Businessman on finance backgroundBusinessman on finance background

Inspiration Healthcare PLC (LON:IHC) was one of the few risers on the junior market this week as the coronavirus crisis intensified.

In fact, the business may be one of the few beneficiaries of the outbreak with its ventilators in demand.

The NHS placed a first order on Monday, valued at £1.25mln, which Inspiration Healthcare said was its single largest ever – until Friday, when it landed a £4mln deal.

As the equipment is required immediately, management are discussing with its US supplier to speed up deliveries.

However, the critical care tech provider pointed out that governments worldwide are tightening measures as the pandemic worsens, which could potentially delay supplies.

“Given this, and that we are at an early stage in the financial year, we remain cautious of how these factors may affect the markets in which we operate,” chief executive Neil Campbell said.

The medical equipment firm’s shares jumped 9% to 70p.

Turning to the wider market, the AIM All-share continued a coronavirus-driven descent, down 20% to 623 points, while the FTSE 100 was in slightly better shape, dropping ‘only’ 4% to 5,322.

Among the countless fallers, speciality chemicals group Itaconix stood out with a 68% plunge to 0.4p. It is a business with a strong pipeline that was on the verge of bringing in more cash to meet demand for its additives. Now it’s been forced to conserve its precious funds and is even mulling an exit from AIM to save money.

Retailers were also hard hit by the progressive coronavirus shutdown. Fashion designer Sosandar PLC (LON:SOS) collapsed 62% to 5p after it said it expected a wider loss than predicted for the year to 31 March, adding it was impossible to predict the full impact of the outbreak thereafter.

Footwear seller Shoe Zone PLC (LON:SHOE) plummeted 40% to 71p after it said it planned to ask permission to cancel its recently approved final dividend. Similarly, posh wellie maker Joules tumbled 31% to 68p as it too cancelled a payout, saving £700,000 in the process as the high street suffered from a self-isolating drop in footfall.

The hospitality sector has also been battered, with City Pub Group crashing 52% to 60p after it was forced to cut salaries, cancel sports streaming subscriptions and reduce trading hours.

Meanwhile, magazine and events company Time Out Group PLC (LON:TMO) lost 36% to 50p after announcing the closure of five markets across the US and Portugal following local government guidelines.

Restaurateur Comptoir Group PLC (LON:COM) tanked 36% to 3p as it shuttered all its outlets until further notice. And competitor Tasty PLC (LON:TAST) shed 28% to 1p, warning that it was “impossible” to mitigate all risks coming from sharply reduced trading in the near future.

The risers were dominated by tech firms, such as LoopUp Group PLC (LON:LOOP), which soared 41% higher to 62p thanks to a “material increase in volumes” for its virtual meeting products thanks to the millions now working from home.

Similarly, Bango PLC (LON:BGO) surged 52% to 105p after it launched carrier billing payment services for its subscription-based games streaming platform.

Following an initial launch with a US mobile operator, the firm said customers will now be able to subscribe to the gaming service by paying on their monthly phone bill.

Unrelated to the coronavirus outbreak, IndigoVision Group PLC (LON:IND) rocketed 105% to 370p after succumbing to a 405p per share cash offer from Motorola Solutions, valuing the video surveillance systems provider at £30.4mln.

Some more pandemic related good news came from Tekcapital PLC (LON:TEK), which leapt 39% to 5p after portfolio firm Belluscura filed a patent for a treatment for patients suffering from respiratory illnesses brought on by infections such as coronavirus.

Finally, Anglo African Oil & Gas PLC (LON:AAOG) gained 22% to 0.2p after it announced that its associate Forum Energy had agreed to provide £150,000 before the end of this month so that the oiler can “satisfy creditors”.