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Market ReportWeekly News Round-up

Small cap report, featuring African Potash, Gulfsands, Petroceltic, Quindell, Stratex and Tern

Quindell returned from suspension but regulators' interest in the company's chequered past remains high.

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The valuation of Quindell, the car insurance claims processor, is now a bit more Ford Escort and less Rolls-Royce

Once upon a time Quindell (LON:QPP) was worth almost £3bn and was the most highly valued company on AIM.

This week trading resumed in the shares after a two month break and the shares of the insurance claims processor hit the skids after it announced that the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is investigating the company.

The company’s stock market valuation is now around £400mln, having tumbled from heady heights after a series of scandals damaged the company’s reputation, which new management is seeking to repair.

Accountancy watchdog the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) closed its review of Quindell’s 2011 and 2012 report and accounts in light of the “positive actions taken by the directors in correcting the identified errors, amending accounting policies and providing their undertakings,” the company said.

This week the troubled firm reported losses of £238mln for 2014 (£8.6mln in 2013) as administrative expenses soared to £278mln, including an impairment charge of £157mln.

Daniel Stewart (LON:DAN), the stockbroker that brought Quindell to market in 2011, appeared to get caught in the Quindell crossfire, losing a quarter of its value.

Also on the slide was Gulfsands Petroleum (LON:GPX), the AIM-listed oil and gas company with activities in Syria, Morocco, Tunisia and Colombia.

It said on Wednesday it was pleased to announce its results for the six months ended 30 June 2015.

It is fair to say the market was not pleased to read them.

The shares tanked as the company reminded investors its Syrian assets remain shut-in, while it also took a $22.1 million write-down on its Moroccan Fes permit, which accounted for the bulk of the half-year loss of $31.3 million.

The company is seeking to reduce its exposure to Morocco and has initiated a farm-out process on the Fes contract.

Sector peer Petroceltic (LON:PCI) was also out of sorts, after it told investors that a proposed US$175mln bond issue has been put on hold temporarily due to what it describes as “volatile market conditions”.

The company said it has been engaged with a broad group of international institutional credit and industry investors, who have been positive about Petroceltic’s strategy, outlook and the quality of flagship Ain Tsila gas project, but volatile market conditions have, for the time being, done for the plans to complete a bond issue on what Petroceltic deems acceptable terms.

Moving on to this week’s winners, the performance of fertiliser producer African Potash (LON:AFPO) was a bloomin’ marvel this week after the company struck a preliminary distribution agreement with Comesa, a free trade union of twenty African countries, to supply 500,000 tonnes of fertiliser a year.

It is the first agreement of this nature ever signed by the union and as well as a significant milestone for the region’s fertiliser industry it gives the company first-mover advantage.

Chris Cleverly, African Potash’s executive chairman, said: "The signing of this trading agreement with Comesa is a significant step as we seek to transform the company into a vertically integrated African fertiliser business.

“By adding a credible trading operation to our existing exploration operations we have demonstrated our commitment to this project.”

Stratex International (LON:STI) was another tiddler on the march. It expects to complete construction of the Altintepe gold mine in Turkey imminently with the first gold pour on track for the end of next month.

Bob Foster, Stratex’s chief executive, said: "Our partners continue to make good progress and advise that construction is still due to be completed this month, with first gold pour expected in the following few weeks."

Altintepe is a joint venture with local company Bahar, which has funded the $39m construction costs.

At full tilt, Altintepe will produce between 30,000 ounces and 40,000 ounces per year.

Lastly, we turn to Tern (LON:TERN), an investment company focused on the fast-changing information technology (IT) sector – particularly that nebulous and slightly mysterious concept known as the Cloud.

The company said the value of its portfolio has risen more than four-fold over the past 12 months.

Shares in the group have trebled over the last month and this week it revealed total assets at end June stood at £1.2m compared to £285,000 a year ago.

Driving this has been growing interest in the company’s Internet of things (IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M) security specialist Cryptosoft.

The IoT is where machines pass data and instructions between each other without the need for human intervention and it is growing rapidly.

Cryptosoft claims to be the only supplier with a peer reviewed, market proven software security product for M2M applications that works across the range of IT systems and that can support legacy and future installations.

Discussions have now started over major contracts with potential UK and US customers though it will be several months before the first of these is secured, executive chairman Angus Forrest revealed. Without naming them, he said they included Fortune 500 ranked companies.

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