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Succession games at Morrison Supermarkets fail to impress shareholders

A look at the day's major movers, including Morisson Supermarkets, Cloudcall, and Eurasia Mining

Quiz PLC -

Wm Morrison Supermarkets PLC’s (LON:MRW) were packing 2.2% lower at 191.4p each, after saying that Trevor Strain, the group’s highly-rated finance chief and commercial officer, will hand over the reins to the group’s finance director Michael Gleeson.

Strain will focus solely on operations as chief operating officer from 3 February, prompting many to suggest he’s being lined up for the top job when current chief executive David Potts steps down.

Chief executive David Potts, who joined from Tesco in 2015, said the changes were “a result of strong management development plans” and added “I look forward to continuing to work closely with both of them”.

Elsewhere, shares in Cloudcall Group PLC (LON:CALL) followed suit with a 0.5% fall to 98.5p with news that it has extended the partnership with recruitment-focused software firm TargetRecruit.

The new partnership will bring Cloudcall’s cloud-based software to TargetRecruit, to help it modernise workforce management and recruitment, through several features including click to call, and recording.

"We are thrilled to be continuing our partnership expansion journey with TargetRecruit. The powerful and flexible software is built on the world's number one CRM platform, Salesforce, a CRM we are very familiar with,” said chief executive Simon Cleaver.

Firestone Diamonds PLC’s (LON:FDI) dazzled investors with news that stable grid power has been restored at its Liqhobong diamond mine in South Africa, sending shares up 182% to 1.2p.

The diamond miner said the two-month shut down at Lesotho Electricity's Muela hydropower station had ended on 1 December, after maintenance work was carried out.

Firestone added that insurance claims were being compiled over the loss of profit and additional $1.1mln costs incurred for renting diesel generators which powered their plant from 26 October.

Another miner, Eurasia Mining PLC (LON:EUA) climbed 14% to 2.8p after saying licence applications for its Monchetundra and West Kytlim projects in Russia were “progressing well” as it advanced plans to expand its presence in the area.

In an update, the AIM-listed miner said it has also received written approval from Rosnedra, the Russian federal subsoil management agency, for subsoil use in relation to its Tipil licence.

Tipil, which comprises 24.5 square kilometres at West Kytlim and has reorted sedimentary units hosting deposits of platinum group metals (PGM), is now awaiting a formal meeting with the local mines commission to complete the application process.

Over in the world of tech, IXICO PLC’s (LON:IXI) shares gained 1% as the neuroscience analytics firm celebrated its first year of profitability since its admission to AIM in 2013.

For the year ended 30 September, the company swung to an underlying (EBITDA) profit of £500,000 from a £600,000 loss in the prior year, while revenues rose 40% to a record level of £7.6mln.

IXICO is on the rise after securing £7.7mln in new and expanded multi-year contracts during the year, as well as three new agreements in the first part of its current year.

1.30pm: Augmentum Fintech struggles to augment investment gains

Augmentum Fintech Plc’s (LON:AUGM) shares crawled 4.7% lower to 102p after the venture capital firm’s portfolio company, Zopa, halved in value.

Zopa saw its valuation fall by 47% to £188mln yesterday after an urgent fundraise yesterday allowed it to keep its bank licence, which was set to expire within days.

Augmentum said today that upward valuations of its portfolio companies to the tune of £14.9mln were offset by the Zopa write down, leaving an overall gain on investments of £4.6mln.

Character Group PLC (LON:CCT) saw a dramatic downturn, falling 7.2% to 385p after reporting that the Christmas season is not bringing higher sales for its current range of Peppa Pig, Pokemon and Dr Who toys.

“Challenging trading” has affected trading in the festive season and will hit performance in the first months of its new financial year, the AIM-listed toymaker said in its annual results statement.

It’s expecting the second half to pick up on the back of new lines featuring licensed-in brands such as Peppa Pig, Teletubbies and Scooby-Doo, scheduled to launch from January through to early summer.

Vodafone PLC (LON:VOD) rang in a 0.6% lower share price of 145p following news of its link-up with Amazon Web Services.

The tech companies will team up to offer business customers in Europe ‘edge computing’ capabilities, which is where devices, which are running software on the cloud, take on key parts of the computing and processing in order to increase privacy and reduce the time it takes for data to be sent from one point to another.

Back in May, the telecoms provider revealed a £6.6bn annual loss and cut shareholder dividends.

10.30am: Webis Holdings races ahead with betting business

Webis Holdings PLC (LON:WEB) galloped ahead, up 8.3% at 1.3p after announcing that its advance-deposit betting business WatchandWager signed an extension to continue its horse racing operations at Cal Expo Harness Racing.

WatchandWager has extended its contract the start of May in 2025, including a clause to extend the lease until 2030, if they both agree to.

Webis has been operating live racing at the event since 2012, and said “our commitment to Cal Expo and racing ensure that WatchandWager will remain a major stakeholder in the positive expansion of gambling in the state of California for many years to come”.

Shares in MaxCyte Inc. (LON:MXCT) jumped 7.1% to 121p when the firm inked a new development and commercialization agreement with KSQ Therapeutics, a biotechnology company using its proprietary CRISPRomics discovery platform to achieve higher probabilities of success in drug development.

Under the agreement, KSQ gains the rights to use MaxCyte's Flow Electroporation technology and ExPERT instruments for the advancement of KSQ's engineered tumour-infiltrating lymphocyte (eTIL) programs, which the global cell-based therapies and life sciences company is developing for the treatment of PD-1 refractory solid tumours.

Stock Spirits Group PLC’s (LON:STCK) shares rebounded, up 5.7% at 199.2p after the alcohol distiller revealed plans to expand distillation capacity in Poland, with profits rising due to strong vodka sales.

Profit before tax rose by 25% to €38.3mln in the year to the end of September, said the spirits and liqueurs seller in its full-year results on Wednesday.

More than half of revenues were contributed by bumper vodka sales of €171mln in Poland, Europe’s biggest market for the spirit, where it is planning to spend €25mln on building additional distillation capacity in the next three years.

9.30am: M&C Saatchi's shares almost halve on profit warning

M&C Saatchi Plc’s (LON:SAA) shares couldn’t market themselves to investors, plunging 43% to 83.2p after the ad agency warned on profits and an audit revealed issues in its accounts.

The company cut profit expectations for a second time in less than three months, with adjusted underlying pretax profit for the full year to fall between 22% and 27% compared with last year.

An accounting blunder identified in August was also worse than expected,  with an audit review suggesting an upward adjustment of £11.60mln.

“A mess would be a polite description,” said Russ Mould at AJ Bell.

In the world of retail, Quiz PLC (LON:QUIZ) fell 9% to 15.3p after falling in-store sales undermined its online retailing ramp-up, causing the dividend to be suspended.

The fast-fashion retailer said online sales grew 7% to £20mln in the half-year to 30 September but overall sales dropped 5% to £63.3mln, which it blamed on a wider UK retail sector being hit by macro-economic uncertainty.

The clothing seller has had a disastrous run this year, which included the scrapping of the dividend in June, after the collapse of high street department store House of Fraser and more aggressive discounting wiped out almost all its profits.

Elsewhere, tubing specialist Tricorn Group PLC (LON:TCN) took a 19.61% tumble to 10.3p after the company said it expected “demand to remain low in the UK and to weaken in the USA” as profits fall.

Profits already fell 16% to £944,000 in the six months to the end of September due to lower revenues and in the USA short-term pressure on margins due to the impact of increased import tariffs on goods sourced from China.

Shareholders were warned in October of “materially lower” full-year profits, after a breakdown in demand in the first half of the year.

Proactive news headlines:

MaxCyte Inc. (LON:MXCT) has inked a new development and commercialization agreement with KSQ Therapeutics, a biotechnology company using its proprietary CRISPRomics discovery platform to achieve higher probabilities of success in drug development. The terms of the agreement will see KSQ obtain non-exclusive clinical and commercial use rights to MaxCyte's cell engineering platform to develop multiple adoptive cell therapies. In return, MaxCyte is eligible to receive certain milestone payments in addition to other licensing fees.

IXICO PLC (LON:IXI) has achieved its first year of profitability since its admission to AIM in 2013. For the year ended 30 September, the neuroscience analytics firm swung to an underlying (EBITDA) profit of £500,000 from a £600,000 loss in the prior year, while revenues rose 40% to a record level of £7.6mln.

VR Education Holdings PLC (LON:VRE) is to launch a new 5G virtual reality (VR) device in partnership with Deutsche Telekom, US conglomerate Qualcomm Inc (NASDAQ:QCOM) and Taiwanese tech group XRSPACE. The VR technology firm said its ENGAGE platform, which allows users to construct virtual classrooms and other environments, has been selected as a launch application for the new VR headset, which is scheduled for release in the middle of next year.

Advanced Oncotherapy PLC (LON:AVO) is teaming up with one of America’s premier medical centres to assess the potential of the company’s proton beam technology. The two-year collaboration with the Cleveland Clinic will evaluate “the target conformity of proton mini-beams compared with x-ray stereotactic body radiation therapy”.

Supermarket Income Reit PLC (LON:SUPR) shares nudged higher on Wednesday as the group saw increased rents for two properties in its portfolio. The firm said a retail price index (RPI) rent review for its Sainsbury’s supermarket in Ashford, Kent, had resulted in the annual lease payment rising to £4.04mln from £3.93mln per annum. Meanwhile, a similar review for its Tesco superstore in Thetford, Norfolk, will see rents rise to £2.72mln from £2.64mln per annum.

OptiBiotix Health PLC (LON:OPTI) has announced the appointment of Mikkel Hvid-Hansen as European Sales Leader of its wholly-owned subsidiary, ProBiotix Health Ltd. The life sciences business – which is developing compounds to tackle obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes and skincare – noted that Hvid-Hansen is joining ProBiotix Health from a position as International Sales Manager from Cell Biotech Int., a Korean probiotic company selling bulk ingredients and finished products internationally.

Primary Health Properties PLC (LON:PHP) has inked an £8.4mln deal to providing funding for the construction of a medical centre in Eastbourne, England, as the property investor continues to grow its portfolio. In a statement, the FTSE 250-listed healthcare facility builder said that over 18,000 patients will benefit from primary care facilities to be built for two merged GP practices, and the property will be wholly-owned by PHP after completion.

PCF Group Plc (LON:PCG) has its sights set on a £1bn loan book after the specialist lender posted record numbers in its latest year. Loans outstanding rose 55% to £339mln with profits for the twelve months to September climbing by 54% to £8mln.

Alien Metals Ltd (LON:UFO) is buying a formerly producing Western Australia silver mine in a low-cost, all-share deal. The group is acquiring the Elizabeth Hill Silver Project from Karratha Metals Group. Alien is handing over 200mln shares valued at 0.14p each, or £280,000 in total. The stock comes with 50mln warrants attached that are in the money above 0.25p.

NQ Minerals PLC (LON:NQMI) made record profits from its Hellyer mine in Tasmania last month. Unaudited net profit before tax in November was A$2.44mln (£1.29mln) on revenues of A$5.64mln.

Premier African Minerals Limited (LON:PREM) has taken a 10% stake in a manganese mine MN Holdings after converting a loan into shares. MN owns the Otjozondu mine in Namibia, which is currently exporting 5,000 tonnes lump ore per month at better than 35% manganese with production set to increase, Premier said in a statement. The mine also has an exploration target of 30-50mln tonnes grading at 23%-27% Mn and in the year to June generated revenues of N$21mln (US$1.43mln).

Impax Asset Management Group PLC (LON:IPX) said it is “in good stead” to keep growing as widespread commitment towards a more sustainable economy “has never been stronger”. The AIM-listed company, which invests in projects focused on the transition to a more sustainable global economy, saw its assets under management (AUM) rise to a total of £15.7bn in the two months to 30 November, thanks to net inflows of £500mln.

Pembridge Resources PLC’s (LON:PERE) subsidiary, Minto Explorations Ltd, has received a US$3.7mln revenue payment as part of an offtake agreement with Japanese firm Sumitomo. The payment is for 1,793 dry metric tonnes of copper, gold and silver concentrate mined in November from the firm’s Minto project in Canada.

TomCo Energy plc (LON:TOM) has raised £925,000 through a share placing to support the company’s plans to advance oil and/or tar sands opportunities, along with the ongoing development and revision to its TurboShale system. The company is issuing 142.3mln new shares priced at 0.65p each. The placing was arranged by broker Turner Pope Investments. The placing shares come with warrants, one issued for every two shares, with an exercise price set at 1.5p. The placing comes as Tomco gains access to the Valkor oil sands opportunity through a joint venture in the Uintah basin, Utah, with engineering firm Valkor LLC.

Sunrise Resources PLC (LON:SRES) has flagged a delay to the mine permitting for the CS Pozzolan-Perlite project in Nevada, USA. The company, in a statement, told investors that the delay to completion has been caused by the Bureau of Land Management’s late introduction of additional information reporting requirements for the company’s supplemental environmental reports.

Genel Energy PLC (LON:GENL) has revealed that chairman Steve Whyte has resigned from the company with immediate effect. Earlier this year, in May, Whyte decided he would not stand for re-election at the 2020 annual general meeting. Whyte is being replaced by George Rose who is stepping up from his position as senior independent non-executive director to be Genel’s interim chairman whilst a permanent replacement is selected.

Bango PLC (LON:BGO), the mobile commerce company, has announced the appointment of two non-executive directors (NED). It said Sir Eric Peacock joins the company as senior independent NED, to guide and support the expected rapid growth of Bango as it builds on its global relationships and capitalizes on its data monetization technology. The group noted that Peacock has broad experience in a range of CEO, Chair and NED roles in public and private companies including Stage Technologies, Achieve Global, Halo Intl., and Babygro plc. The company also said Frank Bury has joined it as an independent NED bringing with him a career spanning 27 years in finance, having spent 12 years in the City of London and 15 years running venture investment partnerships in the tech and emerging markets sectors. He is currently a NED at Smartlogic, bio-tech innovator Domainex Ltd and at TS Lombard.

Benchmark Holdings PLC (LON:BMK), the aquaculture health, advanced nutrition, and genetics business, said that Malcolm Pye, who stepped down as its chief executive officer in August to become a non-executive director of the company, has decided to retire from the board with effect from today in order to pursue other opportunities. Benchmark’s board reiterated its thanks to Pye for his considerable contribution during his time with the group.

Ariana Resources PLC (LON:AAU), the AIM-listed exploration and development company, said it has been informed that further to a purchase of 460,000 ordinary shares in the company on 29 November 2019, Stephen Bingham now holds 32,110,000 ordinary shares,  representing a holding of 3.03% of the group’s total issued share capital.

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