQT) surged 9% to 0.17p as fuel derived from its demonstration plant it France was approved for testing by a “world class” local research laboratory.

LERMAB, the University of Lorraine’s research laboratory on wood material, will carry out tests using refuse-derived fuel (RDF) produced at the plant, which was built by EQTEC in collaboration with the university.

Franchise Brands PLC (LON:FRAN), meanwhile, bounced 4.7% to 126.2p after a trading update from the firm said its results for 2019 will show significant growth over the previous year and at least match market expectations for £40.6mln of sales and underlying profits of £5.2mln.

The group also said trading in 2020 had started well, with job intake at drain maintenance firm Metro Rod and Kent-based maintenance company Willow Pumps up on the same period in 2019 and a strong start to the year for franchisee recruitment in the B2C brands.

11.00am: Valeura Energy heats up as quarterly gas production jumps 22%

Shares in Valeura Energy Inc (LON:VLU) were hot property in late-morning trading, surging 23.1% to 40p as the Turkey-focused gas producer reported a 22% jump in quarterly production.

For the fourth quarter of 2019, the group reported production had averaged 646 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd) from its conventional programme, while revenues had also risen as a result of higher gas prices and the improved production.

Valeura added that it will be moving forward appraisal work for a deep gas play in 2020, and expects to deliver a work programme and capital expenditure outlook before the end of the first quarter of the year.

Among the miners, IronRidge Resources Limited (LON:IRR) unveiled what it said were “exceptional” drilling results from the Zaranou gold project in Côte d’Ivoire, sending the stock surging 13.2% higher to 12p.

In a shallow drilling programme, the junior hit grades as high as 23 grammes per tonne (g/t) of gold, while one hole showed gold at 3.39 g/t over a width of 22 metres (m).

Looking distinctly shabbier was clothing brand Quiz PLC (LON:QUIZ), which tumbled 10.6% to 16.8p as its Christmas sales fell short of expectations.

Revenues in the seven weeks to 4 January slumped 9.3% with footfall in UK standalone stores and concessions down by 7%.

Tarak Ramzan, chief executive, said the drop in revenues was disappointing but added that the company had made good progress on improving gross margins and reducing costs.

9.00am: Ince Group hammered after heavily discounted placing

Ince Group PLC (LON:INCE) had the book thrown at it by investors in early trading on Wednesday, with the legal and financial advice firm’s shares plunging 46.6% to 47.6p as it unveiled plans to raise around £16mln in a heavily discounted placing, open offer and staff offer.

The company is looking to raise £12mln of the total through a placing to institutional investors via an accelerated bookbuild at a price of 45p a share, a 49% discount to Tuesday’s closing price of 89p.

At the same price, an open offer will be made to qualifying shareholders to raise £2mln, with another £2mln to be raised through a similar offer to qualifying staff.

The funds will be used to help reduce the amount drawn down by the firm from its working capital facility in a bid to strengthen its balance sheet.

Among the risers, Erris Resources PLC (LON:ERIS) was one of London’s top gainers, up 16.2% to 4.9p as it prepares to begin work at the Loch Tay Gold Project to increase its resource to 250,000 ounces of the yellow metal following due diligence work.

The firm will earn an 80% share of the project as a result of the work, while its due diligence has identified two high priority targets, Glen Almond and Ardtalnaig.

Also turning upwards was Revolution Bars Group PLC (LON:RBG), which rose 6.9% to 90.4p as it cheered a seventh consecutive year of record sales over the festive period as drinkers packed into its establishments over Christmas and New Year.

In a trading update, the company reported like-for-like (LFL) sales in the four weeks up to and including New Year’s Eve were 4% ahead of the prior year, while weekly sales per venue over the period averaged over £65,000.

Proactive news headlines:

Erris Resources PLC (LON:ERIS) is set to kick off work to take the Loch Tay Gold Project to an inferred resource of 250,000 ounces of the yellow metal having concluded due diligence work on the project. In doing this it will earn an 80% share of the Scots prospect, which is around 27 miles from the permitted Cononish mine, owned by ScotGold Resources Ltd. (LON:SGZ) that also sits on the Grampian gold belt.

Immotion Group PLC (LON:IMMO) has confirmed the installation of 93 of its virtual reality (VR) headsets in the first quarter of 2020 after signing contracts with a number of attractions and venues. The firm, which specialises in ‘out of home’ VR experiences, said it has signed contacts in the past week with the London Eye, four aquariums and a European zoo and has agreed terms with a further nine aquariums and five entertainment sites.

Franchise Brands PLC’s (LON:FRAN) results for 2019 will show significant growth over the previous year and at least match market expectations for £40.6mln of sales and underlying profits of £5.2mln. Drain maintenance group Metro Rod led the improvement with 14% higher sales compared with 10% growth a year earlier, while recent acquisition Willow Pumps has integrated well and broadened the range Metro Rod can offer. Trading in 2020 had also started well, the AIM-listed group said.

Ironridge Resources Limited (LON:IRR) has hailed ‘exceptional’ assay results from first drilling at the Zaranou gold project in the Ivory Coast.  In a shallow drilling programme, the junior hit grades as high as 23 grammes per tonne (g/t) of gold, while one hole showed gold at 3.39 g/t over a width of 22 metres (m). Len Kolff, Ironridge’s chief operating officer said: “Assay results received to date are exceptional for a first-pass exploration drill programme and indicate potential for a significant gold discovery, notwithstanding that only such a small portion of the large target footprint has been drill tested to date.”

88 Energy Ltd (LON:88E) has told investors that the preparation for the Charlie-1 well is “progressing to plan” with spudding expected soon. In a statement, he Alaska-focused explorer said that ice road construction is underway and its base layer is presently about 25%. A permit to drill has been submitted, with approval expected in January.

Amryt Pharma PLC (LON:AMYT) will have a significant presence at a London conference for physicians and companies involved in treating a skin condition. It will provide information on AP101, its phase III drug for the condition epidermolysis bullosa (EB) on January 21. On the same day, Amryt scientist Dr Lara Cutlar has been invited by the event organisers to present a talk on non-viral gene therapy delivery mechanisms.

Tower Resources PLC (LON:TRP) told investors that Cameroon authorities have communicated that the government has decided to approve the company’s application to extend the initial exploration period for the Thali licence. Previously the initial exploration period had an expiration date of 15 September 2019, and, last year the company requested a twelve-month extension.

Amur Minerals Corporation (LON:AMC) told investors that it has now completed the baseline environmental assessment (BLEA) for the Kun Manie nickel-copper project. The document has now been filed and approved by the necessary Russian Federation agencies, it added.

Quadrise Fuels International PLC (LON:QFI) has unveiled plans to reshuffle its board as it continues a transition towards commercialisation. The specialist fuel firm said that from 1 February, its current chief operating officer Jason Miles will become chief executive, while head of projects Mark Whittle will take over as COO.

Avation PLC (LON:AVAP) the commercial passenger aircraft leasing company, told investors that, further to its announcement on 9 January 2020, it has delivered the second of two Airbus A321 aircraft to Vietjet Air under a long term operating lease. In a statement, the firm said the aircraft – which are being transitioned from a prior operator – has completed calendar airframe maintenance checks, been configured for operations by VietJet Air and has been put into Vietjet Air livery. 

genedrive PLC (LON:GDR), the near-patient molecular diagnostics company, has announced that it will release its interim results for the six months ended 31 December 2019 on Tuesday, 4 February 2020.