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Morrisons rejects takeover approach from US private equity firm

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Wm Morrison PLC (LON:MRW) has turned down a £5.5bn takeover approach from US private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice.

An approach was confirmed this weekend and followed an initial contact on (Thursday) 17 June.

In a statement, Morrisons said: “The board of Morrisons evaluated the conditional proposal together with its financial adviser, Rothschild & Co, and unanimously concluded that the conditional proposal significantly undervalued Morrisons and its future prospects.

“Accordingly, the board rejected the conditional proposal on 17 June 2021.”

The supermarket said the offer was priced at 230p per share, valuing it around £5.5bn, and compared to a closing price on Friday of 178.5p.

Morrisons may be regaining ground, analysts say

CD&R counts former Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy as a consultant and has already been spending heavily this year with a £2.8bn deal for UDG Healthcare, £308mln for Wolesley Plumbing and a joint US$5.5bn deal for US tech firm Cloudera.

Morrisons has previously been tipped as a possible takeover target for online giant Amazon and some observers expect the CD&R move to flush out other interested parties.

The group is the UK’s fourth-largest grocery chain with around 10% of the UK grocery market and employs 110,000 staff.

Tesco and Sainsbury’s are the largest, with Asda, which has just been taken over by the Issa brothers and private equity group TDR, in third.

Under takeover rules CD&R has until 17 July to make a formal offer.

Its approach comes just days after Morrisons suffered one of the biggest investor revolts seen yet in the UK with almost 70%  of shareholders voting against a management bonus scheme that stripped out additional coronavirus costs.

Small cap movers: Midatech Pharma soars after ‘breakthrough’ data release

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Midatech Pharma PLC (LON:MTPH) delighted investors after releasing what it called “breakthrough” data relating to its Q-Sphera technology.

The biotech company, which uses 3D printing to put drugs into injectable microspheres, said the data demonstrated its potential and can open significant opportunities for the technology.

“A significant number of latest generation medicines are protein-based and reformulation as long-acting injectables could provide significant benefits to patients, physicians and payors,” it said.

A strategic review has seen it shift from focusing on just one potential product to expanding its pipeline, which now has nine earlier stage programmes.

It was not all good news. Secura Bio, the owner of patents previously licensed to the company, is claiming breach of the terms even though the licence has now been terminated.

Midatech says the claims and demands are without any merit and investors seemed to agree, sending its shares up 37% to 37p during the week.

Conversely, Best of the Best PLC (LON:BOTB), which runs online competitions to win cars and other luxury prizes, tumbled 27% to 1,995p as the easing of restrictions hit trading.

The company is online-only, which means that it’s now struggling to keep customers glued to the screen amid the reopening of hospitality and non-essential retail.

Looking at the wider market, the AIM All-Share Index was down 0.6% to 1,241, underperforming the FTSE 100 which was flat at 7,137.

Next week, AIM sees three new arrivals all due to start trading on Monday.

Predictive analytics group Spectral MD Holdings develops AI algorithms to help clinicians make more accurate and faster decisions in the wound care sector; Thor Explorations, already listed in Canada, is a gold exploration and development company focused in West Africa and despite the vintage-sounding name, Victorian Plumbing is an online-only retailer of bathroom products and accessories.

Other risers over the past five days included Tavistock Investments PLC (LON:TAVI), which soared 61% to 4p after entering a ten-year strategic partnership with Titan Wealth, which will acquire Tavistock’s asset management segment for £40mln. Tavistock will act as Titan’s retail distribution partner.

Westminster Group PLC (LON:WSG) shot up 37% to 5p after securing two separate long-term contracts to provide port screening services in West Africa and to provide security services to five airports in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The group also raised £2.5mln through an oversubscribed placing at a small premium.

Zephyr Energy Plc (LON:ZPHR) leapt 34% to 5p after receiving two monthly revenue payments for oil wells it acquired in March. They are located in North Dakota and set soon to go into production.

CML Microsystems Plc (LON:CML) jumped 17% to 430p after reporting strong results in what it says was a “transformational” year. The semiconductors maker also recommended a final special dividend of 50p a share.

On the downside, Pelatro reversed 23% to 40p after placing shares at 40p a pop, representing a 24% discount to the previous closing price. The software developer will use proceeds of £2mln to invest in mobile advertising opportunity and repay debt.

Aviation services group Esken slipped 18% to 25p after Stobart Air went into liquidation as plans to sell the airline fell through. Potential buyer Ettyl was unable to raise the finance and Esken said it was not prepared to provide any more financial support.

Meanwhile, payment solutions provider Eckoh shed 9% to 67p after posting lower full-year results due to the COVID-19 pandemic, while UK lockdowns caused a fall in recurring revenue to 71% from 75%.

Proactive weekly mining round-up: Rio Tinto, Eurasia Mining, Kodal Minerals …

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Rio Tinto PLC (LON:RIO) appointed Peter Cunningham as chief financial officer with immediate effect. Cunningham has been interim CFO at the mining giant since 1 January 2021 when his predecessor Jakob Stausholm was moved up to the top job.

Eurasia Mining PLC (LON:EUA) is proceeding with its plans to create a series of joint venture companies with partner Rosgeo. On 26 March 2021, Eurasia signed a binding agreement to create a joint venture with Rosgeo in which Eurasia will own a 75% equity stake in nine platinum group metal and battery metals assets

Kodal Minerals PLC (LON:KOD) said geochemical sampling continues to return high-grade surface samples at its Dabakala gold concession in central Côte d’Ivoire. “We are making great progress with our gold exploration programmes in Côte d’Ivoire,” said chief executive Bernard Aylward.

Imperial X PLC (LON:CDL) and Alianza Minerals Ltd (TSX-V:ANZ) have formed a strategic alliance, the Southern US Copper Exploration Alliance, to explore for copper deposits in the US. The alliance will focus on the identification, acquisition and advancement of copper projects in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. The two companies intend to find a partner to develop the projects further.

Kavango Resources PLC (LON:KAV) has identified an electro-magnetic anomaly in Target Area C in the Hukuntsi section of the Kalahari Suture Zone project. Designated Target C1, the conductive anomaly is located 11km from Target A2, which was first announced in April 2020.

Horizonte Minerals PLC (LON:HZM) said it is close to finalising a debt finance package for the construction of the Araguaia Nickel Project in Brazil Due diligence has been completed by five international banks for the US$325mln sum, Horizonte said, with credit approval expected to be received in the third quarter of this year.

Pembridge Resources PLC (LON:PERE) hailed an agreement by which the Minto copper project in Canada, in which it owns a major stake, will list on the TSX Venture Exchange via a reverse takeover. Minto Explorations Ltd will reverse into a Canadian shell company.

Empire Metals Ltd (LON:EEE) said it started exploration activities on the four exploration licences of the Central Menzies gold project in Western Australia. The work included verifying historical drilling results and the acquisition of airborne geophysical survey data

W Resources PLC (LON:WRES) said it successfully completed the construction of a new water dam at the La Parrilla mine in Spain to resolve the issue of the high water levels. Dewatering of the mine pit is now underway and once water levels are reduced the team will be in a position to safely regain access to high-grade ore areas.

ECR Minerals PLC (LON: ECR) has announced results from recent soil sampling undertaken within the Historic Reserve #3 at Bailieston in Victoria, Australia. “I am delighted to announce further positive exploration news, this time from the implementation of a soil sampling programme utilising an innovative exploration methodology at HR3 that has revealed particularly high gold grades in soils and therefore identified a new target for drilling,” said ECR chief executive Craig Brown.

AfriTin Mining Ltd (LON:ATM) produced 183 tonnes of tin concentrate from its Uis mine in Namibia during the first quarter of the 2022 financial year. The concentrate contained 114 tonnes of tin metal and exceeded the production target.

Oracle Power PLC (LON:ORCP)(AQSE:ORCP) returned positive geochemical sampling results from its maiden orientation survey at its 100% owned Jundee East gold project in the Eastern Goldfields region of Western Australia

Ncondezi Energy Ltd (LON:NCCL) signed a term sheet with binding exclusivity with Nesa Capital (Pty) Ltd and Nesa Engineering (Pty) Ltd detailing the proposed formation of a new joint venture company to create a leading regional Southern African champion in the commercial and industrial renewable energy and storage sector.

Caerus Mineral Resources PLC (LON:CMRS) is continuing with due diligence drilling on the recently acquired Troulli project and results so far have significantly exceeded expectations.

Sunrise Resources PLC (LON;SRES) agreed to sell two Nevada-based gold prospects to Power Metal Resources PLC (LON:POW). Consideration for the Garfield and Stonewall Properties is £82,000 comprising £20,000 cash plus new Power Metal shares with a value of just short of £62,000 and additional warrants.

Trident Royalties PLC (LON:TRR) appointed Paul Smith as its new non-executive chair, with effect from 21 June. Smith was formerly a senior executive at Glencore and was with the mining and commodities trading firm for nine years. He was most recently head of strategy for the group before leaving in 2020.

Condor Gold PLC (LON:CNR)(TSE:COG) has commenced a 1,700 metre infill geotechnical drilling programme within the permitted La India open pit in Nicaragua. Two diamond drill rigs have been deployed.

Panther Metals PLC (LON:PALM) announced the completion of data processing from airborne geophysical programmes on its wholly-owned projects in Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

Proactive weekly Oil & Gas highlights: Challenger Energy, i3, Eco Atlantic, Zephyr, Mosman, TomCo, B

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Challenger Energy Group PLC (LON:CEG) provided an upbeat assessment of the secondary reservoir targets in the Saffron-2 appraisal well, whilst drilling continues down to the well’s main target.

Third-party petrophysical analysis of log data has indicated some 165 feet of net oil bearing reservoir sands, the company said in a statement.

Drilling is meanwhile marked at a depth of around 3,850 feet, towards the target depth of 4,550 feet. The well remains on-track for completion by June 23 and production testing operations are planned to follow in July, the company added.

i3 Energy Plc (LON:i3) is to drill two new ‘high return’ wells in the Wapiti production area in western Canada in the coming weeks.

The decision to drill the two wells, slated to start in July, is expected to boost output and revenue at an estimated net cost of around US$2.1mln, which i3 noted is just 1.3x the forecasted net operating income for the next twelve months. It is expected that the drill programme will conclude early in the third quarter. The wells are expected to add around 175 barrels of oil per day net to i3.

The company has also executed a letter of intent to acquire an additional 230 boepd of production in the Wapit area. These assets, Cardium and Dunvegan, are described as ‘synergistic’ to the company’s existing interests in the area. It subsequently plans to invest in a programme of six well reactivations across Cardium and Dunvegan which is forecast to add 310 boepd, at a capital cost of around US$410,000.

Eco Atlantic Oil & Gas Ltd (LON:ECO) (CVE:EOG) said it is looking forward to announcing a new drill schedule offshore Guyana in the coming months. The explorer said its partner and operator of the Orinduik Block, Tullow Oil PLC (LON:TLW),  is confident in the technical advancement and progression towards drill target selection in the third quarter of 2021.

It will follow the completion of desktop work this summer to reprocess seismic data. Progress on this timeline will see fresh exploration drilling offshore Guyana in 2022.

Zephyr Energy PLC (LON:ZPHR) provided an update on its recently acquired interests in the Williston Basin, North Dakota, where wells are in the process of being brought online for production. The company acquired non-operated interests in the package of wells back in March. In a statement, today, Zephyr said it has received two monthly revenue payments for the producing Iverson 11-14HU well.

Four wells – two at the S-Bar area and two at Feehan – were drilled but uncompleted (DUC) at the time of the deal and all have now been completed. The S-Bar wells have been brought into production so far and the Feehan wells are expected to be placed into production within the next month.

Mosman Oil and Gas Ltd (LON:MSMN) got the greenlight from the Australian authorities to conduct its proposed airborne gravity and gradiometry survey over EP 145, in the Amadeus Basin in the Northern Territory. It is anticipated that the company’s contractor will start the data acquisition programme in the week commencing 5 July 2021.

Previously, Mosman noted that it will be the first time that data acquisition will be undertaken across the whole permit, and, it will be used to identify focus areas for future programmes including seismic and potentially drilling.

A day earlier, Mosman updated investors on progress on the Falcon-1 well and the Stanley project in East Texas, US. The AIM-listed firm said the Falcon-1 well was re-completed in a new zone last week and can now confirm that the well is producing gas and oil with no reported water.

The flow is intentionally restricted with a 5/64 choke well to monitor performance, Mosman said, adding that the production rate with this choke is around 600 metric million British thermal units (MMBtu) per day (around 105 barrels of oil equivalent per day) and that the well has been operating at this level since June 12.

TomCo Energy PLC (LON:TOM) told investors the Greenfield Energy joint venture is now producing around 180 bopd at the Petroteq oil sands plant (POSP) at Asphalt Ridge, in Utah. It added Greenfield expects to shortly reach the targeted production level of 250 bopd, as it processes material with expected higher concentration of oil.

The company said that further shipments of oil are anticipated at similar prices to the first shipment, at around US$55 per barrel, though any change would reflect the prevailing oil price at the time.

Block Energy PLC (LON:BLOE) inked a deal with Baker Hughes to support drilling operations in Georgia. The memorandum of understanding (MOU) sets up a partnership enabling progress for its significant oil and gas opportunities, Block said.

The MOU envisages a production-led, multi-well drilling programme. The first project will be a horizontal well at the WR-BA well target location in West Rustavi, where the company is targeting 2.1mln barrels of recoverable resources.

Scirocco Energy PLC (LON:SCIR) is to invest £1.2mln in Energy Acquisitions Group Ltd (EAG), a vehicle in the sustainable energy sector with plans to acquire an anaerobic digestion (AD) biogas energy project in Northern Ireland. EAG has an agreement to acquire Greenan Generation Limited, which has a 0.5 megawatt AD plant, which creates biogas, and a new joint venture is expected to pursue a series of identified acquisition opportunities in the AD sector.

Scirocco highlighted that it is a value accretive investment funded by existing cash resources,  in line with its new strategy to deliver shareholder value through acquisitions in the European energy market.

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  • FTSE 100 closes 1.9% down
  • Brussels Court rules in favour of AstraZeneca 
  • US stocks plunge too

5.05pm: FTSE closes firmly in red 

FTSE 100 closed firmly in the red on Friday, while US stocks were also reeling, as investors fleed risk on both sides of the Atlantic.

The UK’s index of leading shares closed down almost 136 points, or 1.90%, at 7,017.

Over on Wall Street, the Dow Jones tanked over 383 points at 33,439, the S&P 500 dropped around 39 at 4,182 and the tech-laden Nasdaq lost over 108 points at 14,052.

Today is dubbed ‘Quadruple witching’ day – something, which happens on the third Friday of the month of every quarter, in March, June, September, and December.

It refers to the simultaneous expiry of single-stock options, single-stock futures, and stock-index options and stock-futures.

Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at trading group IG, said in a note: “Heavy losses in Europe and in the US are being influenced by options expiry but the second half of this week has taken on a distinctly ‘risk off’ feel, as investors seek to reassess a host of assumptions now that the Fed has changed its own working and outlook for the year for monetary policy.”

On Wednesday this week, the US central bank took many by surprise when it hinted that a rise in interest rates to curb inflation may come sooner than expected.

3.25pm: AstraZeneca wins EU legal challenge over COVID-19 vaccine deliveries

The FTSE 100 stayed put ahead of close, plummeting 110 points to 7,042.

AstraZeneca PLC (LON:AZN) said a Brussels Court has ruled in its favour in a legal challenge brought up by the European Commission regarding COVID-19 vaccine deliveries.

The FTSE 100 pharma giant has been criticised by the bloc after cutting supplies below the levels indicated by initial contracts.

But the judge ordered delivery of 80.2 million doses by 27 September, as the company has supplied more than 70mln to date.

The deal was to dispatch 300mln doses to the EU by the end of September 2021.

“All other measures sought by the European Commission have been dismissed, and in particular the Court found that the European Commission has no exclusivity or right of priority over all other contracting parties,” the company said in a release.

“The judgement also acknowledged that the difficulties experienced by AstraZeneca in this unprecedented situation had a substantial impact on the delay. AstraZeneca now looks forward to renewed collaboration with the European Commission to help combat the pandemic in Europe.”

Shares were flat at 8,383p on Friday afternoon.

2.50pm: Proactive North America headlines:

Naturally Splendid Enterprises Ltd (CVE:NSP) (OTCPINK:NSPDF) (FRA:50N) buys ‘state-of-the-art’ packaging line and issues shares to cancel debt

Esports Entertainment Group Inc (NASDAQ:GMBL) launches InVIE esports tournament series in South America

Ready Set Gold Corp (CSE:RDY) (OTCPINK:RDYFF) (FRA:0MZ) says will advance Northshore project with pending private placement of convertible debentures

Versus Systems Inc (NASDAQ:VS) (FRA:BMVB) powers in-stadium engagement for Los Angeles Football Club as live events roar back

Plurilock Security Inc (CVE:PLUR) (OTCQB:PLCKF) beats competition to win new order from California state taxation agency

Perma-Fix Environmental Services Inc (NASDAQ:PESI) (FRA:PFX1) announces new Therma-Fix Gen3 vacuum thermal desorption system to treat problematic waste streams

North Arrow Minerals Inc (CVE:NAR) (OTCMKTS:NHAWF) (FRA:VTJ1) starts till sampling program to identify kimberlite source at newly-staked CSI diamond project in Nunavut

2.45pm: Wall Street opens in the red

The main indices on Wall Street tumbled at the opening bell on Friday as investors were spooked by talk of interest rate hikes and worries about inflation.

In the early minutes of trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 1.11% at 33,448 while the S&P 500 dropped 0.86% to 4,185 and the Nasdaq fell 0.61% to 14,075.

While the market was broadly lower, an early winner was software firm Adobe Inc (NASDAQ:ADBE), which jumped 1.8% to US$561.34 shortly after the opening bell following strong quarterly numbers reported after the close on Thursday.

Back in London, the FTSE 100 was continuing to sink lower, falling 112 points to 7,041 at around 2.45pm.

1.30pm: Royal Dutch Shell, BP dragged by lower oil prices

The FTSE 100 was even lower in the early afternoon and plummeted 107 points to 7,046.

Looking at its constituents, Royal Dutch Shell Plc (LON:RDSA)(LON:RDSB) was down 4% to 1,363.6p and 3% to 1,414.5p for its class B and A shares respectively, while BP PLC (LON:BP.) shed 3% to 314.85p.

Oil prices are edging lower on Friday for a second straight session due to a strong US dollar following the Fed’s hawkish shift.

“The bullish trend in oil remains intact, thanks to optimism surrounding the demand outlook. The Dollar may well be strengthening but the fundamental picture for oil hasn’t changed,” said Sophie Griffiths, analyst at OANDA.  

“The supply/ demand equation continues to favour the demand side meaning that any sell off will likely be short lived. Taking a longer view on the oil market, rate hikes are a headwind, but a lot can change between now and 2023!”

“Meanwhile, the near-term demand outlook continues to improve with international travel restarting. The EU has added the US to its list of countries allowing non-essential travel.”

12.15pm: Wall Street to see mixed open

The FTSE 100 plunged deeper in the red at midday, down 79 points to 7,074.

Wall Street indices are also set for a subdued open, with the Dow Jones called 45 points lower at 33,649 and the S&P 500 4 points lower at 4,207.

The Nasdaq may offer some respite as futures are pointing at a green open, up 19 points to 14,176.

Declines in the former two indices highlight the ongoing concerns that rising inflation could soon curtail the expansive monetary policy mix around the world.

“Despite promises that central banks will remain accommodative, we are evidently moving towards a phase which will become increasingly dominated by attempting to quantify just how long we have left until the pendulum starts to swing back towards monetary tightening,” analysts at IG said.

“With Norway’s central bank laying out plans to start raising rates in September, we are evidently seeing growing confidence that the worst is behind us and thus normalisation will be required to avoid overheating.”

Thursday came with another rally for the US dollar overnight, with the index rising through its 200-DMA at 91.50 on its way to a close at 91.90, a 0.55% gain for the day.

“A less-dovish FOMC, foreign inflows into the US bond market, and a speculative market that was well short of US DOllars into the FOMC, should see the US Dollar rally continue into next week,” analysts at OANDA said.

11.15am: PageGroup, Hays benefit from strong white-collar momentum, says Jefferies 

The Footsie continued its descent in late morning, plunging 66 points to 7,087.

PageGroup PLC (LON:PAGE) and Hays PLC (LON:HAS) got their earnings per share (EPS) upgraded by Jefferies over “increasing evidence that strong white-collar momentum has persisted”.

The figures for both recruiters were moved to the top of the range ahead of their second-quarter results in early July.

Analysts at the investment bank were 19% above the full-year consensus for Page and 8% for Hays, with ‘buy’ ratings for both companies, even though they are 10%-15% below 2019 peak revenue.

Hays dipped 1% to 164.90p while PageGroup remained flat at 585p.

Jefferies said JOLTS data is too lagged to provide insight into current labour market trends, so it used weekly job advertisements from Indeed.com, as these have over 90% correlation with the temp industry volume growth.

Job search activity has yet to revive in the 25 US States, it said, as generous unemployment insurance has created a disincentive to participate in the labour market and some are hesitant to return to work due to COVID-19 risk.

“These are likely to be temporary headwinds because 25 states have brought forward cessation of programmes from September to June/July,” analysts noted.

“In addition, perhaps work/life balance and the utility of leisure (particularly vacation, visiting family/friends, etc.) has been reassessed post-pandemic.”

Job ads growth in the UK was deemed “strong but choppy”, though it remained “subdued” in France with Germany and Netherlands improving.

9.50am: Drama ahead for boohoo AGM over sustainability concerns

The FTSE 100 extended its losses in mid-morning, tumbling 24 points to 7,129.

There’s drama brewing at boohoo Group PLC (LON:BOO) as the fast-fashion retailer is holding its AGM today.

Investors are still concerned about progress in the ESG agenda as top executives may not be doing enough to draw a line under last summer’s scandal.

The AIM-listed giant, worth £4bn, appointed former high court judge Sir Brian Leveson who found that the conditions unveiled showed a clear lack of oversight, dismal monitoring and poor governance at the company.

Glass Lewis, which advises institutional investors, has pushed for a vote against the reappointment of executive director and co-founder Carol Kane, despite the recent improvements. The advisers have also raised concerns about company chair and co-founder Mahmud Kamani even though he won’t face re-election this year.

“Given the proportion of shares held by Carol Kane and the Kamani family, Ms Kane is likely to still be re-appointed. However a revolt would demonstrate again the growing demand for responsible investing,” said Susannah Streeter at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“There is growing awareness among investors that investing with ethical concerns in mind is good risk management. Businesses are increasingly facing pressure from to force them to think longer term, and be mindful not just of environmental issues but also the way they treat their employees and the way they make money.”

8.40am: FTSE 100 makes a subdued start

The FTSE 100 made a subdued start to an early session dominated by retail.

Official figures showed high street and online sales fell 1.4% in May as consumers took advantage of lockdown restrictions to dine out rather than shop.

Within that figure, food volumes were down by 5.7%. That chimed with the performance of Tesco (LON:TSCO) in the first quarter, which posted a sharp slowdown in underlying growth.

That said, a like-for-like sales increase of 0.8% was far better than the market had been expecting.

Analysts thought the grocer’s top-line to shrink 1% in the three months, which put it up against some testing year-earlier comparisons. The shares opened 1.4% lower.

“It is no mean feat to have nudged sales higher than at the height of the pandemic last year, and significantly ahead of two years ago,” said Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor, of Tesco’s Q1 performance.

“This could suggest that Tesco is holding on to some of the market share it gained over the last year, which bodes well for prospects.

“The latest lockdown during the period was also a factor, with meals at home remaining in force, such that UK sales peaked in March at 14.6% ahead of two years ago.”

Sticking with the retail sector – but focusing on the automotive sector – Inchcape (LON:INCH) led the FTSE 250 with a 6% gain after the car dealer said its profits would likely exceed forecasts.

6.5 am: Footsie set open in the red 

The FTSE 100 is expected to open lower on Friday as UK retail sales may reflect slowing supermarket sales.

The figures are ending a week of fairly strong UK economic data, ahead of next week’s Bank of England monetary policy decision. 

“According to the British Retail Consortium May sales rose at their best rate since the pandemic struck the UK. Total sales increased 10% in May compared to 2019, and by more than the same number in April on a two-year basis, with clothing retailers the biggest beneficiaries of a return to the High Street,” said Michael Hewson at CMC Markets UK.

“We could also have seen some forward bookings for hotel accommodation in the leadup to the May reopening as consumers book time away over the half term break, while the reopening of cinemas could also have acted as a boost.”

“If the recent May services PMIs are any guide, we could well still see a fairly robust month for consumer spending in May, though official estimates appear to be more conservative with a rise of 1.5% expected.”

Looking at global markets, Thursday’s US finish saw the Dow finish lower again for the fourth day in a row, and on course for a second successive weekly decline, while the Nasdaq finished higher, with the prospect that we could see a fifth successive weekly rise.

In Asia the Bank of Japan left monetary policy unchanged while extending its special lending program for companies affected by the pandemic to March 2022. 

On the corporate schedule we have a trading update from Tesco PLC (LON:TSCO) and Inspecs Group PLC’s (LON:SPEC) finals scheduled for Friday.

6.50am: Early Markets – Asia / Australia

Stocks in the Asia-Pacific region were mixed on Friday as the Bank of Japan kept monetary policy steady and announced an extension of its pandemic-relief program.

The Shanghai Composite in China dipped 0.56% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 0.58%

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 slipped 0.03% while South Korea’s Kospi lifted 0.14%.

Shares in Australia gained, with the S&P/ASX 200 trading 0.47% higher.

READ OUR ASX REPORT HERE

Proactive Australia news:

Emperor Energy Ltd (ASX:EMP) has raised $1 million in a capital raise that was heavily oversubscribed within two hours.

SUDA Pharmaceuticals Ltd (ASX:SUD) (FRA:E4N) has signed a global, exclusive licence agreement with Imperial College London for a novel invariant Natural Killer T (iNKT) cell therapy platform.

Zelira Therapeutics Ltd (ASX:ZLD) (OTCMKTS:ZLDAF) (FRA:G1G) is buoyed that Curtin University researchers have developed a new technology that improves delivery of cannabidiol (CBD) based drugs into the brains of mice by up to 40-times.

Arafura Resources Limited (ASX:ARU) (OTCMKTS:ARAFF) (FRA:REB) has welcomed support from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) in relation to a potential senior debt facility as part of the funding package for its Nolans Rare Earth Project.

Danakali Ltd (ASX:DNK) (LSE:DNK) (OTCMRKTS:DNKLY) says test-work conducted at its low-cost Colluli Potash Project in East Africa has confirmed production rates and outlines a path to lower operating and capital costs.

Archer Materials Ltd (ASX:AXE) (OTCMKTS:ARRXF) (FRA:38A) has completed the sale of the Wadikkee and Carappee Hill tenements on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula to NextGen Materials Pty Ltd.

Paradigm Biopharmaceuticals Ltd (ASX:PAR) (OTCMKTS:PBIGF) has received a key regulatory approval from Brazilian National Health Surveillance Agency ANVISA for its Phase 2 clinical trial evaluating the safety and tolerability of injectable (SC) pentosan polysulfate sodium (iPPS) versus placebo in subjects with Mucopolysaccharidosis type VI (MPS VI).

Kin Mining NL (ASX:KIN) is turning its focus to regional exploration targets after a major fourth phase drilling campaign at its wholly-owned Cardinia Gold Project.

Musgrave Minerals Ltd (ASX:MGV) (OTCMKTS:MGVMF) (FRA:6MU) has returned thick intersections in reverse circulation (RC) drilling at Big Sky prospect along a new gold corridor southwest of Lena deposit at the Cue Project in Western Australia.

Shree Minerals Ltd (ASX:SHH) is focused on exploration and development of its range of projects across Tasmania, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and New South Wales.

Small Cap Wrap – Zinwald Lithium, Victoria Oil & Gas, Vast Resources and more…

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18  June 2021

*A corporate client of Hybridan LLP

 

Joiners: No Joiners Today.

Leavers: AFH Financial  has left AIM following a takeover.

 

What’s cooking in the IPO kitchen?

Poolbeg, Proposed AIM listing and demerger from Open Orphan (LON:ORPH). Funds raised as part of Admission will be used primarily to fund the clinical trial costs associated with the development of the Company’s POLB 001 asset as a treatment for severe influenza and to acquire and develop new portfolio assets.  Offer details and timing TBA

Wise, the Fintech and payments start-up is planning to pull the trigger on a direct listing on the London Stock Exchange as soon as this week, becoming the latest tech firm and this time a Unicorn to cash in on the ongoing boom in flotations on the UK’s public markets. This will be entirely a vendor placing with no new shares to be issued, according to press reports.

Orcadian Energy, the North Sea focused, oil and gas development company, announces its intention to seek admission to AIM. The Company’s key asset is the 100% interest in the Pilot oilfield, with audited proven and probable reserves of 78.8m barrels (audited by Sproule BV). Orcadian plans to raise gross proceeds of c. £5m to progress its assets. Expected June/ early July.

Itim Group Limited (to be renamed itim Group plc) is a software technology company, established in 1993. Itim adds value by helping multi-channel retailers optimise their business and stores to improve financial performance and compete more effectively in the digital world of modern retailing. The Company provides flexible solutions proven at adding value as retailers transform stores, digital capabilities and operations suitable for modern retailing and profit improvement. The company plans to raise up to £15m on Admission on AIM (through a placing of new and existing equity). Due date late June / early July.

Spectral MD Holdings, Ltd., a predictive analytics group that develops proprietary AI algorithms and optical technology for faster treatment decisions in wound care, announces its intention to IPO onto AIM. Net proceeds from the IPO will be used to provide capital for the development of DFU technology which will include investment in additional clinical studies supporting the indication along with progressing regulatory filings; build a European presence and implement the Group’s sales strategy to sell the Group’s DeepView® product into various targeted European jurisdiction; build US distribution network and provide working capital. Due late June.

 

Baltic Classifieds Group PLC, the leading online classifieds group in the Baltics, announced their intention to IPO on the Premium Segment of the LSE. The Offer will comprise an offering of both new Shares to be issued by the Company, with gross proceeds expected to total approximately EUR 120m and existing Shares to be sold by ANTLER Equity Co S.à r.l and certain BCG shareholders. The directors intend to use the net proceeds from the Primary Raise for the repayment of existing debt in conjunction with the refinancing of the Senior Facilities Agreement targeting a net debt at IPO of approximately 2.75x FY21 Adjusted EBITDA. Expected early July.

The UK Residential REIT, a proposed closed-ended real estate investment trust established to invest in a diversified portfolio of affordable, privately rented residential real estate assets in attractive locations outside of London, announces its intention to IPO onto the Premium Segment of the LSE. URES is targeting Gross Issue Proceeds of  150m before expenses by means of a placing, offer for subscription and intermediaries offer of 150m Ordinary Shares plus an Issue of up to 50m Consideration Shares in connection with the acquisition of Seed Assets at an issue price of £1.00 per Ordinary Share. Expected market capitalisation following the completion of the acquisition of Seed Assets of £200m. Due 16 July

Nord Gold plc, the internationally diversified pure-play gold producer, announces the intended publication of a registration document and its potential intention to undertake an IPO on the Premium Segment of the Main Market. The Company has also applied for admission of the Shares to trading on the Moscow Exchange.

 

Victorian Plumbing Group Limited the UK’s leading online retailer of bathroom products and accessories, announces its intention to seek admission of its ordinary shares to trading on AIM. Group has grown rapidly in recent years and is now the UK’s leading online specialist bathroom brand by revenue in 2020 and the second largest retailer of bathroom products in the UK with an estimated 14.2% of the bathroom market by revenue in 2020. The Company’s growth trajectory was maintained in the current financial year, delivering results of £140.7m revenue, and £20.1m adjusted EBITDA for the six months ended 31 March 2021.

LionTrust ESG Trust PLC announces the publication of the Prospectus in connection with the IPO on the Premium Segment of the Main Market. The Company is targeting an initial issue of £150m by means of an Initial Placing, Offer for Subscription and Intermediaries Offer of Ordinary Shares at an issue price of 100 pence per Ordinary Share. In addition, pursuant to the Prospectus, a placing programme will allow the Company to issue up to an additional  250m Ordinary Shares and/or C shares, in the 12 months from the date of publication of the Prospectus and following Initial Admission.

 

Voyager Life, the health and wellness company established to supply high-quality Cannabidiol (CBD) and hemp seed oil products, announces the Company’s intention to seek admission to trading on the Access Segment AQSE Growth Market. Voyager was incorporated in November 2020 as a health and wellness business focused on CBD and hemp seed oil products. The Company’s directors believe that a significant opportunity exists in the CBD market due to the forecast growth and ongoing regulatory changes. Due 30th June.

Thor Explorations (TSXV:THX) seeking a secondary listing on AIM. The Company is targeting Admission during Q2 21. Segun Lawson, President & CEO, stated: “Thor Explorations has advanced significantly, in both project development and capitalisation since the acquisition of Segilola in 2016. This year, the Company is well positioned to achieve two major milestones with the commencement of gold production at Segilola in Nigeria and a maiden resource at Douta in Senegal, as well as continuing to progress our highly prospective Nigerian exploration portfolio on the Ilesha Schist belt.” Due 22 June.

 

Banquet Buffet

Block Commodities 0.024p  £1.8m (AQSE:BLCC)

Further to the announcement on 16 March 2021, Block Commodities announced that the Company and Century Cobalt Corporation, together the Acquiring Parties, have entered into an extension to the option agreement to acquire a 70% interest in a Medicinal Cannabis licence granted to Magnus Cannabis Group (Private) Limited by the government of Zimbabwe. Under the extension agreement, the exclusivity period to complete the Acquisition is extended to 31 August 2021.

 

CentralNic 83.1p  £208.7m (LON:CNIC)

The global internet platform that derives revenue from the subscription sales of domain names and web services, announces the appointment to its board of Matthew Max Edward Royde (“Max Royde”) and Horst Oskar Siffrin as Non-executive Directors with immediate effect. Max and Horst are joining the board as shareholder representatives of Kestrel Partners LLP and inter.services GmbH respectively. Max Royde is currently managing partner at Kestrel Partners, an investment management company specialising in business-critical software companies, which has a beneficial holding in CentralNic of 56,583,670 shares or 22.53%.  Max co-founded Kestrel Partners in 2009 and is a fund manager of Kestrel Opportunities. Prior to Kestrel, Max was a managing director of KBC Peel Hunt, running its technology franchise. He has over 20 years’ experience focusing on the technology sector. Horst Siffrin started his career as a German diplomat serving in Germany, the UK, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Bolivia, Poland and Spain. He is partner of inter.services holding/ investments, which has a beneficial holding in the Company of 37,085,870 shares or 14.77% and owner of H.O. Siffrin Consulting based in Berlin. From August 2011 until the reverse takeover of CentralNic in August 2018 he was Chairman of the Supervisory Board of KeyDrive SA, Luxemburg and member of the Advisory Board of the Key-Systems Group. In 2018 he co-founded AstraPharma.

 

Drumz  0.55p  £1.9m (LON:DRUM)

AGM Statement from  the investing company, focused on building value in the technology sector. “We regret the ongoing Government restrictions relating to COVID 19 mean that attendance at the meeting to be held today has to be curtailed. The following statement provides an update on the business. This is the first set of results following the re-focus of the Group on the technology sector. Our first investment in Acuity Risk Management Limited, which specialises in the management of cybersecurity risk, is in a sector where customer demand is running exceptionally high, as more and more businesses seek to protect their data for financial, reputational and regulatory reasons. Demand for the company’s proprietary software platform STREAM™ continues to grow and I look forward to reporting further on Acuity’s progress in the coming months. Our strategy is to invest in and acquire technology businesses where the Directors believe they can be improved by a combination of our management expertise and the provision of investment to improve the businesses growth prospects. We remain focused on building on the performance improvements already made at Acuity and we continue to look at investment opportunities where we can transform value, with the priority being to deliver enhanced value for shareholders. I look forward to reporting on further progress in due course.”

 

MediaZest* 0.095p  £1.3m (LON:MDZ)

The creative audio-visual company, announced its involvement with the new Vashi store in Covent Garden, London. MediaZest was delighted to be chosen by bespoke fine jeweller Vashi to supply audio visual solutions to their recently opened Covent Garden flagship store. This includes the largest deployment of the Samsung “The Wall” Business MicroLED product in UK retail as part of a double height, floor to ceiling interactive “Love Stories” installation within the immersive in-store workshop. More information about the store can be seen at https://www.vashi.com/covent-garden. MediaZest will announce its financial results for the 6-month period ended 31 March 2021 later this month.

 

Sabien Tech 23p  £3.3m (LON:SNT)

The Company focused on building a portfolio of solutions in the heating, cooling, and transportation sectors, announces today the appointment of Dr. Athan Fox as Chief Scientific Officer (CSO), effective immediately. Athan, who holds a Doctorate in Chemistry awarded by the University of Cambridge, is an entrepreneur and advocate whose work within sustainability, recycling and the circular economy is well known. His experience encompasses organic chemistry, intellectual property prosecution, technology transfer and fund raising for research, technology and innovation. In the last five years, Athan has been active in fund raising within both public and private sectors. During this time, he has also been selected to represent the UK and EU technology sectors on a series of Government-led missions to international markets. Dr Fox is undertaking this role at Sabien under secondment from Ever Resource Ltd, a company that is pioneering a recycling revolution through the development of new technology and materials recovery methods, where he will continue to be engaged on complementary projects.

 

SmartSpace Software  160p  £46.3m (LON:SMRT)

The provider of ‘Integrated Space Management Software’ for smart buildings and commercial spaces; ‘visitor reception, desks and meeting rooms’ has signed a new international customer agreement with ‘Gategroup’. The Contract has been secured by its subsidiary, SwipedOn and will involve the deployment of the SwipedOn Visitor Management solution across Gategroup’s international estate. SwipedOn will initially provide its solutions to 150 sites with a potential to expand to 200 of Gategroup’s locations globally. Deployment will commence immediately in UK, Europe, USA and Australasia. 100% of revenues earned from the Contract are expected to be recurring ‘SaaS’ revenues.

 

Vast Resources 7.75p  £16.5m (LON:VAST)

The mining company with mines and projects in Romania and Zimbabwe has appointed Wardell Armstrong, a leading multidisciplinary environmental, engineering and mining consultancy company, to work on the verification of the increased JORC Resource which is being targeted with the upcoming exploration drilling campaign at the Baita Plai Polymetallic Mine in Romania. The objective of the upcoming exploration drilling campaign is to target the downdip extension of the Antonio skarn from 19 level to 22 level and to convert part of the Exploration Target of between 3.2M–5.8M tonnes with copper (‘Cu’) range of 0.50–2.00%, gold (‘Au’) range of 0.20–0.80 g/t and silver (‘Ag’) range of 40-80g/t to a JORC classification. Exploiting the Antonio skarn at planned production capacity to a 21 level elevation would provide sufficient mineralisation for an approximate 7 to 8 year period and is the focus of a continuation of the incline access beyond 19 level. The Company intends to expand exploration drilling to the Antonio North skarn in early 2022 with the objective of converting part of the Exploration Target assigned to the Antonio North skarn, which stands at between 1.4M–2.8M tonnes, to JORC classification.

 

Victoria Oil & Gas 6p  £15.4m (LON:VOG)

Victoria Oil & Gas Plc, whose wholly owned subsidiary, Gaz du Cameroun S.A. (GDC), the onshore gas producer and distributor with operations located in the port city of Douala, Cameroon, has entered into a definitive financing agreement with Meridian Capital (HK) Limited to raise maximum gross proceeds of US$7.5m through the issue of unsecured loan notes. The proceeds of the Facility will be utilised for general working capital purposes, including long lead Items for the proposed well on the Matanda licence.

 

VR Education 17.25p  £39.5m (LON:VRE)

The virtual reality technology company focused on becoming a leading global provider of virtual communications solutions through ENGAGE, announced the successful completion of an oversubscribed placing of new Ordinary Shares  at 16p raising c. £7.7m gross. Approximately 75% of the net proceeds from the Placing is expected to be used for organisational development purposes including hires across all functions, with a new focus on building a sales, marketing and customer success driven organisation. The sales function is to be expanded to c.25 people, with business development roles to be spread across the US, Europe and the Middle East. Customer support roles across the US and Asia will also be strengthened to allow for 24/7 customer support throughout all regions, and the intensity of investment in product features will continue with additional hires in product / engineering. The balance of the net proceeds (approximately 25%) will be spent on sales and marketing activities, principally through traditional travel and trade show opportunities with targeted sponsorship and advertising (including digital). The Company’s focus is on raising awareness of the ENGAGE platform and the development of the Company’s global strategy through direct and partner channels across the US, Asia and Middle East geographies.

 

Zinwald Lithium 11.75p  £24.1m (LON:ZNWD)

The German focused lithium development company, announced that its 50%-owned subsidiary, Deutsche Lithium GmbH, has been granted a five-year Exploration Licence (the Sadisdorf Licence) covering approximately 225 hectares (‘ha’) in the Erzgebirge or Ore Mountains region of Saxony, Germany. The Sadisdorf Licence has the potential to provide additional resource upside to the Company’s advanced Zinnwald Lithium Project and is in line with its strategy to become an important supplier to Europe’s fast-growing lithium sector.

 

 

Head Chef:
Derren Nathan
0203 764 2344
derren.nathan@hybridan.com

 

Sous Chef:
Sacha Morris
sacha.morris@hybridan.com

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Dukemount Capital top riser on bounce-back after £6.5m of funding for its entry into the green energ

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Dukemount Capital PLC (LON:DKE) was the leading riser in London on Friday, up over 24% at 0.405p on volume of 104m shares.

The shares were heavily sold off on Wednesday on news that the company had arranged £6.5m of funding for its entry into the green energy market through a convertible loan note. 

Since Wednesday around half the 498m shares in issue have changed hands bringing the shares back to levels seen before the funding news. The £6.5m has been arranged as its contribution to a JV with flexible energy group HSKB Ltd to initially build 2 gas peakers totalling 10MW of power to help the national grid in times of high demand and sustainable energy is struggling when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow.

3.05pm: Boohoo drops as 12% vote to oust co-founder

boohoo Group plc (LON:BOO) dipped 2% to 326.3p after 12% of shareholders voted to remove co-founder Carol Kane as an executive director at its AGM.

“Carol plays an integral role in establishing the identities that sit behind each of the brands on our multi-brand platform, and as a co-founder of the Group her drive, enthusiasm and unwavering support for our Agenda for Change will be crucial in delivering change for the benefit of all stakeholders,” said chief executive John Lyttle.

Glass Lewis, which advises institutional investors, pushed investors to oust her and also raised concerns about company chair and co-founder Mahmud Kamani even though he won’t face re-election this year.

Investors are still worried about progress in the ESG agenda as top executives may not be doing enough to draw a line under last summer’s scandal.

“That investors did not have questions to pose [at the Boohoo AGM] after a scandal-ridden year where the company finally admitted to serious labour rights abuses in their supply chain speak volumes about their commitment to ESG,” said Thulsi Narayanasamy, Senior Labour Rights Lead at the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre.

“The only question posed related to the company’s controversial purchasing practices that ultimately drive the illegally low wage levels in Leicester and the response was characteristically flimsy. If I have heard that workers are still being paid below minimum wage in their supply chain right now, why haven’t they? We are left unconvinced by the progress made to ensure decent labour practices in their supply chain.”

2.20pm: VR Education slips after completing discounted placing

VR Education Holdings PLC (LON:VRE) slipped 13% to 16.75p after tapping the market for £7.7mln.

The virtual reality technology company placed 48mln new shares at 16p a pop, representing 20% of its issued ordinary share capital.

The proceeds will be used to boost investment its ENGAGE platform, which is used to train enterprise and education customers.

1.10pm: ReNeuron in demand as investor ups stake

ReNeuron Group PLC (LON:RENE) rose 8% to 127p at lunchtime after an investor upped their stake.

Richard Griffiths and controlled undertakings now own 8% of the clinical-stage stem cell business, from 7.15% previously.

12pm: MediaZest higher after contract with jeweller Vashi

MediaZest Plc (LON:MDZ) was a bright spot at midday as it surged 29% to 0.11p on the back of a contract with bespoke fine jeweller Vashi.

The AIM-listed company will supply audio visual solutions to their recently opened Covent Garden flagship store.

It includes the largest deployment of the Samsung ‘The Wall’ Business MicroLED product in UK retail as part of a double-height, floor to ceiling interactive ‘Love Stories’ installation within the immersive in-store workshop, the audio-visual firm said.

10.45am: DP Poland tumbles after posting higher losses

DP Poland PLC (LON:DPP) tumbled 12% to 8.75p after full-year underlying losses swelled by 96% to £80mln even though revenue increased by 7% to £15mln.

The Domino’s pizza franchisee due to higher costs, impairments and store pre-opening expenses.

In the five months to 31 May, delivery and takeaway sales increased though the dine-in business was still hit by COVID-19 restrictions.

Elsewhere, Tesco (LON:TSCO) dipped 2% to 225.50p after posting a sharp slowdown in underlying growth.

That said, a like-for-like sales increase of 0.8% was far better than the market had been expecting.

Analysts thought the grocer’s top-line to shrink 1% in the three months, which put it up against some testing year-earlier comparisons.

9.35am: Smartspace Software early riser after new international contract

Smartspace Software PLC (LON:SMRT) was an early riser on Friday, surging 9% to 167.5p thanks to a new international customer agreement with Gategroup.

The provider of software for smart buildings and commercial spaces will initially provide its solutions to 150 sites with a potential to expand to 200 of the airline caterer’s locations globally.

The AIM-listed group said the contract represents a “significant milestone” in the evolution of SmartSpace’s sales capability in SwipedOn as it increases its focus on larger clients with a multi-location international presence.

Elsewhere, Braveheart Investment Group PLC (LON:BRH) added 4% to 46.24p after booking a huge profit as it banked the proceeds of sales of two of its investments.

The group has offloaded Pharm 2 Farm and Remote Monitored Systems and is now focused on five strategic investments including 100%-owned Paraytec, which is working with the University of Sheffield to develop a rapid test for identifying cancer and pathogens, including viruses such as Coronavirus (COVID-19) and diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

The AIM-listed firm posted a pre-tax profit of £14.2mln in the year to end-March 2021 (2020: loss £575,000).

Proactive Headlines: ANGLE, Vast Resources, Sensyne Health…

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ANGLE PLC (LON:AGL) said a study using the company’s liquid biopsy system has helped increase the understanding of non-small cell lung cancer and how it mutates.

Vast Resources PLC (LON:VAST) said it has appointed environmental, engineering and mining consultancy Wardell Armstrong to work on the verification of the increased JORC resource which is being targeted by an upcoming exploration drilling campaign at its Baita Plai mine in Romania.

W Resources PLC (LON:WRES) said Symmall Pty Limited, as trustee of the Masterman Superannuation Fund, of which chairman Michael Masterman is both a beneficiary and trustee, has subscribed for 3.125mln shares at  8p to raise £250,000. The subscription includes 1 warrant for every 2 Ordinary Shares subscribed for.

Clinical AI specialist Sensyne Health PLC (LON:SENS) has appointed the former head of the UK drug  regulator as an independent director. Dr Ian Hudson served as chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency for six years to 2019. Before that he was the MHRA’s licensing director.

Westminster Group PLC (LON:WSG), the security and managed services specialist, raised £2.5mln through an oversubscribed placing at 5.7p per share.

Braveheart Investment Group PLC (LON:BRH) booked a huge profit as it banked the proceeds of sales of two of its investments – Pharm 2 Farm and Remote Monitored Systems. The investment group posted a pre-tax profit of £14.2mln in the year to end-March 2021 (2020: loss £575,000).

CentralNic Group PLC (LON:CNIC) announced it has appointed Matthew Max Edward Royde and Horst Oskar Siffrin as non-executive directors with immediate effect.

Shield Therapeutics PLC (LON:STX) said Greg Madison will join the board with immediate effect and is fulfilling the role of the group’s chief executive.

Sensyne Health PLC (LON:SENS) appointed the former head of the UK drug regulator as an independent director.

Woodbois Limited (LON:WBI) said it has published its sustainability report for the year to December 31, 2020 on its website, which aims to provide an overview of the company’s strategy, performance, opportunities and future outlook in relation to material financial, economic, social and governance issues. The report also addresses value creation considerations for investors and all key stakeholders.

Angling Direct PLC (LON:ANG) said that due to the UK’s decision to extend its current COVID-19 restrictions, its AGM on June 23 will be held as a closed meeting.

Metal Tiger PLC (LON:MTR) has noted an announcement by Southern Gold Limited (ASX:SAU), in which it holds a 19.1% stake, that it has begun drilling at the Deokon project in South Korea.

Zephyr Energy PLC (LON:ZPHR) said its presentation from Proactive Investors’ One2One Virtual Forum is now available on its website. The company also provided updated financial information on its project in the Paradox Basin, Utah, adding that it is due to commence a drilling programme on the project in July.

Trident Royalties PLC (LON:TRR) appointed Paul Smith as its new non-executive chair, with effect from 21 June.

Challenger Energy Group PLC (LON:CEG) provided an upbeat assessment of the secondary reservoir targets in the Saffron-2 appraisal well, whilst drilling continues down to the well’s main target.

European Metals Holdings Ltd (LON:EMH) is set to increase its exposure to investors in the United States. It has hired Deutsche Bank for an American Depositary Shares (ADS) facility and it will have its ADS shares listed on the OTC Market, starting in July. Each ADS unit will represent 20 ordinary European Metals shares.

ANGLE looks to change the game for cancer detection

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What ANGLE does

ANGLE plc (LON:AGL, OTCQX:ANPCY) is the firm behind Parsortix – a simple blood test which can help doctors spot the signs of cancer at an early stage.

Blood tests – or liquid biopsies as they are known to clinicians – are seen as having important advantages over the tissue samples that are commonly used by hospitals: they are less traumatic, return results quicker and are cheaper.

Parsortix is to different to many of its rivals as, rather than testing for fragments of dead cancer cells, it detects and captures circulating tumour cells (CTCs).

CTCs provide the tell-tale signs of cancer and their capture can allow doctors to more accurately assess treatment options.

This method is seen as more reliable because other tests have shown that fragments of dead cancer cells are present in around a quarter of people over 65 who do not have cancer. CTCs, on the other hand, give a complete picture because they can only be found in people with cancer.

The system has also been supported by the results of a study from the University of Southern California (USC), published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences,which highlighted the “key advantages” of its Parsortix system compared to a standard of care tissue biopsy.

Independent data from researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE, has, according to ANGLE, also provided further evidence that the Parsortix system is able to capture and harvest a variety of CTCs, irrespective of their surface antigens, for downstream molecular analysis.

 

Head and neck cancer

A study by the University of Athens showed its liquid biopsy was superior to a leading antibody approach when it came to harvesting CTCs in people with head and neck cancer.

Researchers drew blood from 50 patients and 18 healthy volunteers. The published data revealed use of the ANGLE technology resulted in much higher CTC harvesting positivity rates, purer samples, and “excellent” RNA quality for molecular analysis.

Parsortix has also been used by researchers in Santiago, Spain, to screen people with head and neck and non-small cell lung cancers.

 

Foetal and ovarian testing

Cancer is where Parsortix has been gaining the most traction – with more than 200 of its devices are in use around the world, but the system has also showed promise in harvesting foetal cells, which could help detect abnormalities such as Down’s Syndrome in unborn children.

In the small-scale study, Parsortix was able to distinguish between male and female chromosomes and, in one case, correctly identified trisomy 21, the marker for Down’s.

Parents and doctors are willing to pay a hefty price to ensure the health of their unborn babies, with the non-invasive prenatal testing market estimated to be worth around US$600mln. Analysts expect it to grow to US$1bn a year by 2022.

 

Melanoma

Researchers in Western Australia using the Parsortix liquid biopsy system have found another use for the cancer detection device. A team at Edith Cowan University in Perth deployed the technology to monitor people with melanoma and were able to sort them into high risk and low-risk groups.

This has opened the possibility of assessing the prognosis and tailoring the treatment approach “taking into account disease status”, ANGLE investors were told. Parsortix was also shown to be superior to other methods looked at by the Edith Cowan team at picking up the tell-tale signs of cancer assessed.

 

Kidney cancer

A study by Italy’s Istituto Nazionale Tumori di Milano suggested that even the presence of a single circulating tumour cell (CTC) in a blood sample prior to treatment may predict a reduced progression-free survival.

 

Lung cancer

An analysis by the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf used Parsortix in the early detection of the spread of lung cancer to the brain, suggesting it could be a viable solution.

Currently, the only way to assess whether the disease has developed in this way is to carry out a “highly invasive” tissue biopsy.

New research from the  Laboratory of Translational Oncology, School of Medicine, University of Crete, also demonstrated the potential of Parsortix to assess whether non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients will respond to immunotherapy drugs.

 

Advanced prostate cancer

A study conducted at University of Southern California concluded that the liquid biopsy system provides a “straightforward and scalable approach” to analysing and assessing treatment options for men with advanced prostate cancer, while ANGLE believes the workflow could extend to most solid tumour cancer types.

 

How it is doing

In its interim results for the six months to June 30, chairman Garth Selvey said the group is now making “strong progress” towards commercialising its liquid biopsy, restating plans outlined previously after it raised £19.6mln to fund its ambitious blueprint.

The cash injection will be invested to create clinical laboratories in the US and UK and to underwrite the development of a pharma service business that will tap into the huge market potential of its Parsortix technology.

The fundraising followed news in October that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now moving to a “substantive review” of Parsortix after an initial hurdle was quickly negotiated following the initial submission of the company’s data for Parsortix in September.

The regulator’s administrative review is designed to ensure the research group has submitted all the necessary “elements and information” and paves the way for the detailed assessment of ANGLE’s Parsortix system.

The company is seeking Class II De Novo FDA clearance for the cancer detection system and is hoping to receive sign-off for its use in metastatic breast cancer.

Financially, during the first half ANGLE did what most R&D companies are expected to do – it burned cash and made a loss. That first-half loss was flat at £4.8mln.

More importantly, it exited the period with £13.8mln in the bank, and it added a ‘net’ £18.5mln from the fundraising activities.

 

What the chairman says

“After disruption during the period caused by COVID-19 restrictions, the Company adapted and, after the period end, successfully completed the five year programme of work to make the full De Novo FDA submission for Parsortix.  This marked a water-shed moment for ANGLE in its goal to achieve the first ever FDA clearance, the gold standard for medical devices globally, for a system to harvest cancer cells from patient blood for subsequent analysis, initially in metastatic breast cancer”, chairman Garth Selvey said in a statement accompanying the firm’s interim results.

“Following the success of this submission, the Company was delighted by the support from existing and new investors in the fundraising announced on 27 October 2020.  ANGLE now has momentum and is making strong progress towards commercialising its unique liquid biopsy platform to support personalised cancer care.”

“ANGLE is pursuing the opportunity for multiple revenue streams with the establishment of clinically accredited laboratories for running patient samples, development of a pharma services business with a particular focus on immunotherapy, and the design of clinical utility studies to drive adoption of the Parsortix system in clinical practice.”

 

Video

Sparks fly at boohoo AGM as investors revolt over ESG concerns

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boohoo Group PLC (LON:BOO) saw sparks fly at its AGM on Friday afternoon after 12% of shareholders voted to remove co-founder Carol Kane as an executive director amid ongoing fallout from a supply chain scandal last year.

Glass Lewis, which advises institutional investors, had pushed investors to oust Kane and also raised concerns about company chair and co-founder Mahmud Kamani even though he won’t face re-election this year.

READ: boohoo still an attractive stock, says Barclays

However, despite the sizeable rebellion, Kane was defended by boohoo’s chief executive John Lyttle.

“Carol plays an integral role in establishing the identities that sit behind each of the brands on our multi-brand platform, and as a co-founder of the Group her drive, enthusiasm and unwavering support for our Agenda for Change will be crucial in delivering change for the benefit of all stakeholders”, Lyttle said.

The rebellion is likely an indication that many investors are still worried about progress in the company’s ESG agenda and fears that top executives may not be doing enough to draw a line under last summer’s scandal.

The firm, which is the second-largest on the AIM market with a market cap of around £4bn, appointed former high court judge Sir Brian Leveson to review its supply chains, which in turn has revealed a clear lack of oversight, dismal monitoring and poor governance at the company.

However, some activists have pointed out that investor commitment to ESG may not be as solid as it seems.

“That investors did not have questions to pose [at the Boohoo AGM] after a scandal-ridden year where the company finally admitted to serious labour rights abuses in their supply chain speak volumes about their commitment to ESG,” said Thulsi Narayanasamy, Senior Labour Rights Lead at the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre.

“The only question posed related to the company’s controversial purchasing practices that ultimately drive the illegally low wage levels in Leicester and the response was characteristically flimsy. If I have heard that workers are still being paid below minimum wage in their supply chain right now, why haven’t they? We are left unconvinced by the progress made to ensure decent labour practices in their supply chain”, Narayanasamy added.

Shares in boohoo dropped 2% to 325.1p in late afternoon trading.

–Updates share price and AGM details, adds comment–

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