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FTSE 100 slides as sterling’s strength takes its toll

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  • FTSE slides 21 points
  • Sterling rises by three-quarters of a cent against the dollar
  • Games Workshop runs into profit-taking after half-year results

10.00am: Sterling’s strength weighs on the Footsie

It’s all quiet on the Western front early on Tuesday with the FTSE 100 a little lower after a strong advance by sterling on forex markets.

London’s index of heavyweight shares was down 21 points (0.3%) at 6.777/

Sterling has gained three-quarters of a cent against the greenback at US$1.3591.

“After an impressive start to the year, equity markets are finding it harder to push ahead this week amid growing expectations for the Federal Reserve to start easing back on its monetary support measures towards the end of the year; however, expectations could easily change if the pandemic continues to trouble the US for months to come,” said Russ Mould, the investment director at AJ Bell.

“We’re in a period where investors are trying to get their head round what could happen next,” Mould warned.

Land Securities Group PLC (LON:LAND) at 657.2p was down 0.2%, roughly in line with the market, after it published details of rent collections in December.

The real estate investment trust said £112mln of rent was due by Christmas Day but only £77mln of it appeared in LandSecs’ coffers. Of the £35mln of rent outstanding, £14mln relates to customers who have withheld payment pending documentation of agreed concessions.

Among the mid-caps, SF and fantasy miniatures wargames specialist Games Workshop Group PLC (LON:GAW) found the market hard to please with its half-year report.

The share price was (war)hammered, down 6.3% at 10,900p, despite the Nottingham-based gaming group reporting pre-tax profits of £91.6mln, up from £58.6mln in the corresponding six-month period of 2019.

“The shares have certainly seen some decent gains since the middle of last summer and made a record close yesterday, so today’s declines could be simply a case of locking in profits,” opined CMC’s Michael Hewson.

8.45am: Wall of worry a drag

The FTSE 100 opened flat as a pancake on Tuesday with the drag being exerted largely by events on the other side of the Atlantic.

London’s blue-chip index was trading less than 1 point higher at 6,798.58.

The attempted second impeachment of Donald Trump will provide further theatre but speaks to the turmoil in which the world’s largest democracy finds itself.

This had a knock-on impact for Wall Street overnight. Hardest hit were the tech stocks amid worries over political intervention aimed at the social media companies that might be precipitated by the Capitol riots last week. The Nasdaq Composite closed 1.55% lower on Monday.

“Markets touched on the brakes as political concerns weighed in the US and as big tech gave up some recent gains,” said Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor.

“Whether the incumbent president will face consequences after last week’s unrest remains to be seen, but in any event, the spotlight is being shone on social media, despite the likes of Twitter and Facebook having banned his account.

“The feared outcome of a Congressional review of social media underlined the broader concern that for big tech, increased regulation is on the way.”

Back here in the UK, the worst retail sales on record in 2020 set the backdrop for the sector.

JD Sport (LON:JD.) fell 3% and gave back a large chunk of the gains made on Monday in the wake of a better-than-expected trading update.

Games Workshop (LON:GAW), one of the few retail success stories pre- and post-lockdown, was hit with a bout of profit-taking in the wake of its interim results. The shares fell 6%.

On the flipside, B&Q owner Kingfisher (LON:KGF) advanced 3.2% with the DIY boom showing few signs of subsiding. Its Q4 numbers were strong, while full-year earnings look likely to hit the top end of forecasts.

Proactive news headlines:

Savannah Resources PLC (LON:SAV) has inked an agreement with Galp for a proposed partnership in the lithium field around the Mina do Barroso mining project in northern Portugal. The heads of agreement with the major Portuguese energy group envisages Galp taking a 10% stake in Savannah’s subsidiary via a US$6.4mln investment, to support a definitive feasibility study. Together the partners intend to work on a possible offtake agreement for up to 100,000 tonnes per annum of lithium concentrate from Mina do Barroso. This would represent around 50% of the mine’s expected output.

Ariana Resources PLC (LON:AAU) has said it produced 18,645 ounces of gold at its 50%-owned Kiziltepe mine during the year to December 2020, exceeding guidance by 3.5%. As at the end of 2020, the group noted the mine had produced a total of 84,200 ounces of gold and 915,233 ounces of silver, recording US$134 million in revenue since operations commenced in early 2017. Mining operations are continuing at Arzu North and Derya, with plans to expand these open-pit proceeding. A processing plant expansion is also underway, with construction due to be completed in the second half of this year.

CentralNic Group PLC (LON:CNIC) said it has acquired French firm SafeBrands, a provider of online brand protection software and corporate internet services, for up to €3.6mln (£3.2mln) in cash. The internet domain names specialist said €3mln (£2.7mln) of the purchase price has been paid upfront, with the remaining €600,000 (££538,213) to be paid subject to SafeBrands meeting agreed financial objectives for the 2020 financial year. CentralNic noted that SafeBrands’ client list includes some leading French brands and it is “ideally positioned” to take advantage of the brand protection, domain name system (DNS) and hosting markets which it said are “all growing rapidly as [COVID-19] has accelerated the digitisation of business”.

Belvoir Group PLC (LON:BLV) said profits from its financial division rose by 26% in 2020 while it also hit its target of 200 advisers in the division. The lettings specialist established its financial arm in 2017 with the acquisition of Brook Financial, which had 32 advisers at the time. In 2018, it acquired MAB (Glos) with 88 advisers but since then the division has grown organically to reach 202 advisers at the year-end, Belvoir said.

KRM22 PLC (LON:KRM) said it expects to report a “significant improved” adjusted EBITDA loss for its 2020 financial year and highlighted several contracts expected to be signed in early 2021. In a trading update for the year to December 31, 2020, the investment software firm forecast an adjusted EBITDA loss for the year of £0.1mln, narrowed from £3.1mln in 2019, while revenues are expected to rise to £4.6mln from £4.1mln. The company also said it has a near-term pipeline of deals worth £0.5mln of annual recurring revenue (ARR) which are in final negotiations and expected to be signed in the first quarter of 2021.

Franchise Brands PLC (LON:FRAN) has said it expects revenue and earnings for 2020 to be ahead of current market expectations. The company pointed out that it had seen a strong recovery in the second half of the year in most parts of its business as many of its customers returned to something close to normal trading patterns. Franchise Brands said that although 2021 starts with a higher level of lockdown restrictions than those in place for most of the second half of 2020, the company is now well versed in mitigating the impact on its business.

BlueRock Diamonds PLC (LON:BRD) said it boosted production at its Kareevlei mine in South Africa during the 2020 full year to 15,371 carats, up from the 14,033 produced in 2019. Processed tonnes increased by 25% compared with the previous year, despite the mine being closed due to the coronavirus for a period of 50 days starting on March 24, 2020. Assuming a constant run rate during the period of closure, the increase over the year would have been approximately 45%. 

Curtis Banks Group PLC (LON:CBP), a specialist in self-invested pension plans (SIPP), said it delivered a robust trading performance throughout 2020. Strategically, the group completed the acquisitions of Talbot and Muir, a high-quality provider of SIPP and small self-administered pension schemes, and Dunstan Thomas, a leading fintech provider, and announced a new fee-charging structure for clients. In a brief trading update, the firm said these initiatives will reduce the proportional contribution of interest income to total revenue and improve the overall quality and diversity of earnings across the group.

Bahamas Petroleum Company PLC (LON:BPC) has exercised a put option to raise a further £3.75mln, as a result of shares being issued, to support the ongoing Perseverance well programme. A total of 187.5mln new shares were issued at a price of 2p each. It means that, if remaining available funding sources are drawn in full, the company will complete its funding strategy with an aggregate of US$72mln raised for Perseverance – a 770mln barrel exploration target. Bahamas Petroleum highlighted that it represents adequate funding for the well plus an extensive 2021 work programme across the company’s suite of production, appraisal and development assets.

Rosslyn Data Technologies’ PLC (LON:RDT) pipeline of new opportunities is “healthy” and the values of potential contracts is “larger than we have done in the past”, according to chief executive Roger Bullen. He was providing an update on the outlook for the company alongside interim results. While there was a cautionary line on the timing of new business – the coronavirus pandemic and deal size being the main drags – the Rosslyn CEO was upbeat on prospects for the year.

BATM Advanced Communication Ltd (LON:BVC) (TASE: BVC) said it has entered into an option agreement to sell its NGSoft software and digital services business for US$33mln. The putative buyer is Aztek Technologies, an Israeli cloud services specialist that is part of SKY Fund, a private equity group. BATM said the deal would allow the company to focus on its areas of expertise – networking, cyber and biomedical – while the funds from the disposal would be used to grow the core businesses.

Power Metal Resources PLC (LON:POW) has updated on the maiden drill programme targeting the discovery of nickel and Platinum group metals at the Haneti project in Tanzania. Power Metal holds a 35% ownership interest in Haneti, with 65% held by Katoro Gold PLC (LON:KAT). “The Haneti drill programme is progressing well, with approaching 50% of the planned 2,000 metres of rotary air blast drilling now complete,” said Power Metals chief executive Paul Johnson in a statement.

Pembridge Resources PLC (LON:PERE) said its partially-owned Minto copper mine in Canada produced 5,143 wet metric tonnes of concentrate during the fourth quarter of 2020. A total of 24,646 wet metric tonnes of concentrate were produced during 2020, up from the 7,167 wet metric tonnes produced in 2019. The group also noted that payments of US$17.5mln were received by Minto from Sumitomo during the fourth quarter of 2020. During 2020 payments of US$64.3mln were received by Minto from Sumitomo.

Tharisa PLC (LON:THS) has confirmed a strong quarter in its South African Platinum and chrome mining operation. The company revealed that 1,234 tonnes of reef were mined in the quarter ended December 31, 2020, down 12.2% on the preceding quarter, but, against the year-on-year comparative volumes, up 8% for the quarter. The group produced 39,000 ounces of 6E Platinum Group Metals (PGMs), marking a 14% improvement against the year-on-year comparison.

Arix Bioscience PLC (LON:ARIX), a global venture capital company focused on investing in and building breakthrough biotech companies has noted that its portfolio company, Harpoon Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ:HARP), has announced the closing of its underwritten public offering of 6,764,704 shares of its common stock, which includes 882,352 shares sold upon the underwriters’ full exercise of their option to purchase additional shares, resulting in aggregate gross proceeds of approximately $115.0mln, before deducting underwriting discounts and commissions and offering expenses payable by Harpoon Therapeutics. Following the offering, Arix retains a stake of 6.9% in Harpoon, amounting to 2,208,667 shares of common stock.

Custodian REIT PLC (LON:CREI), the UK property investment company, has announced that, after nearly seven years of service, Professor Barry Gilbertson will retire as a senior independent non-executive director of the company with effect from January 1, 2021, as part of its board succession plan. The group added that Matthew Thorne, currently a non-executive director of the company and chair of its Audit and Risk Committee, has been appointed senior independent director and that David Hunter, currently chair of the company, has been appointed as Chair of the company’s Remuneration and Management Engagement Committees.  The company said that its board has in place a succession plan under which the process to appoint a further non-executive director is underway. The REIT noted that Mattioli Woods PLC, owner of Custodian Capital Limited, the company’s discretionary investment manager, is keen to capitalise on Gilbertson’s considerable experience and understanding of real estate and he will take on the role of executive chairman of Custodian Capital Limited with effect from January 1, 2021. Gilbertson has therefore decided to retire from the company’s board to ensure it retains a strong majority of independent directors.

ANGLE PLC (LON:AGL) (OTCQX:ANPCY), a world-leading liquid biopsy company, announced that following a formal tender process, it has appointed PricewaterhouseCoopers as its auditor for the Company and its subsidiaries for the financial year ended December 31, 2020. Accordingly, RSM UK Audit has resigned as the company’s and subsidiaries auditor and, as required by Section 519 of the Companies Act 2006, has deposited a statement with the company confirming that there are no circumstances in connection with its resignation that should be brought to the attention of the members or creditors of the company.

OptiBiotix Health PLC (LON:OPTI), a life sciences business developing compounds to tackle obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes and skincare has announced the appointment of Cenkos Securities as its sole broker with immediate effect.

APQ Global Limited (LON:APQ), an emerging markets growth company based in Guernsey, said it has issued a total of 26,578 ordinary shares of no par value in the capital of the company to employees as part of the 2018 management share-based compensation scheme, including Bart Turtelboom, its chief executive officer who has received 23,366 ordinary shares. The price used in calculating the number of shares awarded under the 2018 Scheme was the book value per share as at December 31, 2017, of 128.11 US cents. Following this issue, Turtelboom is interested in 22,285,391 APQ ordinary shares representing 28.43% of the company’s issued share capital.

Power Metal Resources PLC (LON:POW) the AIM-listed metals exploration and development company said it has received notices to exercise warrants over 8,750,000 new ordinary shares of 0.1p each in the company at an exercise price of 0.7p per ordinary share. Subscription monies of £61,250 have been received by Power Metal in respect of these exercises.

Live Company Group PLC (LON:LVCG) has announced that its annual general meeting is to be held on January 29, 2021, at 2.30pm at 14 Coach & Horses Yard, Mayfair, London W1S 2EJ. As a result of the current coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis and the UK Government’s restrictions, AGM will be run as a closed meeting. Shareholders will not be permitted to attend the AGM in person and are strongly encouraged to submit their proxy in advance of the meeting to ensure that their votes are registered.

Tiziana Life Sciences PLC (NASDAQ:TLSA) (LON:TILS), a biotechnology company focused on innovative therapeutics for oncology, inflammation, and infectious diseases has announced that it is participating in the JPMorgan 39th Annual Healthcare Conference 2021. Dr Kunwar Shailubhai, CEO and CSO of Tiziana Life Sciences, commented: “I look forward to sharing our exciting story with conference attendees. With topline data from our COVID-19 trial expected this month, multiple Phase 2 trial launches expected in 2021, and the potential application of Foralumab in a wide range of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases in the longer-term, we are well-positioned to achieve a series of important milestones that can provide a positive and lasting impact on our valuation in the months and quarters ahead.” The JPMorgan Health Community Conference was created for health leaders and transformers who are working to change the current paradigms of health and wellness. For more information and to view the latest investor presentation, investors can use the following links: http://www.tizianalifesciences.com/about-us/ or www.TLSAinfo.com

6.50am: Subdued start predicted 

The FTSE 100 is expected to make a tentative start on Tuesday as investors continue to fret about rising coronavirus cases and the effects of restrictions, such as Britain’s worst retail sales figures in 25 years.

London’s blue-chip index was called 6 points higher on Tuesday by spread-betting broker CMC Markets a day after it dropped almost 75 points, or 1.1% to finish at 6,798.48.

UK retail sales in 2020, released overnight by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), fell 0.3%, the biggest decline since records began in 1995, as the effect of coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdowns on non-essential shops outweighed a switch to online spending. December sales, however, were up 1.8% on the year before, from 0.9% growth in November.

Overnight, Wall Street joined in Europe’s selling session, with the Dow Jones Industrials Average shedding 89 points or 0.3% to 31,008.69, down for the second trading day in succession. The broader S&P 500 index fell 0.7% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite tumbled 1.25%, with all the FAANG stocks in the red.

This was partly due to fears that big tech companies, in particular social media firms, could come under tougher regulation, said market analyst David Madden at CMC Markets.

“President Trump’s Twitter and Facebook accounts have been suspended because of allegations that his comments sparked the riot in the Capitol building last week. People have been questioning the role of the social media firms in light of the incident, so the groups have found themselves under extra scrutiny.”

6.45am: Early Markets – Asia / Australia

Stocks in the Asia-Pacific region were mixed on Tuesday after shares on Wall Street retreated from all-time highs on Monday.

In China, the Shanghai Composite surged 1.59% higher and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index advanced 0.85%.

South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.91% while Japan’s Nikkei 225 gained 0.09%.

Over in Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 declined 0.27%.

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Proactive Australia news:

White Rock Minerals Ltd (ASX:WRM) (OTCMKTS:WRMCF) is setting its sights on a game-changing 2021 as it focuses on the highly prospective Last Chance Gold Target in the Tintina region of Alaska.

Fe Limited (ASX:FEL) (FRA:B4T) is aiming to begin shipping iron ore product in the second quarter of 2021, according to the company’s latest timelines for its flagship JWD West Wiluna project.

Astro Resources NL (ASX:ARO) has acquired a detailed dataset of historic drilling and surface exploration for the Needles Gold Project in Nevada.

Twenty Seven Co Ltd (ASX:TSC) (FRA:U9V) has discovered the largest and highest magnitude gold soil anomalies defined to date at its Rover Gold Project following recent soil sampling.

Red River Resources Ltd (ASX:RVR) (FRA:R1R) has recorded a transformative December quarter, kicking off production at its Hillgrove Gold Mine in northern New South Wales, with the first ore processed through the plant on December 29, 2020.

YPB Group Limited (ASX:YPB) has secured a three-year take-or-pay contract with China’s Zhongneng CIC International Import and Export Trade Co Ltd valued at around A$600,000 for the use of the T2 Tracer-Scanner product.

Moho Resources Ltd (ASX:MOH) has received additional and ‘unexpected’ high-grade gold assay results from recently completed diamond drilling at the East Sampson Dam (ESD) gold prospect within the Silver Swan North Project in WA’s Goldfields region.

Creso Pharma Ltd (ASX:CPH) (FRA:1X8) (OTCMKTS:COPHF) has completed all required importing and exporting procedures and successfully delivered the second shipment of cannaQIX® products to Lupin International Ltd’s (NYSE:LUPIN) subsidiary, Pharma Dynamics South Africa.

Piedmont Lithium Ltd (ASX:PLL) (NASDAQ:PLL) (OTCMKTS:PDDTF) is progressing towards construction of its planned 22,700 tonnes per annum lithium hydroxide chemical plant at Kings Mountain in North Carolina, USA.

Legend Mining Limited’s (ASX:LEG) assay results from diamond drill hole RKDD034 confirm that it is the best hole to date at Mawson prospect within the Rockford project on Western Australia’s Fraser Range.

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