Plus500 Ltd (LON:PLUS) saw its shares jump 13.4% higher to 744.5p after the online trading firm reported record first half results, significantly ahead of market expectations, driven by solid increases in revenue and new clients.
For the six-months ending June 30, 2017, the AIM-listed group’s underlying earnings (EBITDA) doubled to US$118.5mln, as its revenue increased by 19% year-on-year to US$188.4mln.
And Premier African Minerals Limited (LON:PREM) gained 11.8% at 0.48p after the explorer said it has identified a potential new zone of lithium at its Zulu deposit in Zimbabwe, which may be larger than the current resource.
At present, Zulu has a resource of 20.1mln tonnes at a grade of 1.06% Li₂O (lithium dioxide) including 7mln tonnes grading 1.5% Li2O and an exploration target of 60-80mln tonnes.
12.00pm: Broker upgrades provide a lift for QinetiQ, ConvaTec, and Directa Plus
With little corporate news around, a smattering of broker comment provided some interest at lunchtime, with mid-cap defence firm QinetiQ Group PLC (LON:QQ.) standing out, ahead 4.5% at 245.5p after Goldman Sachs raised its rating for the firm to ‘neutral’ from ‘sell’.
Among the blue chips, ConvaTec Group PLC (LON:CTEC) was also a good gainer, up 1.1% to 287.5p as Canadian broker RBC Capital upgraded its rating for the wound dressings manufacturer to ‘outperform’ from ‘sector perform’.
And Directa Plus Plc (LON:DCTA) got a boost as Cantor Fitzgerald upgraded its rating for the graphene products supplier to ‘hold’ from ‘buy’, saying the small cap firm is “profoundly” undervalued at its current share price.
In reaction, Directa Plus shares surged nearly 30% higher to 41.5p, still well below the broker’s new target price of 80p, with the stock having floated at 75p in May last year.
But on the downside at lunchtime, Paddy Power Betfair (LON:PPB) was the biggest blue chips faller in lunchtime, losing 5.7% to 7,470p after the shock news that its CEO Breon Corcoran plans to step down.
Non-executive director Peter Jackson, currently chief executive officer of payments services provider Worldpay Group PLC (LON:WPG), will become the new boss of the bookmaking group when Corcoran leaves.
The announcement came a day ahead of the announcement of Paddy Power Betfair’s half-year results, and the betting group said it expects full-year underlying earnings (EBITDA) will fall somewhere between £445mln and £465mln.
10.45am: Vernalis dented by knock-back from US FDA; cash-raising hits Defenx
Vernalis PLC (LON:VER) was a big faller in mid-morning trading, shedding 10.5% at 17p after the biotech firm said it has received a complete response letter from the US Food & Drug Administration regarding the new drug application for its CCP-08 cold and cough drug.
Such a letter is issued by the FDA when it has completed its review of an new drug application and questions remain that preclude its approval.
According to Vernalis, the complete response letter for CCP-08 indicated that the outstanding items which resulted in the initial complete response letter for previously submitted cold and cough treatment CCP-07 remain, and that they need to be addressed prior to the resubmission and approval of both new drug applications.
Cash-raising dents Defenx
Cyber-security software group Defenx PLC (LON:DFX) was also a faller, shedding 10.5% to 166p after it announced a discounted placing of 734,375 shares and a subscription of another 156,250 shares to raise £1.4mln.
Both issues were priced at 160p each, representing a 14% discount to Friday’s closing price, and collectively, the shares represent a 7.2% stake in the company.
BV Tech SpA, an Italian cyber-security firm, subscribed for the 156,250 shares for £250,000, while the placing undertaken by WH Ireland raised £1.1mln. Defenx said it will also raise £2.0mln from the issue of secured convertible bonds.
The firm said it intends to use the proceeds from the collective fund raising to invest in its product portfolio, as well as its delivery and sales capability over the next 12 months.
In a separate statement, Defenx also said it has appointed BV Tech's founder and current chief executive officer Raffaele Boccardo as its deputy chairman with immediate effect, following on from the strategic partnership signed by the two companies in April.
Tough times for Telit
The market’s biggest casualty, however, was Industrial Internet of Things specialist Telit Communications PLC (LON:TCM), which plunged 37% lower to 160p after it revealed it has been hit by delayed US certifications for long term evolution (LTE) wireless communication products.
In its results statement for the first half of 2017, the company noted that although revenues were up 6% year-on-year, they would have been higher still but for a number of factors, including the aforementioned certification delays.
9.20am: Dukemount Capital jumps on first portfolio acquisition
Dukemount Capital PLC (LON:DKE) was the top market gainer in early trading on a fairly quiet Monday, with the real estate developer’s shares jumping 25% higher to 0.5p on news of its first acquisition with a minimum value of £5mln for a portfolio sourced with Larch Housing Association.
The AIM-listed firm announced in May that it had signed a deal with Larch for two years to identify properties, with a minimum total portfolio value of £5mln, which are suitable for leasing to Supported Living tenants.
Dukemount said today that the first property, which will be developed into separate apartments, has been identified and due diligence has been undertaken. The group added that it has also commenced due diligence on a second acquisition, again in conjunction with Larch, which will involve the refurbishment of an existing building.
Contract news lifts 21st Century Technology
21st Century Technology PLC (LON:C21) was another big AIM gainer, adding over 20% to 3.63p after the specialist provider of tailored solutions to the transport community, announced a three-year bus systems and services contract with Abellio.
With immediate effect, 21st Century will supply and install CCTV and associated communication technology on all new Abellio buses and provide technical support services to Abellio's existing fleet of approximately 900 buses operating in and around London.
The first order for 23 new vehicles has been received and, depending upon the actual number of buses manufactured over the period, the value of the contract is expected to be approximately £2.5mln.
And ITM Power PLC (LON:ITM) gained 5% at 26p on news it will be launching a series of large scale refuelling station designs at the Hydrogen + Fuel Cells North America trade fair in response to industry demand for larger scale industrial installations.
Proactive news headlines:
Industrial Internet of Things specialist Telit Communications (LON:TCM) has been hit by delayed US certifications for long term evolution (LTE) wireless communication products. Shares down by a third this morning.
eSports business Gfinity Plc (LON:GFIN) is to take its flagship gaming tournament to the other side of the world after a successful debut here in London. Australia will be the second territory to host the Elite Series after the AIM-quoted group inked a joint venture agreement with HT&E Ltd (ASX:HT1) and IKON Media & Entertainment.
Aussie sapphire and gemstone group Richland Resources Ltd (LON:RLD) reported a 66% rise in total income for the first half of 2017, with a tally of US$1.18mln versus US$710,000. It achieved revenues of US$341,000 from sapphire sales in the first quarter, and US$689,000 in the second.
Avacta Group Plc (LON:AVCT) said it is making “significant technical and commercial” headway with its Affimer technology as it updated on its progress. Affimers are small, engineered proteins, some of which are of human origin and some of plant origin, and are capable of binding specific molecular targets in a similar way to antibodies..
Premier African Minerals Limited (LON:PREM) has identified a potential new zone of lithium at its Zulu deposit in Zimbabwe, which it said may be larger than the current resource. At present, Zulu has a resource of 20.1mln tonnes at a grade of 1.06% Li₂O (lithium dioxide) including 7 million tonnes grading 1.5% Li2O and an exploration target of 60-80mln tonnes.
Drilling has restarted at Metal Tiger PLC’s (LON:MTR) Kalahari copper belt joint venture after its Environmental Management Plan received the green light from the Botswana Department of Environment. Metal and its JV partner MOD Resources Ltd (ASX:MOD) had been waiting on the approvals, which have now been granted through to the end of 2018.
ITM Power PLC (LON: ITM) will be launching a series of large scale refuelling station designs at the Hydrogen + Fuel Cells North America trade fair in response to industry demand for larger scale industrial installations.
Mosman Oil & Gas Ltd (LON:MSMN) gave investors an update as efforts to grow production continues at its new projects in America. The AIM-quoted oil minnow said that production at the Strawn project, in Texas, amounted to 440 barrels (gross) in the month of July, it also noted there was a second shipment and sale of oil (amounting to 177 barrels) and it had 650 barrels left in its inventory.
IronRidge Resources Limited (LON:IRR) chief executive, Vincent Mascolo, said he was “excited” at the rapid exploration progress it is making at its Bodite Project based in the Ivory Coast. Grades of up to 3.9 grams per tonne (g/t) of the precious metal were found.
KEFI Minerals PLC (LON:KEFI) has noted that Ethiopia has lifted the state of emergency implemented in October 2016. The junior recently agreed a finance package for the construction of the bulk of its Tulu Kapi gold mine in the country.