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Bank of Ireland with the old one-two: withdrawn guidance and cancelled dividend

A look at some of the major movers in London on Monday

Novacyt SA -

Bank of Ireland Group PLC (LON:BIRG) shed 12% at €1,74 after it became the latest company to reverse course on a proposed dividend.

The Irish lender had intended to pay a dividend of 17.5 cents per share in respect of 2018 but has decided to rescind this proposal.

With the dividend decision came the inevitable notice that previous full-year guidance given by the company about its financial performance could no longer be considered reliable.

1.00pm: Mothercare to press ahead with turnaround plan amid coronavirus disruption

Mothercare PLC (LON:MTC) fell 13% to 4.29p after it said it is continuing with its turnaround plans despite taking hits from the coronavirus outbreak.

The pregnancy and baby products seller had closed its UK outlets in November as part of a last-ditch rescue plan to focus on overseas operations, though 430 staff have been working at Boots.

The firm said it is still incurring “incremental operating costs” despite governmental support to pay employees’ wages and tax relief.

Noon: Morses Club stops extending credit to new customers for the time being

Morses Club PLC (LON:MCL), the doorstep lender, tumbled 15% to 34p after it said it has stopped extending credit to new customers.

The company said that in view of the disruption to the business caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19), it would not be recommending the payment of a dividend in July and has withdrawn its financial guidance for the full-year.

The company said all operational field management and agents are now working from home and face-to-face customer visits have been replaced with a remote customer communication strategy.

11.00am: Hammerson receives flood of hard-luck stories

Property group Hammerson PLC (LON:HMSO) slumped 19% t0 69.52p after it said it had been inundated by requests for rent deferrals, monthly payments, and waivers.

These are being reviewed on a case-by-case basis, taking account of the business model and risk profile of the occupier, alongside any government aid available.

Brent Cross in London and the Bullring in Birmingham are still open at a token level for deemed essential suppliers though 96% of units across its flagship sites are shut.

10.00am: Interim CEO gets the nod at Ted Baker

Ted Baker PLC (LON:TED), the fashion firm, rose 4.3% to 125.7p after it appointed chief financial officer, Rachel Osborne, as its new chief executive officer.

Osborne has been acting chief executive officer since December of last year after jumping ship from Debenhams in November to join Ted Baker as its chief financial officer.

"Rachel has already made a significant contribution to Ted Baker, working tirelessly in recent months to develop a transformation plan for the business. She has brought hugely relevant retail and customer experience and is ideally positioned to lead Ted Baker's turnaround in the future,” said acting chair, Sharon Baylay.

9.00am: Novacyt and Modern Water jump on coronavirus-related surge in orders

Novacyt SA (LON:NCYT), up 14% at 195p, was the top riser on Monday morning after it updated on orders for its coronavirus (COVID-19) diagnostic kit.

As of March 27, the group said its Primerdesign subsidiary had sold and received orders for more than £17.8mln of its CE-Mark and research use only (RUO) COVID-19 tests.

The rate of demand for the test continues to increase, and on March 27, Primerdesign received its largest single order to date of £1.4mln from a new customer in India following emergency use approval of the test on March 26.

In a similar vein, Modern Water Plc (LON:MWG) was up 14% at 0.825p after it said orders for water contamination detection bacteria consumables have increased by 46% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2020.

Two months of stock has been shipped in the last two weeks amid growing demand, believed to be connected to the global COVID 19 public health crisis, from existing customers across Spain, Italy and China.

Production by Integumen PLC (LON:SKIN) of Modern Water's monitoring bacteria reagent has also begun at the University of York, six weeks ahead of the originally planned production date.

Integumen shares were up 6% at 1.06p.

Proactive news headlines:

i3 Energy PLC (LON:i3E) shares jumped on Monday as it announced a new strategic acquisition, picking up producing assets in Canada at a discount, amid industry uncertainty triggered by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and following the collapse in crude oil prices. In a statement, the company said it has secured terms to acquire Toronto listed Toscana Energy Income Corporation which owns assets in Alberta and Saskatchewan, within the ‘Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin’ (WCSB).

Bidstack Group PLC (LON:BIDS) has said its in-game advertising technology is seeing “high levels of inbound demand” from ad agencies as the coronavirus pandemic leads to record numbers of video gamers. The AIM-listed said that it had also received “some exciting and unexpected commercial opportunities” as a result of the surge, highlighting that spending on video games in the US had soared 60% year-on-year in the week of 16 March.

Faron Pharmaceuticals Oy (LON:FARN) (NASDAQFIRSTNORTH:FARON) has been given the green light to broaden the scope of its phase I/II cancer trial after a review of the interim data. The MATINS study of the immunotherapy Clevegen will now take in eight further strains of the disease besides the two already assessed - colorectal and ovarian.

Integumen PLC (LON:SKIN) and its partner Modern Water Plc (LON:MWG) have begun production of the latter’s monitoring bacteria reagent six weeks ahead of schedule due to the coronavirus pandemic. The two companies announced a three-year deal on March 18 for Integumen to manufacture and provide logistical support for Modern Water’s monitoring reagent consumables, which is expected to be worth a headline £3.12mln.

Ergomed PLC (LON:ERGO) has said it is to provide drug safety services to assess the effect of a rheumatoid arthritis treatment on patients with severe COVID-19 infection caused by coronavirus. The company is providing the services through its specialist pharmacovigilance provider, PrimeVigilance, as part of an ongoing clinical trial.

Union Jack Oil PLC (LON:UJO) has revealed the findings of a new assessment of the Biscathorpe project including an economic review which concludes that it is a financially robust project at current oil prices. The 55% owned project is estimated to have a break-even full-cycle economics at US$18.07 per barrel.

Iconic Labs PLC (LON:ICON) has launched Infotagion: Covid-19, an online and social media fact-checking service to counter misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic. The media firm said the service, launched in partnership with Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee chair Damian Collins MP, will be provided on a not for profit basis with the aim of combating fake news around the virus which it said can cause “misinformation, and panic and potentially cause governments and health services to divert resources away from where they are needed most”.

Chesnara PLC (LON:CSN), the life assurance group, has proposed a final dividend of 13.87p in respect of the 2019 fiscal year, up 3% year-on-year. The company said it remains well capitalised with a solvency ratio, as at 20 March, of around 164%. The corresponding value of surplus above its solvency capital requirement is estimated at around £193mln, while the estimated Chesnara parent company cash balance as at 20 March 2020 was £73.5mln.

Frontier IP Group PLC’s (LON:FIPP) portfolio firm Elute Intelligence, in which it holds a 43% stake, has launched a free online coronavirus document reader to support scientists researching the disease. The intellectual property (IP) investor said the reader, which uses Elute’s advanced software tools to search large and complex databases, will allow researchers to search for articles mentioning terms related to the outbreak.

ECR Minerals PLC (LON:ECR) has revealed the results of a testing programme at the Creswick gold project in Victoria that was designed to test for ferroan carbonates. Drill cuttings, or chips, from the 2019 drilling at Creswick were used for the tests. The results show ferroan dolomite in wallrock and as quartz-carbonate composite chips in five drill holes. Ferroan dolomite is characteristic of alteration around central Victorian gold deposits and indicative of gold-related hydrothermal fluid flow.

Tower Resources PLC (LON:TRP) has told investors that it is still possible to spud the NJOM-3 well before 15 September 2020 despite the current Force Majeure, caused by coronavirus (COVID-19), but added that this is “inherently uncertain”. In any event, the company said it remains committed to drilling NJOM-3 - a test of the Njoni project located inside the Thali PSC area - as quickly as possible.

Tissue Regenix Group PLC (LON:TRX) has said it continues to work on a funding deal, which it hopes to conclude in the “near future” and added that it was “encouraged by a number of ongoing discussions with potential investors”. However, it also cautioned that there could be no guarantee its efforts would be successful. The regenerative medicines specialist said its cash runway takes it to at least the end of the second week of May, having implemented control measures.

IronRidge Resources Ltd (LON:IRR) is winding down exploration activities early at its operations in West Africa in the wake of the coronavirus threat, the firm revealed as it posted a half-year financial report. "In light of developments regarding COVID-19 IronRidge has acted to adjust its activities and is winding down drilling and field programmes a few weeks earlier than originally planned before the upcoming wet season, in order to ensure the health and safety of all of its employees and contractors at this time,” IronRidge chief executive Vincent Mascolo said in the update.

ValiRx PLC (LON:VAL) has said it is reviewing its options to reconvene a meeting to vote on resolutions that could lead to a cash lifeline for the company. The cash-strapped firm is in discussions with a number of potential funders who have indicated conditional willingness to invest in the company in the event that certain resolutions are passed but the meeting that was called for March 25 to vote on these resolutions was adjourned as a result of the coronavirus (COVD-19) situation.

OPG Power Ventures PLC (LON:OPG) said demand for power from the group has dropped following the closure of all commercial and industrial operations in India from March 25. Accordingly, OPG expects minimal load over the coming weeks.

Caledonia Mining Corporation PLC (LON:CMCL)(TSE:CAL) has said that the lockdown in South Africa declared by President Ramaphosa is likely to have knock-on effects for operations at the company’s Blanket gold mine across the border in Zimbabwe although is currently continuing to produce gold. The supply chain for the procurement of a significant portion of mining consumables and capital equipment comes from South Africa. A lock-down in Zimbabwe was declared on 27 March, but Blanket is continuing to operate as it has applied for an exemption on the grounds that it is able to operate in a manner that contributes to the management of the spread of the coronavirus.

Pan African Resources plc (LON:PAF) has shut its gold mines in South Africa, in accordance with the requirement of a government decree that sets out to tackle the coronavirus crisis. As part of essential services, the company said it is conducting limited surface re-mining and processing activities at its Elikhulu tailings retreatment plant and at its Barberton tailings retreatment plant. These operations are currently operating at approximately 70% of normal capacity. 

Rainbow Rare Earths Ltd (LON:RBW) has said in commentary accompanying results for the six months to 31 December that the coronavirus is thus far having a limited impact on its operations in Burundi, but that the situation is being monitored closely. During the six months in question the company revised its development strategy significantly, and is now planning a much larger operation based on a production rate of at least 20,000 tonnes of concentrate per year.

Brunner Investment Trust PLC (LON:BUT) said that, following the Prime Minister's announcement on 23 March 2020 of further restrictions and the continuing impact of COVID-19 its AGM cannot go ahead as planned with Trinity House closed and no access to the AGM  venue.  The group said its board has resolved to postpone the AGM and will send a new notice to shareholders of the revised time, date and venue.

Alliance Pharma PLC (LON:APH), the international healthcare group, said it will announce its preliminary results for the year ended 31 December 2019 on Tuesday 7 April 2020. A conference call for analysts will be held at 10.00am on the morning of 7 April 2020.  A recorded webcast of the analyst conference call, including investor presentation slides, will be made available during the afternoon of 7 April 2020 at this link. The recorded webcast will also be made available at the investor section of Alliance's website.

AFC Energy PLC (LON:AFC), a leading provider of hydrogen power generation technologies, has announced that its Annual Report and Accounts for the year ended 31 October 2019 and the Notice of AGM have been posted to shareholders and are available, together with the arrangements for the AGM, on the company's website. The AGM will be held at 12.00pm on 23 April 2020 at AFC Energy's offices, Dunsfold Park, Cranleigh Surrey GU68TB.

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