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Ohhhh yes! Direct Line's trading update provides insurer with a lift

A look at some of the biggest risers and fallers in London on Friday
Churchill Insurance
Direct Line issued a brief trading update saying it is on course for operating profits of £610mln

Direct Line Group PLC (LON:DLG) was a late afternoon gainer, adding 2.6% at 377.9p after the blue chip insurance group issued a brief trading update saying it is on course for operating profits of £610mln and profit before tax of £540mln, up from £403.5mln and £353mln respectively in 2016. 

Nicholas Hyett, equity analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown commented: “An unscheduled trading update on a Friday lunchtime is rarely good news. However, in Direct Line’s case it’s difficult to find things not to like.

“Higher gross premiums, more own brand policies, improved underwriting performance – you can almost hear CEO Paul Geddes emulating the Churchill brand’s famous mascot.”  Ohhh yes!

British Land PLC (BLND) was also in demand, ahead 0.8% at 637p after the FTSE 100 listed property giant announced the acquisition of the Woolwich Estate, covering 4.9 acres in south east London, for a headline price £103mln - representing a net initial yield of 4.1%.

Charles Maudsley, head of Retail, Leisure & Residential at British Land, said: "This acquisition provides a unique opportunity to create a thriving retail-anchored centre, benefitting from a mix of uses in an exciting, increasingly well connected and rapidly regenerating part of London.”

Elsewhere with the blue chips, Anglo -Dutch publishing giant RELX PLC (LON:REL) gained 1.7% at 1,498.5p after Deutsche Bank upgraded its rating to 'buy' from 'hold' ahead of trading news due next week.

Broker boosts

Broker comment also gave a boost to FTSE 250-listed storage company Big Yellow Group PLC (LON:BYG), which took on 1.1% at Bank of America Merrill Lynch upped its stance to 'buy' 'neutral'.

And small cap SigmaRoc PLC (LON:SRC) rose 4.4% at 38.1p supported by news of director share buying.

The group said its chief executive officer, Max Vermorken purchased 27,000 ordinary shares in the company at a price of 37p each, and finance director, Garth Palmer purchased 5,000 ordinary shares at a price of 36.9p and 94,594 ordinary shares at a price of 37p each.

1.45pm: Strategic Minerals gains on extended its access to the Cobre stockpile

Strategic Minerals Plc (LON:SML) was a good gainer in early afternoon trading, up 6.1% at 2.187p after the firm told investors that it has extended its access to the Cobre magnetite stockpile in New Mexico, through to March 31, 2019.

The AIM-listed company has a contract with the owner of the Cobre mine, giving it access to the stockpile, and it is subject to an annual extension.

"We are delighted to have our access at Cobre extended until April 2019 considering our expectation that the strong sales achieved in 2017 will continue this year,” said John Peters, Strategic Minerals managing director in a statement on Friday.

Elsewhere, shares in Trinity Mirror PLC (LON:TNI) gained 3.9% at 72.5p after the publisher of the Daily Mirror newspaper finally agreed a £126.7mln deal to buy rival titles the Daily Express and Daily Star in the biggest shake-up of the UK newspaper industry in years.

The group said it would pay vendor Northern & Shell Media Group Limited an initial cash consideration of £47.7mln, a deferred cash consideration of £59mln payable between 2020 to 2023 and the balance of £20mln by the issue of shares.

Trinity Mirror also issued an update on current trading, in which it said it anticipates adjusted results for 2017 to be marginally ahead of consensus forecasts.

11.00am: Placing weighs on Angus Energy

Angus Energy PLC (LON:ANGS) was the market’s main casualty in late afternoon trading, dropping 21% to 6.5p on news it has raised £2mln of new capital by selling new shares to institutional and private investors.

The group said some 33.3mln new shares are being issued at a price of 6p per share, which is a 27% discount to Thursday’s closing price.

Dukemount Capital PLC (LON:DKE) was also a faller, down 8.7% at 0.53p as it updated on plans to buy a second housing site in north west England.

In October, Dukemount signed a four-month option-to-buy on the development site, due diligence on which was completed in August, while the group undertook discussions with housing associations.

The group said today the process has now been extended by two months, with Dukemount in "advanced" talks with a housing association. The firm said it plans to sign a lease with a housing association, and then close the deal.

Bacanora seeking to re-domicile

And Bacanora Minerals Ltd. (LON:BCN) fell 5.5% to 102p on news it intends to re-commence the process of changing the domicile of jurisdiction to the UK from Canada which it thinks will benefit its plans to raise a significant amount of new debt and equity financing to fund its growth.

The London and Canadian listed lithium company sought shareholder approval to effect the re-domicile from Canada in September 2016, however, the requisite approval was not obtained in order to proceed then.

The company said it now intends to raise a significant amount of new debt and equity financing to fund its growth as an international lithium company with new projects in Mexico and Germany and believes that a UK-domiciled company with its primary listing on AIM is the best way to achieve this.

10.00am: Physiomics jumps on news of further contract award 

Physiomics PLC (LON:PYC) was an early morning gainer on Friday, adding 12.5% to 8.1p, after the biopharma technology provider announced that it has been awarded a contract by a further major, global top 10 pharmaceutical client. 

The AIM-listed firm said the project, which has a value of approximately £70,000, is expected to be completed during the company's current financial year and involves the use of Physiomics' Virtual Tumour technology in a pre-clinical setting.

Dr Jim Millen, CEO said: "We believe that the signing of agreements with three major pharmaceutical clients within the space of three months is a real sign of the confidence in our technology that is starting to build within the industry.

Elsewhere, Scancell Holdings PLC (LON:SCLP) saw its shares jump 13.5% to 13.9p on news the European Patent Office intends to grant the company’s patent application for the Moditope immunotherapy platform.

Once formally granted, the patent will provide protection for Scancell’s pipeline of Moditope vaccines that could help revolutionise the way cancer is treated.

But Hogg Robinson Group PLC (LON:HRG) shares topped the market gainers, surging nearly 49% higher to 116p on news it has received a takeover offer from the former global business travel unit of American Express and has also agreed to sell its payments technology business to Visa Inc.

The AmEx GBT has offered 120p per share for Hogg, which values the British business travel company at up to £393mln.

Proactive news headlines:

Bacanora Minerals Ltd. (LON:BCN) has said it intends to re-commence the process of changing the domicile of jurisdiction to the UK from Canada to the UK which it thinks will benefit its plans to raise a significant amount of new debt and equity financing to fund its growth.

S & U PLC (LON:SUS) said on Friday its motor finance business delivered a record year of transactions, shrugging off recent data showing a slowdown in the car market. The Advantage motor finance arm achieved a 24% year-on-year increase in transactions to 24,500 in the year ended January 31 2018, the company revealed in a trading update ahead of its annual results in March.

NetScientific PLC (LON:NSCI) has noted that its portfolio company, Vortex BioSciences Inc, has announced a promising report published by Nature Scientific Reports. The AIM-listed transatlantic healthcare IP commercialisation group said the peer reviewed report, titled "Evaluation of PD-L1 Expression on vortex-isolated circulating tumor cells in metastatic lung cancer" describes the use of Vortex's technology.

Top Norwegian e-sports team Nordavind will join the third season of Gfinity PLC’s (LON:GFIN) Elite Series, taking place in Gfinity Arena in London next month, meaning 10 esports teams are now signed up for the event. Nordavind, previously known as BX3, is a partnership with Vålerenga Fotball, one of Norway’s biggest football teams. Norwegian businessman Tor Olav Trøim owns Vålerenga and an 80% stake in Nordavind.

Savannah Petroleum PLC (LON:SAVP) told investors that the Seven Energy assets, that are in the proves of being acquired, have seen increasing production “strongly” in recent months. The assets, located in Nigeria, had gross production of 17,900 barrels oil equivalent in the month of November, 20,300 boepd in December and 21,800 boepd in January. Production in February to date has averaged 25,700 boepd gross.

Diversified Gas & Oil PLC (LON:DGOC) told investors that its proposed acquisition of producing gas and oil assets is now expected to complete on March 30. The company today confirmed that it has now entered into a conditional purchase agreement with CNX.

Tantalum miner Kennedy Ventures PLC (LON:KENV) expects its shares will return from suspension today with a name change to Kazera Global PLC planned for March. The shares were suspended in December as Kennedy’s auditors were unable to sign off the accounts in AIM's timeframe due to the complexity of consolidating its Namibian businesses and applying the IFRS standard.

Alba Mineral Resources PLC (LON:ALBA) has snapped up a licence in north-west Greenland close to its existing Inglefield Land blocks. The additional ground was previously under licence to NunaMinerals, which held some of the potentially most prospective areas in Greenland, said Alba.

PowerHouse Energy Group PLC (LON:PHE) announced that an updated corporate presentation, which was used at an investor event on 8 February 2018, is now available to view on the company's website. It said no new material information was released at the investor meeting.

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