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Flying Brands lifts off as it confirms advanced talks regarding a North American acquisition

A look at some of the biggest risers and falls on the London market today
Acquisition move
Flying Brands said the consideration payable would be approximately £500,000, the majority of which would be satisfied in shares

Flying Brands Limited (LON:FBDU) saw its shares lift off in afternoon trading, gaining 16.7% at 5.25p after the medical services and software company confirmed that it is in advanced negotiations in respect of an acquisition of a North American medical imaging software and analytics company.

The AIM listed firm said the acquisition target owns FDA approved medical imaging software using artificial intelligence techniques complementary and synergistic to those of Flying Brands.

It added that it is expected that the consideration payable would be approximately £500,000, the majority of which would be satisfied in Flying Brands' shares.

Elsewhere Escher Group Holdings PLC (LON:ESCH) saw its shares soar 20% higher to 181p after the postal services firm agreed to be acquired by Hanover Active Equity Fund LP in a £35.3 mln.

Hanover Active Equity Fund - acting through wholly-owned subsidiary Exeter Acquisition Ltd - already owns 4.8mln shares or a 25.5% stake in Escher.

The deal would see Hanover pay 185p per share for the outstanding shares, a 32% premium to the closing price on December 12, the day prior to Hanover making its initial approach.

Prairie Polish move

And Prairie Mining Ltd (LON:PDZ) rose 10.5% to 34.25p after the group confirmed a press report in a Polish newspaper saying the company was in talks with a Polish miner over the development of its assets in the country.

The report, in Polish newspaper Dziennik Gazeta Prawna on Thursday, said Prairie had met with Warsaw-listed coal miner Jastrzebska Spolka Weglowa SA over co-operation on Prairie's assets in Poland.

Prairie - which is listed in Warsaw, London, and in Sydney and is currently developing the Jan Karski and Debiensko coal mines in the country - confirmed a meeting was held with JSW where "preliminary" discussions took place, however, it stressed they were at a very early stage and there is no certainty of any outcome from the talks.

1.20pm: Compass Group serves up tasty trading news

Contract caterer Compass Group PLC (LON:CPG) was top FTSE 100 gainer at lunchtime, gaining 4.6% at 1,503.5p after it said organic revenue grew by 5.9% in its latest quarter driven by strong levels of new business wins and retentions.

North America was the star for Compass in the three months to December with revenue 8.2% higher, while Turkey and Latin America also did well.

The catering giant has had to cope with the recent death of chief executive Richard Cousins, who was killed with his family in a plane crash near Sydney.

Elsewhere, blue chip advertising giant WPP PLC (LON:WPP) was also in demand, adding 2.1% at 1,288.5p as 2017 earnings from its rival Publicis met analysts' expectations and the French company said organic growth improved throughout 2017.

Glaxo finds gains

Drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline got a boost too, up 1.7% to 1,307.8p after ViiV Healthcare - the global specialist HIV company majority-owned by the group with Pfizer Inc. and Shionogi Limited as shareholders - said it has filed patent infringement litigation against Gilead Sciences over bictegravir in the US and Canada.

Separately, Glaxo - which reported fourth quarter numbers on Wednesday - also announced that ViiV Healthcare has launched an eighth phase III study in two-drug regimen programme for an HIV-1 treatment.

But medical products group Smith & Nephew PLC (LON:SN.) was a FTSE 100 faller, down 2.5% to 1,216p despite seeing its revenues rise in 2017, with pre-tax profit falling by 17%.

In the 12 months ended December 31, S&N’s revenues grew 2% to US$4.77bn (2016: US$4.67bn), slightly below consensus for US$4.78bn, while pre-tax profit was US$879mln, down from US$1.06bn a year earlier and also short of the consensus estimate for US$901mln.

11.20am: Nanoco jumps as secures material development and supply agreement

Nanoco Group PLC (LON:NANO) was the market’s biggest gainer in late morning trading, jumping nearly 46% higher to 34.5p after the quantum dots manufacturer revealed it has secured a material development and supply agreement with a undisclosed US listed company.

Under the agreement, the company will scale-up and mass produce novel nano-particles for advanced electronic devices and supply them from its production facility in Runcorn, UK. The US company will fund the capital expenditure required to expand Nanoco's production facility.

Dillistone Group PLC (LON:DSG) was also a strong performer, up 16,8% to 73p after the recruitment industry-focused software provider said its operating profit is expected to beat market expectations in 2017, after an improved performance in the second half of the year.

The firm said that, over the last two months, client subscriptions for GatedTalent have more than doubled, remaining ahead of expectations, and it continues to expect GatedTalent and its General Data Protection Regulation initiatives to have a positive impact on the order book for the first half of 2018.

And aerial drones maker Strat Aero PLC (LON:AERO) saw its shares take-off, adding 3% at 0.07p after it received a much-needed boost from a contract award worth £1.1mln.

The company’s wholly-owned Geocurve subsidiary has been awarded a contract to provide a 3D and virtual reality (VR) survey service for the Environment Agency's Thames Estuary Asset Management 2100 programme.

The contract initially provides fixed revenue of £1.1mln over three years, with work beginning within the current quarter.

9.30am: Black cloud over light trading update from Sophos

Sophos Group PLC (LON:SOPH) was one of the top market fallers in early morning trading, down 14% to 533p after an update from the FTSE 250 listed cloud-enabled network security solutions provider disappointed, leading Numis Securities to downgrade its rating to ‘hold’ from ‘buy’.

The Numis analysts noted that Sophos’ third-quarter growth of 14% at constant currency looked light compared to first-half growth of 23%, although they said the 9 month year to date growth of 21% still leaves full-year guidance looking achievable if the quarterly is sustained.

“Overall however,” the analysts added, “the slowdown in billings is a little worrisome, particularly given the renewals tailwind in the quarter, but probably more significantly, the beat-and-raise pattern at Sophos looks to be, at least temporarily, on hold for now, as is our recommendation.”

Investors hang up on TalkTalk

Another big FTSE 250 faller was Talktalk Telecom Group PLC (LON:TALK), also down 14% to 102.9p after the telecoms provider unveiled a £200mln share placing, cut its full year earnings guidance and reduced its dividend as it plans to invest in rolling out fibre broadband to UK homes.

The company is in talks with Infracapital, the infrastructure equity investment arm of M&G Prudential, over a £1.5bn investment to bring fibre to the premises (FTTP) to over three million households.

And FTSE 100 listed travel firm Thomas Cook Group PLC (LON:TCG) shed 3% at 121.5p as s it reported quarterly revenue growth but warned the airline sector remains “highly competitive” and “unpredictable”

The owner of German airline Condor posted a 7% increase in revenue to £1.7bn in the first quarter to December 31, and the company left its full year guidance unchanged following a good start to the year.

Proactive news headlines:

Driver fatigue monitoring technology developer Seeing Machines Limited (LON:SEE) said it is trading in line with expectations for the current financial year. Fleet total contract value signed with customers, but not yet delivered nor recognised as revenue, has increased from A$21.5 million at 30 June 2017 to A$36.4 million at the end of 2017.

Thor Mining PLC (LON:THR) (ASX:THR) has halted trading in its shares on the Australian stock exchange ahead of a new resource statement for the Kapunda copper mine. Project developer Terramin Australia (ASX:TZN) has informed Thor that the JORC 2012 inferred resource will be larger than the previous resource estimate (produced in 1992) and cover the part of the deposit amenable to in-situ recovery methods.

Whilst it is not a particularly busy time for 88 Energy Ltd (LON:88E), as the company continues to wait out the Alaskan winter, some corporate activity is afoot. 88 Energy on Thursday told investors that share trading under its Australian listing has been halted, pending a news announcement related to the underwriting of listed options.

Sound Energy PLC (LON:SOU) told investors it is now advancing its exploration campaign in eastern Morocco, boosted by initial work in the 2018 programme. “We are now moving forward with our exploration drilling programme with a view to unlock three of our largest plays,” said James Parsons, Sound Energy chief executive.

Avacta Group Plc (LON:AVCT) said it is looking to Asia to find a partner as it spelt out the milestones for its Affimer therapeutics and reagents up until 2021. Speaking at a capital markets day, Alastair Smith, chief executive, said that by 2021 Avacta wants to have a recurring revenue stream from Affimer reagent licenses and to be a clinical-stage biotech with multiple clinical stage programmes.

Jubilee Metals Group PLC (LON:JLP), in an after market close statement, told investors that associate BMR Group now understands that it has the right to appeal at the Kabwe project. “Jubilee will support BMR to favourably conclude this process,” the company said.

A team led by Scancell Holdings Plc’s (LON:SCLP) chief scientific officer that is pioneering a vaccine-led approach to tackling tumours has been shortlisted for £20mln award. Professor Lindy Durrant is teaming up with researchers from Genentech, BioNtech and ISA Pharmaceuticals to develop Project Blueprint.

Stobart Group Limited (LON:STOB), the infrastructure and support services group, said it was notified, on 7 February 2018, that Andrew Tinkler, an executive director of the company, acquired 100,000 ordinary shares in the company at a price of 238.8p each. Following the purchase, the firm added, Tinkler holds a beneficial interest in 27,326,811 ordinary shares, representing approximately 7.71% of the company’s issued share capital.

Papua Mining PLC (LON:PML), the UK company focused on exploration and development of gold and copper deposits in Australia and Papua New Guinea, announced that it has published an updated company presentation on its website today.

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