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Obtala surges after cash injection

A look at the day's major movers, including Midatech, Diurnal, Brighton Pier and Halfords
Board room
A board room in which the Earl of Lucan would probably be right at home

Obtala Ltd (LON:OBT) has announced today a series of deals that it expects to positively affect its balance sheet and underlying business structure.

The forestry company has agreed to sell its Tanzanian agricultural business for US$2.5mln; it is also to receive £7mln of investments from a fund managed by Lombard Odier Asset Management, and it is to take full ownership of its currently 75%-owned Montara Continental subsidiary.


The 1798 Volantis Fund, which is managed on a discretionary basis by Lombard Odier, will buy £2mln of Obtala shares at 5p a pop, increasing its stake to around 12.9%.

The shares were up 15.8% at 6.6p, lifting the market capitalisation to £21.5mln.


1.00pm: Midatech basqueing in the afterglow

Loans and grants from Spanish authorities could help finance most of the commercial scale-up costs for Midatech PLC’s (LON:MTPH) Q-Sphera technology platform.

Midatech, which is using the platform in its MTD201 drug programme, has a manufacturing facility in Bilbao, which makes it eligible for financial backing from local and national governments.

MTD201 is being developed as a treatment for a hormonal disorder called acromegaly, as well as for carcinoid cancer.

Money is almost always hard to come by for early-stage pharmaceutical companies so this latest development was enthusiastically welcomed by the market, with the shares surging 23.4% to 7.25p.

“This ongoing regional government support enables us to continue and potentially accelerate the progress of MTD201 development towards submission for approval, as well as further develop our Q-Sphera platform,” said Dr Craig Cook, the chief executive officer of Midatech Pharma.

“We believe this sustained release technology has the potential to drastically improve the manufacturing process and clinical characteristics of existing drugs, providing more effective, convenient, precise and comfortable treatments for patients. We look forward to continuing the scale-up programme in Bilbao, as we work on driving MTD201 towards the market and establishing Q-Sphera as a leading platform in the multibillion-dollar market for sustained release treatments,” Dr Cook added.

11.30am: Angus Energy and a new Lord Lucan mystery

A power struggle appears to be going on at Angus Energy Plc (LON:ANGS), the UK onshore oil & gas development company.

The shares lost around a sixth of their value after the company sounded less than gruntled about receiving letters requiring the directors to convene a general meeting to propose various changes to the board.

The board reckons that previous chairman, Jonathan Tidswell-Pretorius, may be one of the shareholders behind the call for a general meeting.

Shareholders will be asked to vote on whether George Bingham, who is the eighth Earl of Lucan, and Adam Habib, should be appointed to the board as directors.

There will also be a vote on whether to remove Paul Vonk from the board.

The requisitions do not state whether the proposed appointments of George Bingham and Adam Habib would be in an executive or non-executive capacity.

“The board of directors regrets that this action has been taken at a time when the company has reached an inflexion point and considers the Requisition to be unwelcome and unnecessary,” the company said in a statement.

“The board is unanimously of the view that the resolutions are not in the best interests of the company and its shareholders as a whole and intends to unanimously recommend that shareholders vote against the resolutions at any requisitioned general meeting,” it added.

The company also announced it had entered into a new £3mln loan facility to provide funds for the development of the Balcombe field.

10.30am: Diurnal proves to be a nice littler earner

One definition of Diurnal is recurring every day. Diurnal Group PLC (LON:DNL) shareholders name must hope today’s share price rise could happen every day.

The shares more than doubled after the hormonal diseases specialist announced the grant of a second US patent for Chronocort, a cortisol replacement product for the life-long treatment of congenital adrenal insufficiency and adrenal insufficiency.

US 10,166,194, entitled "Hydrocortisone Controlled Release Formulation", is a patent claiming a method of treatment for adrenal dysfunction, including the diseases congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) and adrenal insufficiency (AI), that delivers hydrocortisone in accordance with a circadian rhythm.

Diurnal said the patent provides in-market protection until 2033 and is in addition to the already granted pharmaceutical composition of matter patent US 9,750,704, which provides in-market protection until 2034.

The shares, up 109% today at 45p, were trading at around 178p a year ago.

9.30am: Brighton Pier and Halfords both under the weather

Both the Brighton Pier Group PLC (LON:PIER) and Halfords Group PLC (LON:HFD) were blaming the British weather for ropey performances on Thursday.

Brighton Pier Group’s shares plunged 40% to 38p after it said that its pier division had been dealt a bad hand by the British weather and British Rail.

The disappointing weather over the August bank holiday weekend continued into the following month while weekend railway services to and from Brighton have been disrupted by major engineering works.

Apparently, the disruptions will continue into the second half of the company’s fiscal year, which runs to the end of June, which was one of the reasons behind the board’s decision to predict that full-year pre-tax profits would be about 18% below the current consensus market forecast.

According to the data aggregator, Factset, the market was expecting the group to make a profit before tax of £3.9mln in fiscal 2019.

"Whilst I am disappointed at the rail network disruptions currently affecting the Pier, once they are complete, this will be of great benefit to future visitors travelling to the city and consequently to our Brighton businesses,” said Anne Ackford, the chief executive officer of the Brighton Pier Group.

“Despite these challenges the company's Pier, Bars and Golf businesses remain well invested, strongly cash generative and well positioned for future growth," she added.

If the weather was too drab for Brighton Pier, it was not rough enough for Halfords, which lowered profits guidance after a disappointing trading performance in the final quarter of 2018.

READ Halfords Group veers off the road

The company has indicated it expects underlying profit before tax for the year to the end of March 2019 will be in the range of £58mln to £62mln; the consensus forecast prior to this morning’s profit warning was for profit of £70.2mln.

Liberum Capital Markets said it was a weak trading update but stuck with its ‘buy’ recommendation and 380p target price, pending the company’s conference call this morning; the shares were down 19% at 225.4p.

“Despite the downgrades today which are unfortunate, the profile of earnings to income has not changed,” Liberum maintained.

Proactive news headlines:

hVIVO PLC (LON:HVO) shares blew higher on Thursday morning after US regulators found that its flu vaccine did achieve its primary endpoint in last year’s mid-stage clinical trial.

i3 Energy PLC  (LON:i3E) shares advanced as it signed a letter of intent for a multi-well drill programme that’s intended to take the Liberator field to the cusp of production.  At the same time, the ambitious North Sea oiler told investors that its received proposals regarding offtake terms for Liberator’s future production, and, provided an update about its ongoing project financing work.

Obtala Ltd (LON:OBT) has announced today a series of deals that it expects to positively impact the forestry company’s balance sheet and underlying business structure. It has agreed to sell its Tanzanian agricultural business for US$2.5mln, it is to receive £7mln of investments from a fund managed by Lombard Odier Asset Management, and, it is to take full ownership of its currently 75% owned Montara Continental subsidiary.

StatPro Group PLC (LON:SOG) has signed a contract with a UK investment manager to convert from its StatPro Seven to StatPro Revolution service in a deal worth a minimum of £1.45mln.

SigmaRoc PLC (LON:SRC) has acquired the Foelfach quarry in Carmarthenshire, South Wales, and appointed a new managing director following its general meeting on 27 December.

Belvoir Lettings PLC (LON:BLV), the UK's largest property franchise, exceeded its 2018 target for assisted acquisitions by its franchisees. The lettings agent said beefing up the assisted acquisitions programme is a core part of its growth strategy.

InnovaDerma PLC (LON:IDP) said revisions to its direct to consumer strategy have begun to bear fruit in recent weeks. The group, which sells beauty and personal care products such as the globally successful Skinny Tan line, has faced headwinds on Facebook, which has begun prioritising personal engagement over businesses and brands.

Nigeria focused Eland Oil & Gas PLC (LON:ELA) told investors that the Gbetiokun-3 well has encountered oil-bearing reservoirs across multiple horizons and it will be completed as a producer. Eland, in a statement, confirmed the completion of the drilling of the appraisal and development well.

Employee benefits provider Personal Group PLC (LON:PGH) said results for the year just ended are expected to be broadly in line with market expectations.

Aminex PLC (LON: AEX) has announced the appointment of Linda Beal as an independent non-executive director of the company with immediate effect. It said  Beal is a Chartered Accountant and has over 30 years' experience with PwC including over 16 years as partner, during which time she led services to various international resources groups and advised on many transactions. The group also announced the appointment with immediate effect of GMP FirstEnergy, who will act as a joint corporate broker to the company alongside Davy, Aminex's sponsor, and Shore Capital.

Summit Therapeutics (LON: SUMM) (NASDAQ:SMMT) announced that the subscription to raise US$25mln, as approved by shareholders at the company’s general meeting on 4 January 2019, has completed. It said the subscription shares, comprising 78,125,000 new ordinary shares represented by 15,625,000 American Depositary Shares, were admitted to AIM today.

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