Small cap movers: Cash return moves boosts people-screening technology group Thruvisio

A look back at some of the more interesting stories from the junior market this week

Airport screening
Thruvision shares jumped as the people-screening technology group said it will return £8mln to shareholders via a tender offer and share buy-back

As security at airports and other transport centres intensifies, Thruvision Group plc (LON:THRU) looks set to be a beneficiary and the group’s investors benefited as well this week after cash return moves, with the stock the biggest AIM gainer, up 37% to 13.5p.

Thruvision shares jumped as the people-screening technology group said it will return £8mln to shareholders via a tender offer and share buy-back following the disposal of its video business.

The firm used to be known as Digital Barriers but changed its name when it sold the video business for £27.5mln last October.

Shorn of video, the business is now focused on people screening and security at airports and other mass transit stations.

A record number of its people-screening units have been shipped in the current financial year to date, with Thrurvison claiming its technology is now able to spot concealed threats at distances up to 8 metres.

Another strong gainer this week was Minoan Group plc (LON:MIN), shares in which jumped 27% higher to 6p after the luxury resort developer revealed it has signed an exclusivity agreement with an unnamed potential buyer for its Travel & Leisure division.

The AIM-listed firm, which said the sale would leave the company debt free, added that first-quarter trading in the division is significantly ahead of the same period last year with unaudited gross sales up 15%, and commission ahead 10%.

Minoan also said it has recently received an approach from a credible party which has expressed an interest in acquiring a significant stake in its project in Greece, with discussions at an early stage.

Stellar Diamonds shines out

Elsewhere, takeover moves saw Stellar Diamonds PLC (LON:STEL) shares shoot nearly 26% higher to 5.90p as the company’s board recommended a merger with Australian company Newfield Resources Limited, which also operates in Sierra Leone.

The deal was flagged at the start of last month and the two companies have now agreed terms - Newfield will offer 12.5p per Stellar share, which values the diamond miner at £7.74mln.

The Aussie company will lend Stellar US$3mln to cover its immediate short-term cash needs while undertaking an A$30mln rights issue to re-finance the enlarged group.

Another resources minnow,  Greatland Gold plc (LON:GGP) was also in demand this week, with its shares adding 15% to 0.64p as the miner reported on what it saw as a period of operational progress across key projects.

The AIM-listed firm, in its first-half results statement, highlighted its successful exploration campaigns at the Ernest Giles, Paterson and Panorama projects. It also pointed out that it is well financed with £4.5mln of cash and equivalents at the end of December.

One of last week’s fallers was a strong gainer this week, with Nature Group Plc (LON:NGR) shares bouncing 12% higher to 3p after revealing it has now received "indications of interest" from a number of parties on a possible acquisition of certain of its Maritime operations, as well as further interest in its Oil & Gas business.

The reception facilities and waste treatment firm announced in a drab trading update last week that it was in advanced discussions with a preferred bidder for Nature Oil & Gas Holding having reached agreement on indicative terms and pricing.

This week the group said it plans to progress early-stage discussions based on the indications of interest alongside the existing proposed oil & gas subsidiary sale talks, although it added there is no certainty that any transaction will be concluded.

Burford sees "excellent" results

Investment management group Burford Capital Limited (LON:BUR) pushed higher as well, jumping 30% to 1,408p after it saw its 2017 profit more than double to US$264.8mln, up from US$115.1mln in 2016.

Analysts at City broker Liberum Capital said the “excellent” results and outlook suggested meaningful upside risk to their forecasts for Burford.

Overall, however, it was a negative week for the FTSE AIM All-Share index which shed 1.3% to 1,053, slightly worse than the 1.1% drop by the FTSE 100 index to 7,156 as US trade war fears continued to worry investors.

Among the small-cap fallers, ECSC Group PLC (LON:ECSC)  shed over 20% to 130p after the cybersecurity provider reported an increased loss in its first year since going public, reflecting costs associated with scaling-up the business.

The company posted a pre-tax loss of £3.4mln in 2017, a big increase from the £517,000 deficit for the 15 months to the end of December 2016, although revenues rose by 9.5% to £4.1mln.

However, Ian Mann, ESCS’s CEO said: “The rate of revenue has been significantly less than expected in our plans.” ESCS shares were priced at 167p each when they floated in December 2016.

Contractor numbers fall hits Interquest

Elsewhere, Interquest Group PLC (LON:ITQ) shares dropped 18% to 18.0p as the IT recruitment business reported a  drop in profit and revenue in 2017 due to a reduction in contractor numbers in ECOM Recruitment Limited and certain practices within Enterprise.

The company reported a 25% decrease in adjusted operating profit to £2.7mln in 2017, down from £3.6mln the year before, as revenue fell by 5% to £136.0mln from £143.6mln.

Interquest also announced the conditional acquisition of Albany Beck Consulting, satisfied by the issue of shares representing 13.3% of the group’s share capital to the relevant shareholders of Albany Beck.

And Draganfly Investment Ltd (LON:DRG) was also one of the week’s biggest casualties, with its shares losing 24% to 0.27p after its raised £137,160 through a placing of 50.8mln shares at that exact price, with the funds to be put towards the costs of any possible transactions by the investment company.

However, the firm also said it is ‘unlikely’ that it will be able to undertake a transaction by the deadline of March 21, in which case, the shares would be suspended until the publication of an admission document setting out the details of any such transaction.

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