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Small cap movers: Boardroom bust up at Altona Energy as suspension looms

A look back at some of the more interesting stories from the junior market over the past week
Business argument
Altona's board are currently embroiled in a dispute over the firm's strategy

Hostilities between two warring boardroom factions at Altona Energy PLC (LON:ANR) moved into a new phase this week, wiping 60% off the value of the AIM-listed mining business.

In fact, matters turned almost farcical when a bid by chief executive Nicholas Lyth and non-executive director Robert Hales to remove directors Zhang Qinfu and Ma Chi failed.

The top-level squabble appears to have been precipitated by a split over strategy and, specifically, whether to pursue a waste-to-energy venture in Spain.

Zhang, in a statement read out what one can only assume was a feisty shareholder meeting on 14 January, said he wanted to focus on developing Altona’s coal assets on South Australia.

Investors beat a path to the exit this week as 26.5p was wiped from the shares, which are currently changing hands for 17.5p.

Oh, and there is another element of jeopardy for unfortunate enough to still hold stock.

Altona’s shares will be suspended on February 1 if it can’t find a replacement for Northland Capital, its erstwhile nominated advisor.

Investors probably don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

On that theme, backers of Boohoo Group PLC (LON:BOO) were far from ecstatic this week with the shares edging 6.3% lower to 181p.

In a ‘curate’s egg’ sort of a statement, it upgraded revenue forecast but narrowed its profit margin guidance.

Bringing some sunshine to the junior market was Elegant Hotels Group PLC (LON:EHG) after an increase in revenues and pre-tax profits boosted shares by 11% to 75p.

The owner and operator of seven upmarket hotels and a beach-front restaurant on the island of Barbados said revenue in the year to the end of September was up 5% to US$62.9mln from US$59.9mln the year before, while profit before tax nudged up to US$9.5mln from US$9.2mln.

There was also pain being felt by Arena Events Group PLC (LON:ARE) after a profit warning for 2018 caused shares to dive 31% to 39.4p.

The firm, which builds temporary structures such as seating stands and ice rinks, said higher costs from operational issues in its UK structures and scaffolding business and delayed cost savings from warehouse integration had all led to a material reduction in profitability.

The AIM All-Share was up around 0.5% in the week at 908 points, while the FTSE 100 was up 0.7% at 6,903 points.

Elsewhere, MC Mining Limited (LON:MCM) shares surged 12% to 64p over the week after it confirmed the acquisition of the Lukin and Salaita properties, a vital transaction for its Makhado hard coking and thermal coal project in South Africa.

MC said the purchase would allow it to begin the final geotechnical drilling it needs to finalise siting of the mine’s infrastructure.

Another miner, Keras Resources PLC (LON:KRS), was also on the up with shares jumping 19% to 0.38p after assay results from metallurgical testwork at its Nayega manganese project in Togo returned average grades of 41.15%, substantially in excess of budget.

There was less good news in the oil & gas sector with Upland Resources Limited (LON:UPL) shares plummeting 40% to 2p after it plugged and abandoned its Wick exploration well in Scotland following unsuccessful drilling results.

Ground engineering firm Van Elle Holdings PLC (LON:VANL) added to the misery after a sharp fall in its first half profits and revenue sent shares tumbling 17% to 65p.

Underlying earnings (EBITDA) fell 38.1% to £5.2mln in the six months to 31 October 2018 and revenue decreased 18.4% to £42.9mln as sales to the housebuilding and infrastructure sectors fell.

At the other end of the scale investment firm Challenger Acquisitions Limited (LON:CHAL) soared 43% to 0.1p after agreeing to sell its US$300,000 investment in the giant observation wheel project in Dallas back to the developers.


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