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Small cap movers: ASOS wrestles ‘king of AIM’ crown back but investors don’t cheer the good festive sales

A look back at some of the more interesting stories from London's junior market over the past week

ASOS PLC - Small cap movers: ASOS wrestles ‘king of AIM’ crown back but investors don’t cheer the good festive sales

The perpetual arm-wrestling match between the two leading junior market online retailers resulted in ASOS PLC (LON:ASC) clawing back the ‘king of AIM’ crown this week.

In fact, the clothier is now worth £5bn, well above its rival boohoo Group PLC's (LON:BOO) market capitalisation of £4.2bn.

However, investors haven’t been impressed lately despite strong festive performances from both companies, with both shares moving slightly into the red this week.

ASOS, originally shorthand for As Seen On Screen, saw sales rise 23% in the four months to December but the market is worried the momentum may not continue after the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown when people no longer turn to online shopping while stuck or bored at home.

Meanwhile, boohoo, which saw revenues surge by 40% in the same period, is still crippled by last summer’s governance scandal, which could result in further investigations or a rise in prices after turning to ethical suppliers.

“ASOS has also been trying to jostle for a higher position on the sustainability billboard as a way to gain market share,” said Susannah Streeter, analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“With its online rival Boohoo, trying to shake off a supply chain scandal, a focus on higher ethical standards might help it target the shoppers that it’s so far failed to reach.”

Remaining in the e-commerce sector, N Brown Group PLC (LON:BWNG) - which stepped down to AIM last month - slipped 9% to 64p after posting a 9% dip in sales in the 18 weeks to January 2, 2020. 

Fellow fashion designer Sosandar PLC (LON:SOS) also lost out, down 9% to 15p. The company continues to be loss-making despite posting record results for the final quarter of 2020.

Turning to the wider market, the AIM All-Share was flat at 1,179 this week, outperforming the FTSE 100, which shed 1.8% to 6,747 after the early January rally faded.

Sticking to the fallers, research and development company Online Blockchain PLC (LON:OBC) tumbled 34% to 54p, perhaps a victim of profit-taking after a 69% jump the week before amid rocketing Bitcoin prices.

Elsewhere, robotic process automation specialist Blue Prism Group PLC (LON:PRSM) dropped 18% to 1,545p after full-year revenue forecasts of £170mln-180mln suggested only modest changes to market expectations, though investors may have wanted to see an upgrade after the group marked its fifth year of revenue growth.

Meanwhile, battery manufacturer Ilika PLC (LON:IKA) shed 18% to 197p after admitting demand for its Stereax miniature batteries is outstripping supply, so it will establish its own manufacturing operation to boost production capacity 70-fold by the end of the year.

Telecom services provider Toople PLC (LON:TOOP) fell 17% to 0.09p after flagging a “proactive approach to bad debts” that resulted in a charge of £1.1mln, while the economic impact of COVID-19 is expected to be significant.

Turning to the risers, online competitions runner Best of the Best PLC (LON:BOTB) rocketed 67% higher to 2,380p after lifting full-year profit before tax expectations following a stellar first half, with revenue and profits up 35% and 80% respectively.

Applied Graphene Materials PLC (LON:AGM) shot up 63% to 75p after flagging up a change to regulations by the European Chemical Agency that will allow members of the Graphene REACH registration consortium to supply higher quantities of materials.

Elsewhere, Falanx Group Ltd (LON:FLX) jumped 34% to 1p after expanding its cybersecurity service offering with the launch of Triarii, which has been piloted on Microsoft’s Azure Sentinel platform.

In the pharma sector, Tiziana Life Sciences PLC (LON:TILS) soared 39% to 151p after hiring Dr Neil Graham, an industry veteran with experience of successfully developing a blockbuster monoclonal antibody product at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc as its chief medical officer. Results of the biotech’s COVID-19 treatment are earmarked for later this month.

Fellow drug developer Synairgen PLC (LON:SNG) was a breath of fresh air, rising 18% to 165p after dosing the first participant of the final stage of final trials for its inhaled formulation to treat COVID-19 patients.

The junior market will soon be joined by Canadian-listed mineral explorer Cornish Metals, which announced its intention to float this week and expects to be admitted in February.

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