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Zanaga shares fall as it targets low cost operation with Glencore

A look at some of the biggest risers and fallers in London on Thursday
primark store
The agreement with Glencore was signed for a 2018 work program with a budget of US$1.53mln

Zanaga Iron Ore Company Ltd (LON:ZIOC) shares dropped 9.9% to 13.75p in late afternoon trading, as the iron ore developer said it is aiming for a low capital cost operation at its flagship Zanaga Iron Ore Project in the Republic of Congo.   

The AIM-listed company said a funding agreement with FTSE 100-component Glencore PLC (LON:GLEN) was signed for a 2018 work program with a budget of US$1.53mln funded 50/50 by the two companies

The group said that the preliminary test work has indicated that a small-scale project could produce premium iron pellet feed concentrate with an iron ore grade of 66.6%.

Meanwhile, Frontier Smart Technologies Group PLC (LON:FST) shares fell 8.9% to 152.5p as the digital radio and audio devices firm said it expects only ‘modest growth in revenues and EBITDA’ for 2018 as it reported strong 2017 results.

The AIM-listed company saw its 2017 adjusted underlying earnings (EBITDA) increase by 171% to £1.9mln as revenue increased by 28% to £41.0mln.

Frontier said its goal is to deliver a solid Smart Audio technology platform, which underpins stronger growth in 2019 and 2020, and also said it has started the search for a new chairman after current incumbent Martin Knight announced his plans to resign in April.

And AA plc (LON:AA.) shares shed 8.5% to 78.1p after a report in the Daily Mail said former chairman Bob Mackenzie is suing the roadside rescue and insurance provider for up to £220mln.

Mackenzie, who was fired as the roadside assistance firm's chairman last August after a fight with a fellow executive, claims he is being denied bonus payments because he should not have been dismissed.

The fall also comes a day after AA shares soared nearly 15% higher on the back of vague talk of possible bid interest from private equity and with the stock having dropped sharply over the past few weeks after it announced plans to reduce its future dividend plans as a result of a new investment programme.

1.30pm: Associated British Foods plc gets a boost as Goldman Sachs upgrades to ‘buy’

Associated British Foods (LON:ABF) was a lunchtime gainer, up 1.1% to 2,613p as US investment bank Goldman Sachs upgraded rating for the FTSE 100-listed firm to ‘buy’ from ‘neutral’.

Goldman’s Sachs also raised its target price for the food producer to Primark clothing chain owner’s to 3,100p from 3,000p following its recent trading update.

In late February, AB Foods said it expects its first-half profit to be in line with the same period last year despite being held back by a previously flagged reduction in sugar revenues. 

Elsewhere, Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC (LON:RR.) shares were up 0.5% to 928.6p, adding to Wednesday’s post-results jump after French bank Societe Generale upped its rating for the jet engine maker to ‘hold’ from ‘sell’.  

The FTSE 100-listed firm yesterday reported a turn to profit for 2017, laid out more of its restructuring plans and predicted underlying revenue growth for 2018.

And on the second line, Britvic Plc (LON:BVIC) shares climbed 6% higher to 723.5p as the soft drinks maker was upgraded to ‘overweight’ from ‘equal weight’ by Morgan Stanley.

The US investment bank’s analysts said Britvic shares offer an attractive entry point after losing their fizz in the year to date.

The soft drink and juice maker’s shares have fallen by more than 10% since the start of the year amid concerns about the impact of the UK government’s sugar tax, which will come into effect in April.

11:30am: Alfa Financial shares fall after warning over weaker dollar impact

Alfa Financial Software Holdings PLC (LON:ALFA) shares dropped 16% to 401.5p in late morning trading as the software developer warned growth in the current year will be slower due to a weaker dollar as it reported strong 2017 results.

The FTSE 250-firm, which only listed in London in June last year, reported a doubling in full-year pre-tax profits to £33.9mln as revenue grew by 20% to £87.8mln.

However, looking to 2018, Andrew Denton, Alfa’s CEO warned: “Against a backdrop of a weakening dollar, the Board expects to report low double-digit top line growth on a budget rate, or mid double-digit growth on a constant currency basis.”

Meanwhile, John Laing Group PLC (LON:JLG) shares fell 4.9% to 260.8p as the infrastructure investment firm revealed it is tapping shareholders for more funds after making record investment commitments in 2017.

The company is to raise around £210.2mln by means of an underwritten rights issue on the basis of 1 new share for every 3 held at 177p a pop, with the funds to be used to take advantage of a larger proportion of its growing pipeline of opportunities.

But the FTSE 250-listed group is not so short of funds that it cannot afford to pay out a special dividend of 4.88p to supplement the final dividend for 2017 of 3.82p, making the full-year pay-out 10.61p, up from 8.15p the year before.

And Countrywide (LON:CWD) saw its shares drop 14% to 76.4p as the UK estate agency group swung to a large loss in 2017 and warned on earnings for this year.

The small cap firm posted a pre-tax loss of £212.1mln for 2017, compared to a profit of £19.5mln the previous year, reflecting one-off costs. Excluding items, pre-tax profit still slumped to £25.2mln from £52.7mln.

Countrywide’s income declined by 8.8% to £657.9mln and adjusted underlying earnings (EBITDA) dropped 23% to £64.7mln, driven by a poor performance in its sales and letting divisions.

10am: Spirent Communications delivers strong performance by ‘materially reducing costs’

Spirent Communications PLC (LON:SPT) was one of the market's biggest gainers early on Thursday morning, with its shares rising 9.4% to 119p as the technology company reported 27% growth in 2017 profit and rewarded shareholders with a special dividend.

The FTSE SmallCap firm saw its 2017 adjusted operating profit grow to US$58.9mln from US$46.5mln a year earlier, although the company’s revenue reduced slightly to US$454.8mln from US$457.9mln.

Spirent said its strong performance reflected "materially reducing costs and focusing on our core areas of differentiation, returning to solid profitability” and announced a 5 US cents a share special dividend, in addition to its increased full-year payout of 4.08 US cents, up from US$3.89 in 2016.

Meanwhile, Communisis (LON:CMS) was also a big gainer with its shares rising 4.4% to 67p as the marketing services group delivered a ‘strong set of results in 2017’ and unveiled a renewal of its UK TV Licensing contract.

The small cap firm said its adjusted 2017 operating profit rose by 9% to £21.2mln, up from £19.5mln a year earlier, as total revenue increased by 4% to £375.9mln from £361.9mln, leading the firm to hike it dividend by 10% to 1.77p.

Communisis also said it has secured a contract renewal for the issuance of the UK’s TV Licensing communications and transactional mailing. The initial renewal term is six years with an option to extend by a further four years.

And Domino’s Pizza (LON:DOM) shares added 1% at 320.9p as the pizza company reported a 7.1% increase in like-for-like sales in the first part of 2018 and more cash handouts to shareholders.

The FTSE 250-listed firm also announced a further share buyback of £50mln and a 12.5% increase in the annual dividend.

David Wild, Domino’s chief executive said the group had made progress despite weaker consumer demand and cost inflation.

Proactive news headlines:

Caribbean oil firm Touchstone Exploration Inc (LON:TXP, TSE:TXP)  has revealed a 20% increase in proved reserves over the course of 2017, and has given notice of its full year results. In the annual barrel counting exercise, the group reported 1.75mln barrels of proved reserves and 2.83mln barrels of proved plus probable reserves (with the latter figure up 18% on the previous year).

Wind farm investor Greencoat UK Wind PLC (LON:UKW) has acquired the newly built Brockaghboy wind farm from Italian firm ERG for about £163mln in cash. Brockaghboy, near Londonderry in Northern Ireland, was only commissioned last month and has a capacity of 47.5Mw.

OptiBiotix Health PLC (LON:OPTI) has announced that its SlimBiome weight management technology will be used in US partner Cereal Ingredients' (CII) Nutri-Bites range of cereal products. The AIM-listed obesity and cholesterol management firm said that the partnership will extend the application of SlimBiome® into products such as breakfast cereals and cookies, cakes as well as a range of healthy snacks, yoghurts, and cereal bars.

Concepta PLC (LON:CPT) announced that it has received Ethics Committee approval to commence the user trial for its myLotus fertility product in the UK. The AIM-listed firm said the trial is expected to commence in the next months and will take approximately four months, with 120 women testing the device for ease of use and clarity of instructions.

Action Hotels PLC (LON:AHCG) said trading for the first two months of 2018 was encouraging, with like-for-like revenues well ahead of 2017.  Excluding the recently opened ibis Styles Bahrain hotel, revenues this year have been 6.4% ahead of 2017 on a like-for-like basis, while trading at the recently opened hotels in Sohar Oman and Brisbane Australia are showing revenue growth year-on-year and good customer feedback as they mature into their relative markets, Action Hotels said. 

ATTRAQT Group PLC (LON:ATQT) said its strategy remains the same after a “milestone year”: to become the eCommerce acceleration platform of choice for online retailers. In its full-year results, the company highlighted the impact of the Fredhopper business it acquired last year, which contributed to a 278% increase in revenue to £13.6mln from £3.6mln the year before.

Cabot Energy PLC (LON:CAB) told investors that its winter drill programme, in Alberta, Canada, is ahead of schedule. Three of four well side-tracks have now been drilled and tested successfully, and the drilling of the final well is due to be completed shortly.

88 Energy Ltd (LON:88E, ASX:88E) told investors that 98% of its listed (A$0.02 series) options were exercised before the March 2 expiry, resulting in an A$8.1mln injection of capital into the company.

Diversified Gas & Oil PLC’s (LON:DGOC) daily gas production has doubled following the acquisition of Appalachian Basin gas producer Alliance Petroleum. The deal has now completed for a total consideration of US$95mln (£66.9mln) comprising the purchase price of US$70mln plus US$25mln of debts. 

Amur Minerals Corporation (LON:AMC) has appointed road design group Cevi Construzioni for the 350km road from Ulak, on the Baikal-Amur rail line, to its Kun-Manie project in Far East Russia. The AIM-listed firm said this step is the first in a three component process to earn long term grant of access rights to the site of the huge nickel/copper project.

Scotgold Resources Limited (LON:SGZ) has announced the appointment of SP Angel Corporate Finance LLP as the company's nominated adviser and joint broker, working alongside Smaller Company Capital Ltd, with immediate effect.

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