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Small cap movers:Synairgen soars after encouraging COVID-related lab tests while the tide turns for

Terrible though the COVID-19 pandemic has been, it has presented opportunities for a number of the UK’s smaller listed biotechs, such as Synairgen PLC (LON:SNG).

The respiratory drug discovery and development company was the latest to see a share price boost from an announcement related to the treatment of the dreaded coronavirus.

The shares surged 51% after the company said lab tests of its inhaled interferon beta (SNG001), which is being developed to treat people with severe effects of COVID, has shown “potent antiviral activity” against two new variants of the SARS-CoV-2.

The lab tests of its SNG001 also demonstrated the “broad-spectrum antiviral activity”, which bodes well for its use across several respiratory viruses.

The “in vitro” experiments were carried out to assess the drug’s potential efficacy against the Kent and South African COVID mutations.

They found SNG001 “potently reduced” the virus to undetectable levels in cells infected with the Wuhan-like Coronavirus as well as the two strains.

The pandemic has been less kind to other companies, with the recruitment firm Norman Broadbent PLC (LON:NBB) a case in point.

The company released its results for 2020 this week, revealing reduced underlying earnings (EBITDA) of £69,000 compared with £238,000 in the prior year, while revenues came in at £7.8mln from £11.5mln in 2019.

The shares rose 27%, however, as the firm revealed a new invoice finance facility had become active in early 2021, resulting in improved cash flow for the group.

Also rising with the tide was SIMEC Atlantis Energy Ltd (LON:SAE), which received good news from Japan.

The company said its tidal power generation facility in Naru Island, Japan, has passed the Japanese government’s pre-use inspection tests and is now recognised as an official power generation facility.

The turbine tests were undertaken by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), a key stakeholder in consenting renewable energy projects in Japan, during one of the strongest tides expected this year.

SIMEC Atlantis shares rose 31% this week.

Elsewhere in the eco sector, Morgan Stanley Infrastructure confirmed it is considering making an offer for waste management firm Augean PLC (LON:AUG).

If Morgan Stanley pulls the trigger, it would be yet another UK public company ending in private hands, with Spire Healthcare PLC (LON:SPI) and Vectura Group PLC (LON:VEC) being the latest ones to recommend takeovers earlier this week.

Augean shares were up 25% this week, pushing the company’s valuation up to £315mln.

Shares in Iofina PLC (LON:IOF), the iodine extraction specialist, scrubbed up well this week, rising 21% to 13.5p after the company confirmed that last year was a record-breaking one for the company while the first quarter of 2021 saw record revenues, partly as a result of the sale of excess inventory.

The refinancing of the debt during the year was a crucial milestone for the company and contributed to a 37.7% decline in finance expense to US$1.7mln from US$2.7mln the year before; given that profit before tax for 2020 was US$1.28mln, that’s a significant reduction in debt financing.

Moving to the dank and desolate end of the small caps basement, Revolution Bars Group PLC (LON:RBG) was the week’s biggest faller, tumbling by a third to 22.5p after it tapped the market £21mln, placing shares at 20p a pop.

The newly issued shares represent almost half of the enlarged share issue capital of the company.

“We have traded outstandingly since the initial restrictions have been lifted. We are now looking forward to the end of all restrictions and are excited about the next part of the journey delivering best in class entertainment and hospitality to our guests,” said the appropriately named Rob Pitcher, the chief executive of the bars group.

I am sure we can all drink to that.

And just when you thought we were going to achieve the rare feat of not mentioning Hurricane Energy PLC (LON:HUR) in the Small Cap Movers column, along it comes like a fighter ‘plane appearing out of the clouds.

The shares dived 22% to 1.1725p this week after the company published its results for 2020.

The company recorded a loss for the year of US$625.3mln, including impairment charges totalling US$567.1mln in respect of the Lancaster field and the company’s exploration assets and an associated deferred tax write-off of US$54.2mln.

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