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Friday's most followed: Evraz, Polymetal, Xchanging, Morgan Sindall, Air Partner, MBL Group, WorkPlace Systems, TXO

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Evraz (LON:EVR) ranked among the most searched for companies on Google News today as investors searched for more information about the steelmaker, which, along with precious metals producer Polymetal, is set to become the first Russian company to join the UK’s blue chip FTSE 100 index.

The move is seen as an attempt by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, who holds a 35.32 percent stake in the company, to hedge against political risks in Russia ahead of the presidential elections in March next year.

Shares in Evraz, which is currently valued at £4.95 billion, have jumped from 320 pence to yesterday’s close of 375.25 pence since it started trading in London on November 7 this year.

The group is set to join the FTSE 100 index on December 19.

Meanwhile, today’s most read RNS statements included contract announcements from Xchanging (LON:XCH) and Morgan Sindall (LON:MGNS).

Business services group Xchanging has renewed its contract to provide technology services to the London Metal Exchange (LME). The deal, which renews on January 1 2012 and runs for a minimum three years, is expected to generate £75 million for Xchanging.

Xchanging has provided the LME with high-availability transaction processing systems since 2005.

According to the group, the partnership has enabled the LME to achieve a tenfold increase in electronic trading volumes and supported its expansion into new markets.

Moving to Morgan Sindall, the construction and regeneration group has secured a £103 million 10-year deal from Barnet Homes for planned refurbishment and electrical work across a portfolio of 15,000 homes.

Barnet Homes manages and maintains homes and estates on behalf of Barnet Council.

In addition, Morgan said it has been selected as preferred development partner for the £145 million regeneration of Stockport Grand Central Station.

Morgan’s urban regeneration division, Muse Developments, will now be recommended to Stockport Council's Executive in a report to be presented on December 16 2011.

Other popular stock exchange statements included a downbeat trading update from Air Partner (LON:AIP), which pushed its shares down 12 percent to trade at 270 pence in early deals.

The transportation group told investors that the aviation sector has been affected by “continuing instability in the primary world markets” with a number of airline operators and travel companies reporting financial difficulties.

While Air Partner said it continues to trade profitably, it remains cautious about the rest of the year given the “continued economic uncertainty and the lack of visibility characterising the industry”.

Revenues from the largest division, Commercial Jet broking, are currently lower than last year, but in line with expectations, while sales within the Freight broking and Private Jet broking divisions have been encouraging, said Air Partner.

“However, it is still too early for this to provide any reliable indication of future financial performance,” the group added.

Shares in home entertainment products distributor MBL Group (LON:MUBL) also were in decline this afternoon, falling 15 percent to 5.75 pence after the group released disappointing interim results.

MBL said it aimed to stabilise its business after losing a major customer Wm Morrisons, which has resulted in a nearly 80 percent drop in revenues to £15.7 million in the six months to end September.

As a result, MBL swung to a pre-tax loss of £7.2 million compared to a profit of £0.7 million for the same period of 2010. Losses per share reached 43.9 pence, while the group posted earnings of 2.9 pence per share a year earlier.

“The group has experienced a challenging six months in which it has been managing the repercussions of the sudden loss of 79 percent of its business,” said chairman of MBL Peter Cowgill.

“The board is committed to stabilising the business following the damaging events of earlier this year and we shall provide an update on headline performance in late January 2012.”

Other notable movers in London included WorkPlace Systems International (LON:WSI), whose shares shot up 76 percent to 24.25 pence after Wasp Management Software, a company backed by Lloyds (LON:LLOY), agreed to acquire the cloud workforce management software group for 25 pence per share.

The offer values WorkPlace Systems at around £41 million and represents a premium of 81.8 percent to the yesterday’s closing price of 13.75 pence per share.

The independent directors of WorkPlace have recommended the offer to shareholders as “fair and reasonable”.

Managing director of Lloyds’ private equity arm LDC London Daniel Sasaki said the enterprise software sector has “strong growth prospects, especially as software provision moves increasingly to delivery over the internet through software-as-a-service offerings”.

Earlier this year, LDP announced it would invest £200 million in the technology, telecoms and media sector over the next two years.

Meanwhile, investors on message boards discussed TXO’s (LON:TXO) valuation with some traders arguing that the stock is undervalued considering that it has a 14.3 percent stake in Grand Bahamas Group, which it can increase to 42.2 percent for a further £2.4 million.

It was noted that one of GBG’s subsidiaries, Morgan Oil USA has interests of over 80 percent on eight leases in Kentucky. An independent estimate of oil reserves within the Morgan leases conducted in January 2010 showed 400,000 or recoverable reserves remaining.

These reserves were valued at US$22.75 million at a price of US$65 per barrel, which has since increased by over US$30 per barrel and at today’s price, the value of these reserves would be much higher.

TXO currently trades at 0.98 pence, which values the company at £3.6 million.

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