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The Most Followed report is a summary of the most interesting corporate stories of the day, including the most popular stock exchange statements, the hottest topics on message boards, the biggest movers of the day as well as rumours and speculation.
Wednesday's most followed: Gulf Keystone Petroleum, Faroe Petroleum, Admiral Group, Cobham, PhysiomicsMarch 07 2012, 1:03pm
Investors continued monitoring market reaction to the news that the Iraqi government has given ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) a few days to decide on entering the oil-rich Kurdistan region.
Gulf Keystone Petroleum (LON:GKP), which operates in Kurdistan, topped the list of popular searches on Google Finance, while today’s disappointing update from peer Faroe Petroleum (LON:FPM) was among the most read RNS statement of the day.
Back in November, the world’s largest oil and gas group by market capitalisation reached an agreement with the Kurdistan regional government covering six exploration blocks.
Traders hope that other majors will follow Exxon and enter Kurdistan by taking over smaller companies already operating in the region.
It was reported yesterday that the Iraqi government, which says that Kurdistan has no authority to grant exploration licences in the region, asked Exxon to clarify its position on the Kurdistan agreements within the next few days.
Today, a government spokesman said the decision whether to allow Exxon to participate in the next licence round will be based on its response.
Some investors in Gulf Keystone breathed a sigh of relief as they feared that the government would threaten to strip Exxon of its rights to the massive West Qurna-1 field in southern Iraq, currently the largest in the country. This would have made the cost of entering Kurdistan prohibitive.
On bulletin boards, some posters noted that it was unlikely that Exxon was interested in participating in the licence round anyway, which means that the statements from the Iraqi government will not have much of an impact on its decision to enter Kurdistan.
Shares in Gulf Keystone rebounded today, rising 17 pence (6.5 percent) to 275.25 pence following yesterday’s 80 pence drop.
Faroe Petroleum, which also fell yesterday, extended losses today after announcing that its T-Rex and Bolan exploration well will be plugged and abandoned after failing to discover commercial quantities of oil and gas.
On a positive note, Faroe said the well confirmed the presence of oil and provided new data for further evaluation and de-risking of the exploration area, in which it holds a number of licences.
In the second quarter, Faroe and its partners will drill an exploration well on North Uist prospect, west of the Shetlands, while two other wells will target the Clapton and Cooper prospects in Norway.
Faroe is poised to extend its losing streak to three sessions today after seeing its shares tumble 13 percent to 152 pence in morning trade.
Both companies rallied after unveiling their full year results to top the leaderboards of their respective indexes. Cobham jumped 7.5 percent to 200 pence and shares in Admiral surged 11.5 percent to 1,159 pence, making it the top performer in the blue chip index.
The FTSE 100 insurer reported a better than expected pre-tax profit of £299 million, up 13 percent from 2010, which prompted it to declare a record total dividend of 75.6 pence per share compared with last year’s 68.1 pence.
“For the eighth consecutive year Admiral Group has reported record profits and record turnover,” said chief executive of Admiral Henry Engelhardt.
“We enter 2012 with confidence. We can continue to grow profitably and have a business full of committed and motivated people who work hard every day to ensure Admiral's continued success well into the future.”
Likewise, the outlook offered in Cobham’s full year report was positive with the aerospace and defence firm, which also decided to lift its dividend, upping it by 33 percent.
Cobham, a constituent of the FTSE 250 index, said conditions in its markets, including strength in export and commercial market, are expected to continue in 2012 with the group seeing “some underlying progress” this year before the impact of the Analytic Solutions divestment and its £150 million share buy-back programme.
It also noted in the report that the US government has confirmed its defence and security priorities, which bodes well for the business.
“The continued delivery of the strategy gives the Board confidence that we will continue to make progress over the medium term,” said executive chairman of Cobham John Devaney.
In 2011, the group posted a three percent decline in revenues to £1.85 billion despite a 14 percent jump in order intake to £2.05 billion, however, pre-tax profits jumped seven percent to £328 million.
Another full year report that made the list of the most read RNS statements came from small cap computational systems biology services group Physiomics (LON:PYC).
The company’s services help pharma companies to plan optimal doses, schedules and combinations for pre-clinical cancer drugs.
Running through the company’s financial results, its turnover increased from £14,088 in 2010 to £34,000, while operating losses were reduced from £374,354 to £328,674.
On the operational front, Physiomics signed a deal with its second major pharma company as a virtual tumour client and teamed up with ValiRx (LON:VAL) to help optimise both the pre-clinical and clinical drug regimens of their lead candidate.
Other 2011 highlights included two new projects with pharmaceutical major Eli Lilly and a collaboration agreement with Pharmacometrics to develop a new database of drug regimens.
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