NCC Group boosted by US acquisition

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Kier Group PLC (LON:KIE) has built up a good gain after boosting its balance sheet.


The construction company plans to raise GBP241mln with a placing and open offer at 85p a share.


Together with the proceeds of the recent sale of housing division Kier Living to a company owned by financier Guy Hands, that will give the company funds of around GBP351.4mln.


Chief executive Andrew Davies said: “Today’s proposed capital raise represents the final milestone in the group’s strategy to simplify the group; to improve cash generation; and to strengthen our balance sheet.


“This capital raise will provide Kier with the financial and operational flexibility to continue to pursue our strategic objectives, within our chosen markets, and to facilitate investment in the business to help drive sustainable, profitable organic growth and the achievement of our medium-term financial targets.”


Kier’s shares have climbed 15.04% or 15.4p to 117.8p.


3.14pm: Travel group’s plans disrupted


From on the market to on the beach, and a less sunny outlook.


Online travel operator On the Beach Group PLC (LON:OTB) has dropped 10.88% or 47p to 385p after Wednesday’s late announcement it would stop selling summer holidays for this year.


It will not start selling trips abroad until 1 September due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic and following most destinations being deemed Amber on the government’s traffic light system.


It said it would review the position after the government’s planned update expected at the end of May.


Chief executive Simon Cooper said: “In the same way that 85% of consumers don’t want to book travel to Red or Amber destinations because there is no guarantee they will turn Green in time for their holiday, equally there is every possibility destinations designated Green will turn Amber or Red prior to customers’ departure.


“Given this, there is too much uncertainty for us to take new bookings with confidence that they will go ahead, or for us to know the potential inconvenience and incremental costs of taking holidays to either current Green or Amber destinations.”


2.30pm: Online property group in demand


Property portal OnTheMarket PLC (LON:OTMP) has found some buyers after linking up with data specialist Sprift Technologies Limited.


The company said the partnership would allow it to provide its agent customers with free market appraisal guides which are powered by the Sprift platform.


It said these guides could be customised by agents to address the needs of each valuation and would contain an extensive range of property data.


There are more than 28 million UK residential properties stored on the Sprift platform and, since its launch in 2016, the company has produced reports on over 1.3 million properties for its clients, using data from sources including Ordnance Survey, Royal Mail, Google, Land Registry and Ofsted.


Analyst Roddy Davidson at house broker Shore Capital said: “We are encouraged by this complementary partnership which adds further impetus to OnTheMarket’s strategy of enhancing its offering through new products and services.


“More broadly, we continue to see considerable scope for the company to generate medium-term organic growth.”


OnTheMarket’s shares are 4.71% or 4p better at 89p.


11.54am: Competition company loses out


Looks like a spate of profit taking in Best of the Best PLC, (LON:BOTB).


The company, which runs weekly competitions to win cars and other prizes, is down 10.77% or 335p to 2775p after it said full year revenues and pretax profits were expected to be in line with market expectations.


Even with this fall, the shares are up 88% since the start of the year.


11.06am: IT protection group heads higher


On a down day for the market NCC Group PLC (LON:NCC) is bucking the trend.


The company, which specialises in IT protection and assurance, is paying US$220mln (GBP156mln) for the intellectual property management business of Iron Mountain Inc.


The deal will be part funded by a US$99mln (GBP70mln) placing.


Chief executive Adam Palser said: “This acquisition will transform NCC Group’s Software Resilience business, making it a market leader, and deliver immediate financial and operational benefits to the whole of the group. The IPM Business shares many similarities with our own Software Resilience business, including a commitment to providing exemplary service for clients. There are tremendous opportunities to grow the combined business by offering IPM’s blue-chip clients the choice of new services and support.


“Following completion, NCC Group will be a stronger and broader business with an even greater ability to support clients in the ceaseless struggle against cyber-crime in all its forms.”


NCC shares are up 6.1% or 15.5p at 269.5p.


Heading the other way is lithium specialist URU Metals Limited (LON:URU).


Its shares have been in demand in recent days, jumping 80% over the last three weeks including a 21% rise on Wednesday alone amid vague talk of a possible dual listing.


But now they have dropped 80p to 375p, as the company poured cold water on the idea of any imminent news.


It said: “The company notes the recent rise in the company’s share price and the board confirms that it is not aware of any specific reason for this increase.


“The company is not aware of any developments beyond those notified to the market historically.”


10.07am: Gold company shines after “pivotal” step


Shares in GoldStone Resources Limited (LON:GRL) are looking like a precious commodity.


They have jumped 19.48% or 2.25p to 13.8p after it said it had begun mining and ore stacking at the Homase Mine, part of its Akrokeri-Homase Gold Project in Ghana.


The first eight months of production at the mine are forecast to produce some 25,000 ounces of gold, at a total cash cost, pre-tax, of under US$600per ounce. The metal currently sells for around US$1815 an ounce.


Chief executive Emma Priestley said: “This is a pivotal step in the evolution of the company as we start production of the Homase Mine. Commencement of operations will lead to an ongoing revenue stream and will also establish a base for unlocking value in our Akrokeri-Homase project…


“Having already increased our gold resources, announced 3 December 2020, as a result of our exploration programme, we are now able to increase our planned production rate to around 50,000 ounces of gold per annum, including 25,000 ounces in calendar year 2021. This represents an increase of more than 300% from the original production schedule.”


9.17am: Hygiene group hit by pandemic problems


Health, hygiene and environmental consultancy business PHSC PLC (LON:PHSC) has revealed the damage done by the fallout from the pandemic.


Its health and safety division saw increased activity in certain areas, such as risk assessment, during the year. But it was unable to do business with many clients in the leisure and education sectors because, of course, their premises were shut or operating at reduced capacity because of lockdown.


Its security business, which mainly supplies the retail sector, faced a similar problem. There was also the collapse of clients such as Debenhams and Edinburgh Woollen Mill, which lead to PHSC having to write off money it was owed.


But its management systems subsidiary remained profitable despite reduced revenues,


It was heavily reliant on the government’s job retention scheme in the first half of its financial year, less so in the second.


Overall, full year revenues are expected to have fallen from GBP4.44mln to GBP3.29mln, but with earnings up from GBP255,000 to around GBP520,000. There was an improvement in earnings from around GBP182,000 in the first half to GBP338,000 in the second.


It also has GBP1.2mln in the bank, and plans a share buyback programme of up to GBP325,000.


This will be partly funded by the GBP305,000 raised from selling an Essex property a few years ago, and also because the board believes last night’s share price of 14p is a significant discount to the company’s net asset value a share of around 35.42p.


The news has certaintly helped mitigate that a little. Its shares are now up 21.43% or 3p at 17p.


8.35am: Parcels firm delivers the goods


DX Group PLC (LON:DX.) has delivered an upbeat trading statement and seen its shares roar ahead.


The parcels and courier group said its overall performance since the time of the half year results at the start of March had been better than expected.


Trading at parcels division DX Express had been in line with forecasts, but revenue growth at its freight business is now expected to around GBP10mln higher than previously anticipated.


DX Freight has seen much higher volumes from both existing and new customers.


So the company now reckons it will “significantly” beat City forecasts for full year profits.


Given its strong performance and financial position it has decided to repay GBP0.6mln of government furlough payments.


It also plans to expand its network by opening 12 new depots over the next two years. announcing the addition of 300 new vehicles to take its fleet to more than 900 strong.


Last month it announced the addition of 300 new vehicles to take its fleet to more than 900 strong.


The company’s shares have accelerated 10.51% or 2.25p to 36.5p on the news.


Also heading higher is Nanoco Group PLC (LON:NANO).


Shares in the technology firm are up 7.08% or 1.98p at 29.98p after it announced an agreement for a development project with an ” important European electronics customer.”


The project began in May 2020 and this extension means the company now expects full year revenues to increase by around 40%.


Chief executive Brian Tenner said: “This is an important next step in our work with electronics materials. Successful delivery of the next stages of the project will further demonstrate the interest of the electronics industry in Nanoco’s technology in the medium term.


“Growth in mega-trends in a number of sectors utilising infra-red sensors accelerated very significantly across the globe in the second half of 2020. Nanoco’s technology adds significant capability and enhanced functionality for devices in those sectors.”


On Wednesday the group issued a postive update on its litigation against Samsung.


Proactive news headlines


Helium One Global Ltd (LON:HE1) said its planned exploration drilling programme at the Rukwa project in Tanzania was awarded an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Certificate on May 4, meaning the AIM-quoted company has all necessary permits in place to start exploration drilling in early June.


Arix Bioscience PLC (LON:ARIX) said after the close on Wednesday that its portfolio company, Autolus Therapeutics PLC (NASDAQ:AUTL), has announced new data highlighting progress in the company’s AUTO1 CAR T cell therapy, with an abstract presentation to be presented at the European Hematology Association All-Virtual Congress on June 9-17, 2021. The company said Autolus noted AUTO1 demonstrated a tolerable safety profile in adult patients with IBCL despite high disease burden. Early data in 10 patients showed 100% complete remission rates and excellent CAR engraftment/expansion.


Symphony Environmental Technologies PLC (LON:SYM) said has received defence documents from the Commission, Parliament, and Council of the European Union.


E-therapeutics PLC (LON:ETX) said forming partnerships and deals will be key priorities for the coming year, including for its new RNA interference (RNAi) platform as this is an area currently commanding significant and attractive deals.


Incanthera plc (LON:INC) said its chairman Tim McCarthy and chief executive Simon Ward will give a presentation on the company’s current corporate status and activities at the Shares and AJ Bell investor evening webinar on May 19.


Shanta Gold Limited (LON:SHG) said it has appointed Michelle Jenkins as an independent non-executive director of the company with immediate effect. The company said Jenkins has extensive experience across Africa including currently as the executive for finance and administration (South Africa) for Orion Minerals Ltd and as a non-executive director of Kumba Iron Ore Limited.


Building on its success in major Fortnite and Rocket League Tournaments, team owner Guild Esports PLC (LON:GILD) is launching a second, limited-edition apparel range that will appeal to fans.


ECR Minerals PLC (LON:ECR) said drilling is now underway at the Bailieston and Creswick gold exploration projects in the Victoria Goldfields, Australia.


Argo Blockchain PLC (LON:ARB) said it has completed the acquisition of two data centres in the Canadian province of Quebec as part of its strategy to increase its control over the cryptocurrency mining facilities which host its machines.


Eurasia Mining PLC (LON:EUA), a platinum group metals and gold producer, said it received several proposals, including a proposal from a credible party for the potential acquisition of substantially all of the company’s assets. “We are delighted to have received a proposal from a credible party that could allow us to pay a significant dividend to all shareholders,” said executive chairman Christian Schaffalitzky.


Gaming Realms PLC (LON:GMR) has signed a four-year licensing deal with Scientific Games, extending its existing agreement.


FinnCap Group PLC (LON:FCAP) said one of its executive directors, Stuart Andrews, has exercised options over 1.1mln shares at a price of 14p per share under the company’s EMI Plan.

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