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Friday's most followed: Max Petroleum, Tower Resources, New Britain Palm Oil, Berendsen, Rightmove, China Africa Resources

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Max Petroleum (LON:MXP) and Tower Resources (LON:TRP) were the most followed stocks in the oil and gas sector in London today after both companies saw their share price surge.

Tower managed to claw back some of yesterday’s losses that followed a disappointing update from Uganda, while Max showed up among the top searches on Google Finance as investors tried to find the reason behind today’s share price movement.

Starting with Tower, the company rallied 7.5 percent to trade at 2.85 pence after receiving a vote of confidence from chairman Jeremy Asher, who decided to buy a million shares in the company to take his shareholding to 104.25 million shares or 7.33 percent.

Asher purchased the shares at 2.684 pence, a premium to Thursday’s closing price of 2.65 pence.

Tower told investors yesterday that it would plug and abandon its Mvule-1 well in Uganda, which failed to encounter hydrocarbons.

However, the company highlighted the potential of its assets in Namibia, where it hopes to drill a well next year targeting prospective resources of over nine billion barrels of oil.

Meanwhile, Max also released a shareholding update today, which showed that Macquarie Bank has sold roughly five percent of its shares, trimming its stake in the company to 19.8 percent.

On bulletin boards, some investors said the decision to sell shares by the company’s largest shareholder meant that a takeover approach was unlikely, otherwise Macquarie would not have reduced its stake.

However, others said that a hostile takeover was a possibility, noting that over 60 percent of the company’s shares was in free float, while its largest shareholder Macquarie now holds less than 20 percent.

In the meantime, the list of today’s most popular RNS statements was flooded with full year report including the 2011 figures from palm oil producer New Britain Palm Oil (LON:NBPO).

The group saw its revenues soar 69 percent to US$780.1 million last year as both its output and palm oil prices rose, resulting in a 110 percent jump in pre-tax profits to US$275.5 million.

Oil shipments including crude palm oil, palm kernel oil and refined oils jumped 30 percent to a record 592,050 tonnes, while palm oil prices also rose 30 percent to US$1,108 per tonne.

At February 15, forward sales of the group stood at 220,000 tonnes of 2012 palm oil production at an average price of US$1,078 per tonne.

Prices remained stable in early 2012 at around US$1,050 to US$1,100 per tonne of crude palm oil.

“The group has enjoyed continued success over the past year with record palm oil production and profitability,” said New Britain chairman Antonio Monteiro De Castro.

“We have continued to invest in and expand our downstream refining and fractionation capacity and we are now seeing these investments deliver operational as well as financial benefits to the group.”

Berendsen (LON:BRSN)
reported a more modest increase in sales, while fellow FTSE 250 company Rightmove (LON:RMV) said its revenues surged 19 percent to £97 million last year and offered a bullish outlook for 2012.

According to the real estate firm, which runs rightmove.co.uk, there is “every prospect” that this will be the year when the industry’s spend on advertising in the internet will exceed that on local newspapers for the first time.

Meanwhile, revenues at Berendsen climbed one percent to £992 million in 2011. Pre-tax profits improved 15 percent to £111.8 million, prompting the textile rental company to raise its dividend by 10 percent to 23.4 pence.

The group highlighted the “significant progress” made with its strategic review, which has resulted in stronger capabilities in sales, procurement and human resource management.

The group has also achieved an improvement in its cash position, which stood at £93.1 million at the end of the year, up from £75.5 million a year earlier.

“We remain encouraged by the scope both to accelerate the development of our Core Growth businesses and to enhance the returns of our Manage for Value businesses,” said chairman of Berendsen Christopher Kemball.

“We finished the year with a strong balance sheet and a secure long-term funding position.”

Microcap China Africa Resources (LON:CAF), which is a joint venture company owned by Eastern China Non Ferrous Metals Investment (ECE) and Weatherly International (LON:WTI) also released its final results today.

The report from the lead-zinc miner, which covered the 17 month period ending on December 31, revealed a US$1 million loss, which was in part due to expenditures of US$0.3 million on the company’s listing on the AIM market in August last year.

China Africa said it will focus on the feasibility study at its Berg Aukas mine and prepare to develop the project. In the meantime, the company will continue to look for new investment opportunities through the international capital markets, organic growth and acquisition.

“Facing the complex global economic environment, the management of China Africa Resources will continue to target rapid growth, so that shareholders may gain the greatest benefit,” said non-executive chairman Yi Shao.

“The company strives to become a highly profitable multi-mineral mining company.”


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