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Lookers PLC drives ahead after positive performance despite closed showrooms

Lookers PLC (LON:LOOK) has accelerated after the car dealership issued a positive first quarter update even though its showrooms were shut thanks to the COVID-19 lockdown.

It said it continued to take orders and fulfil vehicle handovers through its dealership teams, call centres and website.

It said: “These activities were underpinned by our new Click and Drive and contactless technology platform, which has allowed us to service the increased demand through digital channels.”

Despite the restrictions, its performance was better than expected, with 44,000 cars sold compared to 49,000 the same time last year. New car sales were flat compared to a 1.2% fall for the sector as a whole.

Lookers is cautious about the rest of the year (unsurprisingly) but said that following the better than expected quarterly performance, it expected full year profits to be materially ahead of the concensus forecast of £22.6mln.

The company’s shares are up 14.86% or 9.3p to 71.9p.

3.03pm: Green is Good

ITM Power PLC (LON:ITM), the energy storage and clean fuel company, has received a positive reaction to its plans for improving its environmental and social performance.

Its shares have added 2.96% or 13.6p to 472.8p after its inaugural Environmental, Social and Governance report set future targets for the business, which included reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions before 2050 and assessing all critical suppliers by May next year.

Chief executive Dr Graham Coole said: “By unlocking the power of green hydrogen, our products are helping the world reach net zero.  But we need to bring that same ambition to everything we do as a business – whether that’s developing our employees, investing in our local communities or minimising our own carbon footprint.  Our Sustainable Energy, Engineered Sustainably strategy will help us to achieve that goal.”

2.12pm: Education group sees light at the end of the tunnel

As a supplier of technology and resources to the education sector, RM Plc (LON:RM.) has clearly been adversely affected by pandemic shutting down the country’s schools.

But with pupils returning and signs that things are improving generally, it has issued a cautiously positive message to shareholders at its annual meeting.

Chairman John Poulter said: “The first quarter trading performance has been impacted by the closure of schools and the cancellation of 2021 school examinations in the UK and Ireland.  The effect of this nationwide lockdown in RM Resources has been less significant than experienced in the prior year as the numbers of pupils physically in school has been higher and trading has recovered quickly since the reopening of schools.

“The situation remains uncertain as a result of COVID-19 but the group was profitable in the first quarter and remains in a robust financial position with net debt as at 28 February 2021 of £13.3m (February 2020: £30.0m) against a committed credit facility of £70m.”

Investors are accentuating the positive, and RM’s shares are up 7.44% or 16p at 231p.

11.42am: Sun rises on Caspian

The charmingly named Caspian Sunrise PLC (LON:CASP) is looking bright after its latest update.

The  Kazakhstan oil and gas company said its flagship BNG Contract Area asset produced 119,916 barrels in the first three months of the year, and while domestic prices remained low, thay had recently risen from approximately $6 a barrel to $7.27.

Chairman Clive Carver said: “With the improving weather we are able to increase the pace of our operations at BNG. We now have three operational rigs and expect a fourth rig to become operational in the next few weeks.”

Caspian’s shares have climbed 10.26% or 0.2p to 2.15p.

One of the day’s big movers is Minds + Machines Group Limited (LON:MMX).

It has surged 65.22% or 3p to 7.6p after it agreed to sell the majority of its assets to Registry Services LLC, a subsidiary of US web domain group GoDaddy, for US$120mln in cash.

The top-level domain registry firm said the deal represented an estimated value of 8.8p per share, a 91% premium to its closing price on Wednesday, adding there was a “strong strategic rationale” to sell to an established player in the industry.

10.16am: Drinks group goes tropical

Investors are toasting the latest news from drinks group Distil PLC (LON:DIS).

The company – whose brands include Blackwoods Vintage Gin and Blavod Original Black Vodka – has added another flavour to its RedLeg rum product.

RedLeg Tropical Rum, the third flavour extension to the brand, adds mango, guava and passionfruit to the rum base, which is Distilled in the Caribbean.

Executive chairman Don Goulding said: “We’ve seen tremendous growth in the spiced rum category and for the RedLeg over the last 12 months. Our RedLeg Spiced Rum has performed well in major retail and the existing flavours have been instrumental in recruiting new consumers to the brand and have delivered incremental sales. We are confident that RedLeg Tropical Rum will continue to build on this success.”

Its shares have bubbled up 11.54% or 0.3p to 2.9p.

9.05am: Healthcare group signs collaboration agreement

The Barkby Group PLC (LON:BARK) – whose businesses range from commercial property to pubs to life science investments – is in demand.

Its shares have climbed 6.46% or 1.68p to 27.68p after one of its investments, women’s health specialist Verso Biosense, announced the signing of its second product collaboration agreement with one of the UK’s leading fertility clinics, London Women’s Clinic.

The clinic will use its uterine monitoring device to refine Verso’s technology and biosensing platform to meet the needs of its fertility patients.

Joseph Cefai, Head of Product Development at Verso Biosense, said: “We are delighted to announce our partnership with the London Women’s Clinic, a true leader in providing world-class fertility treatment to women and couples. It is testament to the potential of our ground-breaking platform that this is the second partnership we have announced in the space of a few of weeks, following our agreement with Homerton University Hospital in March. We are moving at pace to provide our monitoring platform to meet the needs of patients and we are delighted by the progress that we are making.”

One of the day’s big fallers is Kore Potash (LON:KP2).

The potash exploration and development company whose flagship asset is the 97%-owned Sintoukola Potash Project in the Republic of Congo (“RoC”) is down 0.4p or 24.24% to 1.25p.

The fall comes on news of an US$ 11mln fundraising for working capital for the next twelve months and to meet the cost of an optimisation study for the Sintoukola project.

To be fair, the day’s drop still leaves the shares above the placing price of 1.1p a share.

Under a proposed debt and royalty funding deal with its partners Summit Africa, SEPCO Electric Power Construction Corporation and China ENFI Engineering Corporation, Kore would not be required to contribute to the capital needed to build the US$1.65bn project and would retain a 90% equity interest. 

8.23am: Mining group upbeat on open pit prospects

Rockfire Resources PLC (LON:ROCK) is in sparkling form after a positive update from a gold deposit in Australia.

A preliminary study for a small-scale open pit mining operation at Rockfire’s Plateau Gold Deposit in North Queensland showed positive anticipated cash flows and paves the way for further drilling.

The company said possible cash flow ranged from AUD$6.8m to AUD$19.4m (GBP £3.7m to GBP £10.7m), depending on technical and operational variables. But five different scenarios all resulted in positive cash flow outcomes.

David Price, chief executive officer of Rockfire, said: “”We are very pleased that this preliminary Scoping Study has returned results indicative of a small-scale, open pit operation, delivering a range of net positive cash flow outcomes.

“At an early stage of a project’s exploration history, it is prudent to focus on the possibility for eventual economic extraction and a positive result at this stage is a very significant achievement and a promising start for Plateau. As more work is completed, the understanding of the financial and operational parameters of a project become apparent and more confident. With numerous opportunities identified by the Study for further drilling, management is excited by Plateau’s growth potential to improve the economics to achieve a larger production profile.”

The miner’s shares have climbed 12.12% or 0.1p to 0.95p in early trading.

Also heading higher is Cambridge Cognition Holdings PLC (LON:COG).

The brain health specialist has won a contract with a new pharmaceutical client to provide cognitive assessments in an at-home clinical trial.  The contract is worth approximately £0.5 million with most of the revenue expected to be recognised in 2021.

The company said the COVID-19 pandemic had accelerated interest in virtual or decentralised clinical trials, with more assessments being planned at home and therefore out of the clinic setting.

Matthew Stork, chief executive officer of Cambridge Cognition, said: “We are delighted to have secured this contract and to be supporting another major pharmaceutical company to assess cognition in patients’ homes.  This is a trend that we expect to continue and will therefore provide more growth opportunities for Cambridge Cognition in the future.”

Its shares are 7.5p or 7.61% better at 106p.


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