Smart Metering Systems PLC (LON:SMS), up 19% at 544.5p, was a rare bright spot on Thursday as it raised £291mln by selling assets.

A minority of the group’s meter assets have been sold to funds managed by Equitix Investment Management.

The company said the Disposal will enable the implementation of an enhanced long-term, sustainable dividend payment policy and result in a significant reshaping of SMS’s capital structure.

12.30pm: Carnival sinks further after suspending Princess Cruises trips for 60 days

Carnival PLC (LON:CCL), already under the cosh this morning, sank further to 1,201p (down 23%) after its Princess Cruises suspended cruises for 60 days.

Voyages scheduled to depart between 12 March and 10 May will be affected.

Carnival, which will allow affected passengers to transfer their booking to another cruise at a later date, said the suspension was a “proactive response to the unpredictable circumstances evolving from the global spread of COVID-19”.

11.00am: Virus issues worry Computacenter

Computacenter PLC (LON:CCC) tumbled 12% to 1,284p after its results for 2019 included a cautions note about the effects of the coronavirus on its business.

“To-date, supply constraints from our technology providers have been minimal, although there are some concerns going forward. We do however have some concerns that in the medium-term, customers may postpone significant IT infrastructure projects while the current uncertainty remains,” said Mike Norris, the chief executive of the information technology (IT) outfit.

On the bright side, Norris noted, if there is a long-term reduction in business travel and commuting with a consequent upsurge in remote working, “it can only drive the need for technology even further”.

9.30am: Cash flow crunch for Travelex

Finablr PLC (LON:FIN), the owner of the Travelex business, halved in value in early trade on Thursday, down 53% to 10.55p as doubts were raised about its survival.

The company said it is taking urgent steps to assess accurately its current liquidity and cash flow position.

The fintech business has been caught in the crossfire surrounding the business dealings of the Shetty family, which is a major shareholder in the business, while the coronavirus has hit its foreign exchange business hard.

Elsewhere, Bodycote PLC (LON:BOY) lost 18% of its value at 528.5p after it became the latest company to raise the coronavirus alarm.

2020 has started with a number of challenges, notably Covid-19, and ongoing international trade tensions, the company said in its full-year results statement.

The coatings specialist serves, among others, the civil aerospace market, which has been rocked by the coronavirus outbreak, as well as the Boeing 737 MAX groundings following crashes last year.

Proactive news headlines:

Westminster Group PLC‘s (LON:WSG) ongoing gig as the technical partner on the container screening project in Ghana’s Tema port is set to be formalised. The screening project has been in operation since July 2019 but for various reasons, the contract between Meridian Port Services and Scanport had not been signed until now, paving the way for Scanport and Westminster to finalise their associated contract. The contract is for a renewable five-year term.

ECSC Group PLC (LON:ECSC) said it has secured two major managed service contracts with a national charity and high street retailer with a combined revenue value of over £590,000. The cybersecurity firm said the wins represented more than 20% of its current managed services order book and that the revenue will be recognised over the three year term of both contracts.

OptiBiotix Health PLC (LON:OPTI) has signed a licensing agreement for its cholesterol-lowering products in Bulgaria. Velinoff Pharma will promote and distribute the CholBiome and CholBiomeX3 brands, which contain the company’s LPLDL probiotic bacteria strain. It will target pharmacies, cardiologists, GPs and cardiology clinics.

Crossword Cybersecurity PLC’s (LON:CCS) consulting division has signed several new agreements, including three with companies in the legal, insurance and financial services sectors, to improve their cybersecurity posture. The AIM-listed firm said it had begun a cyber transformation project with a leading insurance company, the fourth client secured in the sector over the last 12 months, and is also working with a major UK law firm to implement new technical controls and “a more risk focussed governance structure”.

Arix Bioscience PLC (LON:ARIX) has said it will invest US$3.0mln (£2.3mln) in the initial public offering being undertaken by its portfolio company, Imara Inc., which will see the UK-listed firm retain a 9.4% stake in Imara. In a statement, the global venture capital company, which is focused on investing in and building breakthrough biotech companies, noted that Imara has priced its Nasdaq IPO of 4,700,000 shares of common stock at a public offering price of US$16.00 per share for aggregate gross proceeds of $75.2mln.

Primary Health Properties PLC (LON:PHP) is to fund the fitting out of a doctors’ surgery in Epsom, Surrey. Primary Health (PHP) will acquire the long leasehold interest of the property on completion of the work for a total cost of £4.1mln. The property will be let to the Ashley Surgery for an initial term of 20 years from practical completion.

Ceres Power Holdings PLC (LON:CWR) has raised aggregate proceeds of £49mln in total from share subscriptions by existing investors German firm Robert Bosch GmbH and Weichai Power of China. The group Bosch’s holding will increase from 11.8% of the existing share capital to approximately 18.0% of Ceres’ enlarged issued share capital. It added that Weichai will maintain its shareholding at 20% of the subsequently enlarged issued share capital. 

Tiziana Life Sciences PLC (LON:TILS) (NASDAQ:TLSA) said it has priced its US fundraiser at US$3 per American Depositary Share (ADS), meaning the gross proceeds of the stock offer will be US$10mln. The injection of cash will be used to advance the clinical development of Foralumab, the company’s phase I drug candidate for Crohn’s Disease and progressive multiple sclerosis. It will also be deployed to “expedite” clinical development of TZLS-501 for coronavirus COVID-19, as well as providing working capital.

Europa Oil & Gas (Holdings) PLC (LON:EOG) has announced the appointment of Stephen Williams, co-chief executive officer of Reabold Resources PLC (LON:RBD), as an independent non-executive director of the company. It said Williams replaces independent non-executive director, Roderick Corrie, who is stepping down from the board after twelve years of service, with the changes effective immediately.  Simon Oddie, Europa’s interim chief executive officer and executive chairman commented: “Stephen’s appointment to the Board of Europa is well-timed.  His proven track record at Reabold in sourcing, securing and participating in upstream appraisal opportunities, which have subsequently generated multiple discoveries, will prove invaluable to Europa.“

United Oil & Gas PLC (LON:UOG), the AIM-listed oil and gas exploration, development and production company, said it has appointed the chief financial officer (CFO) of Rockhopper PLC (LON:ROK), Stewart MacDonald as a non-executive director of the company with immediate effect. MacDonald, who has 17 years of energy and corporate finance experience, was appointed as CFO of Rockhopper in March 2014 and prior to that was a director of Rothschild’s global oil and gas group Graham Martin, United’s chairman, commented: “I am delighted to welcome Stewart to the Board of United Oil & Gas.  His familiarity with the Abu Sennan asset and experience in Egypt will prove invaluable to United. We are sure Stewart will make a very positive contribution to the Board.”