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FTSE 100 makes headway despite sterling’s rally

  • FTSE 100 index gains 12 points
  • Banks and housebuilders take heart from Brexit deal hopes
  • Polypipe the top mid-cap riser after it lifts full-year guidance

10.00am: Sterling’s rally fails to prevent the Footsie’s advance

Sterling has rallied strongly as hope springs eternal in the Brexit negotiations but that has not stopped the FTSE 100 from advancing.

London’s benchmark of blue-chip shares was up 12 points (0.2%) at 6,559, with banking and housebuilding stocks among the high-flyers on hopes that a Brexit deal might still be agreed – probably at one nano-second to midnight on New Year’s Eve.

“These stocks are a leveraged bet on the UK economy, which in the near-term at least is going to be at the mercy of a Brexit trade deal and the vaccination programme,” explained Neil Wilson at

While the advances by banks and housebuilders were deemed encouraging by AJ Bell’s Russ Mould, he also reminded us that “only a few days ago the market was starting to lose hope of a deal”.

“Stocks jumped on Monday because there is more time for negotiations, not because feedback from either side has been particularly positive. Therefore, today’s stock rally could easily prove to be a false dawn,” Mould cautioned.

Among the mid-caps, Polypipe Group PLC (LON:PLP) was the top riser with a 9.4% increase to 500p after it raised profit guidance.

The maker of plastic pipes for the residential, commercial, civil and infrastructure sectors, said it is eyeing underlying operating profit of roughly £40mln for the year, compared to the current analyst consensus range of £35mln-£37mln.

In mergers & acquisitions news, Codemasters Group Holdings PLC (LON:CDM) said it will recommend investors accept a takeover offer from Electronic Arts Inc (NASDAQ:EA) after the US video games giant gatecrashed merger discussions between the AIM-listed developer and Take-Two Interactive Software Inc (NASDAQ:TTWO).

Codemasters shares, already inflated by a provisional agreement to accept 485p a share from Take-Two, rose 19% today to 636p, compared to EA’s 604p a share offer, suggesting it may not yet be “game over” in this bid battle.


8.50am: Monday starts well

The FTSE 100 defied early, slightly gloomy predictions to open the first session of the final full trading week before Christmas in the green on Monday.

The index of UK blue-chip stocks opened 20 points higher at 6,566.59.

Traders apparently took heart from the EU and UK stepping back from the brink as trade talks went into extra time.

“While it remains too early to predict that the Brexit clouds are clearing, it nonetheless keeps the hopes of the optimists alive that a potentially chaotic no-deal outcome may yet be avoided,” said Richard Hunter, head of Markets at Interactive Investor.

The builders, whose fortunes appear to directly correlate with the status of those Brexit talks, were well bid. Barratt Developments (LON:BDEV) and Taylor Wimpey (LON:TW.) were each up 5.9% early on.

There was a bounce-back too for the banking stocks, led by NatWest (LON:NWG), which advanced 5.5% on news that negotiations would carry on.

AstraZeneca (LON:AZN) fell 5.2% early on, though this was purely technical and reflective of the fact that the Anglo-Swedish giant is issuing equity as part of its US$39bn takeover of rare diseases specialist Alexion.

Proactive news headlines:

Sareum Holdings PLC (LON:SAR) has noted that a multi-centre analysis of DNA samples from patients with severe forms of coronavirus (COVID-19), including symptoms caused by the over-active inflammatory response (cytokine storm), has identified TYK2 as a key causative genetic mechanism and a potential target for therapy. The specialist drug development company which is delivering targeted small molecule therapeutics to improve the treatment of cancer and autoimmune diseases said the observation, which was published online as an Accelerated Article Preview by ‘Nature’ on December 11, 2020, is consistent with the scientific rationale supporting Sareum’s recent successful UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) grant application for its proprietary TYK2/JAK1 inhibitor, SDC-1801.

Location Sciences Group PLC (LON:LSAI) said it has received a letter before action alleging false statements and potential reputational harm and financial loss from partner Blis Global. Blis, formerly known as Blis Media, has used Location Sciences‘ data verification platform Verify since September 2019. Location Sciences noted that it has taken legal advice in relation to the letter and believes the claims made by Blis are baseless and that it will take all necessary action to protect the interests of the company.

Alien Metals Ltd (LON:UFO) said a programme of works has been approved by the authorities for initial trenching and drilling at the Elizabeth Hills mining licence. The Western Australia Mines Department has given the okay for a programme of works that covers up to 1.25 kilometres to test for new or repeat silver orebody due south of the existing deposit, and 4,000 metres (m) of drilling to target the historical resource area and to test for potential strike extensions. Field exploration will commence in mid-December and will run for several months. At the same time, Alien will carry out grid sampling of the historical mine tailings dam with the view of acquiring this from a third party.

Remote Monitored System PLC (LON:RMS) noted that it has received an update from its subsidiary, Pharm 2 Farm (P2F), saying a production line manufactured by Lemu Group has passed factory acceptance testing. The AIM-listed firm said a detailed written report is awaited and it will provide updates, including any change to the machine delivery date if any material change arises.

Open Orphan PLC (LON:ORPH) said COVI-VAC, an intranasal vaccine candidate for coronavirus (COVID-19), has been approved for human trials by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The pharmaceutical firm said hVIVO, part of the Open Orphan group, is working with US biotech group Codagenix Inc to conduct the phase one study, which will evaluate safety and immunogenicity of a single dose of the vaccine candidate in 48 healthy young adult volunteers at hVIVO’s state-of-the-art quarantine facility in Whitechapel, East London.

Gore Street Energy Storage Fund PLC (LON:GSF) said it has had to scale back allocations of shares in its £60mln placing, offer for subscription and intermediaries offer after heavy demand. Applications for shares significantly exceeded £60mln, said the industrial battery investor, which has earmarked the money for new projects and capex for existing investments. Gore Street Capital, the company’s investment manager, said it had already has identified sites with a storage capacity of 1.3Gw.

Sativa Wellness Group Inc (LON:SWEL) has highlighted what it said is “regulatory progress” for cannabis and cannabidiol (CBD) in the European Union, the United States and at the United Nations. In the EU, the Aquis-listed cannabis wellness firm said the European Commission (EC), the bloc’s executive branch, has concluded that CBD is not considered to be a drug within the meaning of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, following the recent ruling from the EU’s highest court.  As a consequence, the EC has confirmed that CBD qualifies as a food, and is therefore subject to EU law on the free movement of goods among member states.

Oncimmune Holdings PLC (LON:ONC) said it has signed commercial terms to supply its EarlyCDT Lung blood test to the NHS Norfolk & Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group. It has also inked a contract to provide the product to NHS Lung Health Check initiatives in Wessex and Yorkshire as part of the iDx-LUNG evaluation programme. And, following in-depth due diligence, the company has also been told the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has selected the EarlyCDT for Diagnostics Assessment Guidance.

Applied Graphene Materials PLC (LON:AGM), the producer of speciality graphene additives, has signed a distribution agreement with ManHo Polymers. ManHo Polymers is a leading chemicals distributor in South Korea. The agreement extends Applied Graphene’s commercial focus directly into the coatings and polymers sectors across the fourth-largest coatings market in the Asia region. The UK company and ManHo Polymers have an exclusive agreement that will see the two companies collaborate on customer opportunities and introduce Applied Graphene’s (AGM’s) proprietary Genable graphene dispersions technology into the South Korean coatings and broader liquid resins markets.

Ergomed PLC (LON:ERGO) said it has acquired MedSource, a US-based specialist oncology and rare disease contract research specialist, in a deal worth up to US$25mln. The transaction, which sees the UK group expand its presence in the strategically important US market, will be immediately earnings enhancing. Practically, it adds 20 new clients and a US$41mln order book. MedSource’s revenues last year were US$19.3mln, while its underlying earnings (EBITDA) were US$1.3mln.

Jersey Oil and Gas PLC (LON:JOG) has highlighted the findings of a new sub-surface evaluation which has uncovered a new prospect. The prospect, named Wengen, located in Licence P2170, is position directly west of the Tweedsmuir field and has been estimated to host some 62mln barrels of potential resources (P50), with the probabilistic range set at 31mln barrels at P90 (higher confidence) and 162mln for P10 (lower confidence). Probability of geological success is seen as 22% for the prospect.

Bahamas Petroleum Company PLC (LON:BPC) has arranged up to US$20mln of additional funding to support its plans in Trinidad and Suriname, along with the upcoming Perseverance-1 well in The Bahamas. Through an agreement with a European alternative asset manager, it will immediately receive £7.5mln (US$10mln) through the issue of 375,000 new shares priced at 2p each. An option agreement allows it to access up to US$10mln (£7.5mln) within 10 days after the spud of Perseverance-1. Simon Potter, Bahamas Petroleum chief executive pointed out that the arrangement is consistent with the company’s overall funding strategy and provides the flexibility to continue to pursue an aggressive growth agenda at a pace determined by the company.

Tharisa PLC (LON:THS) has advised shareholders that a market related four-year Collective Agreement on Substantive Terms and Conditions of Employment has been concluded with the main unions represented at the Tharisa Mine, namely the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and Solidarity. The agreement is effective from July 1, 2020, until June 30, 2024, and applies to employees who are subject to the bargaining units at the Tharisa Mine. Wage negotiations were mutually postponed earlier in the year during the height of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and subsequently concluded. The company said the agreement underpins the ongoing stability of Tharisa’s labour relations and allows the mine to focus on growing the business for the benefit of all stakeholders.

Ariana Resources PLC (LON:AAU) is accelerating plans to complete further resource drilling at its Kiziltepe mine in Turkey. A new drilling campaign of roughly 5,000 metres is scheduled to start in early 2020 to continue testing vein extensions at Arzu South, Arzu North, Banu and Derya. The company also told investors it has now published the circular regarding its proposed joint venture (JV) with Özaltin Holding A.Ş and with Proccea Construction. A general meeting to approve the transaction has been convened for December 30, 2020.

Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (LON:BMY) announced that Baroness Lola Young of Hornsey will join the board as a non-executive director with effect from January 1, 2021. Baroness Young will also become a member of the board’s Nomination Committee.

Adamas Finance Asia Limited (LON:ADAM), the London quoted company focused on providing shareholders with attractive uncorrelated, risk-adjusted returns from a diversified portfolio of pan-Asian investments, has announced the appointment of PKF Littlejohn as its new auditor with immediate effect. PKF Littlejohn will replace Crowe who has formally resigned after 10 years of service. John Croft, chairman of Adamas Finance Asia Limited commented:  “We are pleased to welcome PKF as our new auditor. We would also like to take this opportunity to extend our appreciation and gratitude to Crowe for its services rendered to the  Company throughout its many years of service.”

KR1 PLC (AQSE:KR1), a leading digital asset investment company, announced that it has from Monday been admitted to the Apex Segment of the AQSE Growth Market which is intended market for larger, more established businesses and companies. George McDonaugh, managing director and co-founder of KR1, commented: “We are delighted to be one of the first members of the Apex segment and look forward to working with Aquis Stock Exchange to increase support for the market from both retail and institutional investors”.

Incanthera PLC (AQSE:INC), the specialist oncology company focused on transforming cancer treatment, announced that having met the qualifying criteria for the Apex segment of the Aquis Stock Exchange, the company is now designated as listed on the Apex market. Commenting on the changes, Tim McCarthy, Incanthera chairman, said: “We are delighted to have been designated into the new Apex market of Aquis Stock Exchange. Aquis has been an important part of the company’s development from the point of flotation in February this year. The support we have received from Aquis as one of the growth businesses on the Exchange has been extremely important to us and we applaud the team for these further initiatives to support the stocks listed on the Exchange. We expect that this will bring many benefits to Incanthera’s existing shareholders, whilst also attracting new investors to the Aquis market.”

Westmount Energy Limited (LON: WTE), the energy investment company, announced that, at its annual general meeting held on Friday, all resolutions were duly passed.

Benchmark Holdings PLC (LON:BMK), the aquaculture health, nutrition and genetics business, has announced that its annual general meeting will be held on February 9. 2021, at 12.00pm at the offices of Travers Smith LLP, 10 Snow Hill, London, EC1A 2AL. In light of the UK Government’s public health guidelines on coronavirus (COVID-19), and in the interests of the safety and wellbeing of our shareholders, the board has taken the decision to hold the AGM as a closed meeting this year, with shareholders not permitted to attend in person. The board remains keen to maintain engagement with shareholders and, therefore, shareholders may submit questions on the business of the AGM by email to [email protected], so as to arrive by 12.00pm on February 7, 2021.

6.50am: it’s the last full trading week before Christmas

The FTSE 100 looks set to make a subdued start to proceedings on Monday after the Brexit trade deadline was extended in the forlorn hope a deal might get done in the next few days.

The index of UK blue-chip stocks look set to open 6 points lower at 6,540.75, according to the spread betting firms.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson and European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen have agreed to go the “extra mile” to secure an accord – although both warned there were significant gaps to bridge.

“It defies belief that the EU can agree a deal with the likes of Hungary and Poland over threats to the rule of law, and yet are unable to come to some form of agreement with the UK, an ally of longstanding, on a trade agreement,” said Michael Hewson, analyst at CMC Markets.

“It is in both parties’ interest to come to a deal yet here we are in a situation where the EU will compromise on the rule of law, but won’t compromise on the rules around a trade agreement.

“That’s not to say the UK has handled the talks well, they haven’t, the last four years have been utterly shambolic.”

Overnight, Asia’s main markets were largely higher amid growing hopes the US will sign off on an economic stimulus deal before the year-end.

A better-than-expected economic sentiment reading from Japan’s Tankan survey suggested confidence among the country’s manufacturing sector was on the rise, which provided a boost to the Nikkei.

Back here in the UK, a flurry of pre-Christmas updates is expected from the likes of Purplebricks (LON:PURP), Dixons Carphone (LON:DC.), Serco Group (LON:SRP) and Watches of Switzerland (LON:WOSG) during the week.

Meanwhile, the Bank of England will likely keep its powder dry when it meets on Wednesday and Thursday to decide the future direction of monetary policy. Experts say the Bank will wait to see the outcome from Brexit talks before deciding whether to ramp up the economic stimulus.

Around the markets:

  • Pound worth US$1.3328 (+0.79%)
  • Bitcoin US$19,133.07 (+1.09%)
  • Gold US$1,837.70 (-0.32%)
  • Brent crude US$50.32 (+0.70%)

6.45am: Early Markets – Asia/Australia

Asia-Pacific shares were mixed on Monday as the US started rolling out Pfizer’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on Sunday.

Mainland Chinese stocks were higher with the Shanghai composite gaining 0.53% while the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong slipped 0.55%.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 rose 0.30% but South Korea’s Kospi shed 0.20%.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 closed 0.26% higher after the Australian dollar surged to its highest level in more than two years, helped by rising iron ore prices.


Proactive Australia news:

Kingwest Resources Ltd’s (ASX:KWR) drilling within the Lady Shenton, Lady Harriet and Yunndaga systems at Menzies Gold Project (MGP) in WA continues to return very high-grade gold grades.

Auroch Minerals Ltd (ASX:AOU) (FRA:T59) has hit more thick, shallow high-grade nickel-copper-platinum group element (PGE) sulphide mineralisation in maiden diamond drilling at the Horn prospect within the wider Leinster Nickel Project in Western Australia.

Cellmid Ltd’s (ASX:CDY) subsidiaries Advangen Ltd and Advangen Inc (Japan) have signed an exclusive Asian master distribution agreement with Ourui Health Management Ltd for the distribution of its Japanese, Ju-Ju® and Lexilis® branded, anti-ageing hair and skincare products.

Musgrave Minerals Ltd (ASX:MGV) (OTCMKTS:MGVMF) (FRA:6MU) has received firm placement commitments from corporate, institutional and sophisticated investors to raise A$16 million and is arranging a Share Purchase Plan (SPP) to raise an additional A$2 million.

Cirralto Limited (ASX:CRO) has entered into a business payments aggregator (BPA) agreement with Fiserv Inc (NASDAQ:FISV) (FRA:FIV) and MasterCard Inc (NYSE:MA) (FRA:M4I) to extend its business payments services offering.

GTI Resources Ltd (ASX:GTR) has accelerated exploration planning at its uranium-vanadium property in Utah, USA, subsequent to settling the acquisition and transfer of two mineral leases from Anfield Energy Inc (CVE:AEC) (OTCMKTS:ANLDF).

Mako Gold Ltd (ASX:MKG) has received further strong wide, high-grade assays from ongoing reverse circulation (RC) and diamond drilling at its flagship Napié Project in Côte d’Ivoire with 24 of 27 RC holes at Tchaga prospect intersecting gold mineralisation.

Zelira Therapeutics Ltd (ASX:ZLD) (OTCQB:ZLDAF) (FRA:G1G) has entered into a binding licensing agreement with Alternative Solutions LLC to manufacture and distribute Zelira’s HOPE™ products in the Washington DC approved medical cannabis market.

Castillo Copper Ltd (ASX:CCZ) (LON:CCZ) (FRA:7OR) continues to enhance the copper potential of Big One Deposit within the core Mt Oxide Project in northwest Queensland by intersecting incremental shallow, visible copper oxide (malachite) and sulphide (chalcocite) mineralisation, with cumulative intercepts up to 12 metres.

MMJ Group Holdings Ltd (ASX:MMJ) (OTCMKTS:MMJJF) (FRA:2P9) investee WeedMD Inc (CVE:WMD) (OTCMKTS:WDDMF) (FRA:4WE) has reported an 8% growth in net revenue quarter-over-quarter for the three months ended September 30, 2020.

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