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Avingtrans sinks as profits halve in interims

A look at some of the major risers and fallers in London on Wednesday

McColl's Retail Group - McColl’s tumbles as it scraps dividend and swings to £100mln loss

Avingtrans PLC (LON:AVG) shares sank 10.8% to 281p in late afternoon trading as the engineering saw profits halve in the first half of its current year.

For the six months ended 30 November, the firm reported that pre-tax profits had fallen to £300,000 from £600,000 in the prior year despite a 15% increase in revenue to £54.8mln.

The lower profit figure was attributed to a £900,000 loss in the firms Energy steel and Booth businesses, both of which it acquired in June last year.

Elsewhere, antivirus software firm Avast PLC (LON:AVST) dropped 2.2% to 403.8p as it attempted to shrug off the impact of the closure of troubled data analytics business Jumpshot, which will cost between US$15mln and US$25mln.

The division, closed in January, sparked controversy by selling anonymised data that could still allow buyers to find out people’s identity.

1.30pm: Origin Enterprises underwater as heavy rain dents performance

Origin Enterprises PLC (LON:OGN) saw its shares sink 11.3% to 3.2p in early afternoon trading after the agri-services group cut its outlook for the current year following “prolonged and challenging weather conditions” in the UK and Ireland.

The company highlighted “significant rainfall” between September and November last year which it said meant the total area for winter crops had been reduced by 25% on the prior year.

As a result, farmers would be relying less on Origin’s agronomy and crop services, and thus the firm’s operating profit and adjusted diluted earnings per share for the year were not predicted to be “significantly below the current range of analysts' estimates”.

Elsewhere, clothing brand Ted Baker plc (LON:TED) fell 2.7% to 305.9p as it announced plans to axe 102 jobs and remove 58 vacant posts as part of its cost-saving strategy.

The troubled clothier expects to save £5mln to next January and £7mln in the following financial years through the staff cuts.

In the risers, outsourcer Serco PLC (LON:SRP) was lifted 1.3% to 152.7p as it reinstated its dividend after profits climbed strongly in 2019.

Revenues at the outsourcer jumped by 15% to £3.25bn, while profits were 9% higher at £80.7mln.

Rupert Soames, chief executive, added the group also went into 2020 with an order book of £14.1bn after a record intake of £5.4bn over the past twelve months.

11.00am: Eddie Stobart crashes as it returns to AIM following suspension

Shares in Eddie Stobart Logistics PLC (LON:ESL) lost over 90% of their value in late-morning, crashing 93% to 5p after the firm returned to AIM following a suspension in August.

Trading in the shares had been stopped after the group discovered a £2mln black hole in its accounts, sparking a review of its revenue policy.

The firm was saved from liquidation in December by shareholder DBay Advisors after other investors backed a financing and acquisition package for the haulier.

However, the publication of its long-delayed interim results revealed a £169.2mln impairment charge alongside an underlying loss for the six months ended 31 May 2019 of £11.6mln, against a restated profit of £0.6mln in 2018.

On the main market, troubled financier Metro Bank PLC (LON:MTRO) slumped 17.2% to 159p as it announced that it will 40% of the £120mln competition grant it was awarded last year after curbing expansion plans.

The challenger bank received the funding from BCR, the body responsible for handing out money from an RBS-funded pool to encourage banking competition.

Under a new agreement with BCR, Metro is handing back £50mln and has agreed to spend £140mln of its own money developing a digital and community bank model.

In the risers, engineering group Weir PLC (LON:WEIR) spun 6.4% higher to 1,331p after revealing plans to exit its oil and gas business “at the right time”.

The division of the FTSE 350 natural resource engineering group is largely skewed towards US shale operations but it has been impacted by changing “market dynamics”.

The decision was accompanied by full year results which showed an 8% increase in group level orders £2.79bn.

9.00am: McColl’s tumbles as it scraps dividend and swings to £100mln loss

McColl’s Retail Group PLC (LON:MCLS) saw its shares tumble 20.6% to 34.2p in early trading on Wednesday after the convenience store chain scrapped its dividend and swung to a near £100mln loss.

In its results for the year ending 24 November, the company said it was scrapping the payout as a result of its “deleveraging priority”, which is aiming to cut down its current debt pile of nearly £95mln.

The massive swing to a £98.6mln loss from a £7.9mln profit in 2018 was attributed to a one-off goodwill impairment charge together with other adjusting items. Adjusting for the charge, pre-tax profits fell to £7.3mln from £10.5mln in the year.

In the FTSE 100, Guinness owner Diageo PLC (LON:DGE) slipped 2.5% to 2,886.5p after predicting that it could suffer a £200mln hit to profits in its current year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Diageo estimated that the outbreak, which has caused bar and restaurant closures as well as reduction in international travel, will result in a “negative impact” of between £225-£325mln on its organic net sales and £140-£200mln on organic operating profit, although the timing and pace of recovery from the virus could affect these ranges.

Among the risers, Symphony Environmental Technologies PLC (LON:SYM) rocketed 75.6% higher to 14p as it received approval for its d2p antimicrobial food packaging from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The environmentally friendly plastics specialist said the approval provided “a new and immediate commercial opportunity in the western world’s largest market” and that it expected to see “considerable interest” for the use of d2p in the baking industry, where it already derives significant revenues from sales of its biodegradable d2w plastic products.

Proactive news headlines:

Symphony Environmental Technologies PLC (LON:SYM) has received approval for its d2p antimicrobial food packaging from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The environmentally friendly plastics specialist said the approval provided “a new and immediate commercial opportunity in the western world’s largest market” and that it expected to see “considerable interest” for the use of d2p in the baking industry, where it already derives significant revenues from sales of its biodegradable d2w plastic products.     

Integumen PLC (LON:SKIN) has unveiled the launch of a new green-tech real-time system that monitors water for bacteria contamination using artificial intelligence. The partners in ecowaterOS are Integumen’s Rinocloud AI, Acumen Software, the Nimbus Research Centre, the Cork Institute of Technology, Cellulac, Modern Water and, the tcBB Resource Centre.

Plexus Holdings Plc (LON:POS) told investors that its Russian licensing partner, Gusar, has made an order for more POS-GRIP exploration jack-up drilling wellhead equipment. It follows encouraging discussions between Gusar and its customers, built on momentum from the successful Russian installation of a first POS-GRIP system for Gazprom. Pricing for the equipment was at market rates and payment will be in cash, Plexus said.

Equals Group PLC (LON:EQS), the e-banking and international payments group, has announced the appointment of the former chief executive of challenger bank First Direct, Alan Hughes as a non-executive director with effect from 1 March. In a statement, the AIM-listed group noted that Hughes is a highly experienced director with a speciality in fast-growth banks and fintech businesses, and, until 2004, he was an executive board member and general manager at HSBC Bank.

Inspiration Healthcare Group PLC (LON:IHC), the global medical technology company, has announced that its chief financial officer, Mike Briant will be retiring from the board at the end of June 2020. The AIM-listed firm said it is intended that Jonathan Ballard, currently Inspiration's financial controller, will become the group's chief financial officer with effect from 1 July 2020.

Chaarat Gold Limited (LON:CGH) has announced three senior management hires. Vladimir Shvetsov is taking up the role of vice president for geology and exploration, replacing Dusty Nicol, who will continue to work closely with the company. Vyacheslav Pilipenko, meanwhile, has been appointed vice president for government relations and security, and it brought on board Frances Robinson in January as company secretary.

Eco Atlantic Oil & Gas Ltd (LON:ECO, CVE:EOG) told investors it is fully funded and it is pushing for its joint venture partners to commit to at least one new cretaceous exploration well as soon as practically possible. The cretaceous play is the most prominent in the region, in terms of successes, with Exxon’s nearby multi-billion barrel Stabroek discoveries along with Repsol’s separate Carapa discovery which was recently made on a neighbouring licence block.

Stobart Group PLC (LON:STOB) has said the terms of the exchangeable bond in holds in Eddie Stobart Logistics PLC (LON:ESL) has not been impacted by the recent change of ownership in the trucking firm, which on Wednesday saw trading in its shares resume on AIM and the publication of its long-delayed interim results. In a statement, Stobart Group noted that the exchangeable bond - issued in May 2019 - is guaranteed by the company and on aggregate is exchangeable into 11.8% of the currently issued ordinary shares of Eddie Stobart Logistics.  It noted that the exchangeable bond does not fall due for repayment until 8 May 2024.

Avation PLC (LON:AVAP), the commercial passenger aircraft leasing company, revealed it has entered the aircraft engine lease business and established its first engine lease. In a statement, the company said it has signed an operating lease with Transportes Aeromar, S.A. de C.V. (Aeromar Airlines) for a Pratt and Whitney PW127M engine.

Avation also said it will host a conference call on 28 February 2020 at 1pm GMT (UK), 8am EST (USA) to discuss its first half year results for the 2020 financial year. The results will be published at 7am GMT on 28 February.

Bluejay Mining PLC (LON:JAY), the AIM-listed company with exploration projects in Greenland and Finland, announced that it will be presenting at the PDAC International Convention, Trade Show & Investors Exchange to be held from 1-4 March 2020 at the Metro Convention Centre, Toronto, Canada. The group said it will provide an overview of its three key projects - the Dundas Ilmenite Project, the Disko-Nuussuaq Nickel-Copper-Platinum Project and the Kangerluarsuk Zinc-Lead-Silver Project - at the PDAC Greenland Day, which is hosted by the Government of Greenland.  The company will be represented at PDAC by executive director and COO, Dr Bo Møller Stensgaard; Geology Manager, Eric Sondergaard; and Greenland Exploration Manager, Joshua Hughes Following the event, Bluejay's presentation will be made available on the company's website.

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