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Marston’s shares lose their froth as US bidder backs away


2.20pm: Marston’s bidder calls time

Brewer and pub group Marston’s PLC (LON.MARS) has lost its bid-induced froth, with its shares down 12.55p or 12.63% to 86.8p after potential US buyer Platinum Equity Advisers decided to abandon any takeover.

Marston’s rejected a £690m offer from the US group last month, and that now seems to be that. Platinum said: “After careful consideration, [Platinum] does not intend to submit a revised proposal and it will not make a firm offer for Marston’s.” There is the usual caveat that it could come back if Marston’s agrees or another bidder emerges.

But the Hobgoblin and Pedigree brewer seems determined to go it alone. It said: “The Board continues to believe that Marston’s is well placed to benefit from the opportunities in a post-COVID 19 trading environment, following the completion of the SA Brain transaction [to operate 156 pubs in Wales] and harnessing factors such as a reduction in on-trade industry supply, and increased home-working that will benefit pubs in suburban locations.

“Marston’s has a strengthened balance sheet following the creation of the synergistic joint venture with Carlsberg and significant cash headroom, enabling it to continue to absorb the impact of the temporary Government restrictions.”

11.20am: MediaZest upbeat on new business wins

MediaZest PLC (LON.MDZ), the AIM-listed audio visual specialist, is the day’s standout performer so far. Its shares have nearly tripled – up 165% or 0.08p to 0.13p – after it unveiled a number of new deals.

Business won so far this calendar year includes the extension of existing contracts with a long standing customer, and a large project for a new client, due for delivery in the first six months of the calendar year. These contracts will bring in more than £350,000 in revenue and have the potential to grow substantially over the coming months, the company said.

Over the years MediaZest has worked on audio visual displays for the likes of Pets at Home, Lululemon and Tiffany. In September its shares dropped sharply after it revealed a £311,000 full year pretax loss on revenues of £2.4m and said some projects had been delayed due to coronavirus restrictions, including one with a large UK university. But in November it said it had seen more encouraging signs and said the impact of the second lockdown was likely to be less than the first.

Also on the way up was Clear Leisure PLC (LON.CLP) after it raised £680,000 with a placing of 113,333,333 new ordinary shares at 0.60p each. In the market it has jumped 82.48% or 0.57p to 1.25p. The proceeds of the placing will be used for working capital and for investment in its  portfolio of technology businesses.

10.05am: SSP considers strengthening balance sheet

SSP Group PLC (LON.SSPG), the operator of concessions in stations and airports such as Upper Crust and Caffe Ritazza, has confirmed it is looking at a number of fundraising options. The announcement, released after the market closed on Wednesday, came after the Financial Times reported it was planning a rights issue of up to £500m. Last March it raised £216m with a share placing as the pandemic crisis started to bite, and has also borrowed £300m from the Government’s coronavirus lending scheme.

The company said; “Whilst SSP is confident in the medium-term recovery of the travel market, there remains significant uncertainty with regard to COVID-19 and associated travel restrictions. In that context, the Group continues to evaluate the merits of a range of funding options, both debt and equity, that would further strengthen its balance sheet.”

In their first chance to react to the news, investors have pushed SSP’s shares 16.6p or 5.24% lower to 300.4p.

Greg Johnson at Shore Capital said: “In recent research, we highlighted how net debt could increase to around £850m by September 2021, were current conditions to continue throughout Q3 (to June), albeit with a pick-up in Q4. On our estimates at the time, a c£200m equity raised alongside c£200m cash inflow over the following two years, as trading recovers, would reduce debt levels back to full year 2019 levels. Press speculation of around £500m would be materially above this and beyond what we believe is needed, although every month of extended travel restrictions increases the group’s debt levels. Going “big” would certainly remove any lingering concerns over the balance sheet.”

8.40am: Omega wins Government lateral flow test contract

Omega Diagonistics Group PLC (LON: ODX) has seen its shares jump 12.5p or 13.44% to 105.5p after it won a government contract to manufacture COVID-19 lateral flow antigen tests.

The Government has a target of producing two million lateral flow tests per day and as soon as it has a successful one, this will be licensed for Omega to produce. The company will need to expand its capacity but at the same time it will receive some key equipment on loan from the Department of Health and Social Care.

The contract is expected to make a significant contribution to the company’s future performance. But it will have no impact on the current year ending in March, which is forecast to show revenues of around £9.3mln with an EBITDA loss in the region of £2.1mln to £2.3mln. 

Chief executive Colin King said: “I appreciate that trading in our core business has been softer than expected for the current financial year, however the on-going opportunity for growth in CD4 testing and Food Intolerance revenues is unchanged. The new financial year will see this growth opportunity realised, and will also see the full impact of COVID-19 antigen testing, and so we are likely to deliver substantial revenue growth compared to this financial year which ends next month.”

Also on the way up is Kodal Minerals PLC (LON.KOD) after the mining group announced that testing at its Dabakala concession in Côte d’Ivoire returned high grade gold geochemical samples.

Bernard Aylward, Kodal chief executive, said: “The extensive surface gold anomalism defined at the Dabakala Concession over multiple phases of sampling is very exciting for Kodal.  The exploration is currently at an early stage with sampling completed on a wide spacing in an under-explored region of Côte d’Ivoire.  The consistency of the gold anomalism, the geological setting and the presence of artisanal workings highlight the potential of this project.”

Kodal shares have climbed 7.56% or 0.01p to 0.09p.

Proactive news headlines

S&U PLC (LON:SUS) said its trading remains “robust and profitable” despite the current lockdown, and that it is planning for a “significant rebound to pre-[coronavirus] motor finance transaction levels as lockdown restrictions ease this year” as well a “substantial increase” in business for its Aspen property bridging arm.

Gaming Realms PLC (LON:GMR) has updated on its 2020 trading performance following what it said was a “record month” in December thanks to its content licensing business.

Location Sciences Group PLC (LON:LSAI) said it expects to deliver much reduced full-year losses as it looks forward to launching a new product on the Bloomberg Enterprise Access point.

Tharisa PLC (LON:THS) said in a statement ahead of its annual general meeting (AGM) that demand for the commodities it produces remains robust. Reviewing the year since the last AGM, executive chairman Loucas Pouroulis said the group has put in a strong operational performance, despite the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

SigmaRoc PLC (LON:SRC) has launched a pioneering new type of concrete block that does not contain cement. The ultra-low carbon concrete building block is unique in the UK market, the company said.

Alpha Growth PLC (LON:ALGW, OTCQB: ALPGF) said it is acquiring an unnamed Bermuda-based insurance company supported by an oversubscribed £3.75mln share placing.

Kodal Minerals PLC (LON:KOD) has unearthed high grade gold in a surface sampling programme at the Dabakala concession, Côte d’Ivoire.

Landore Resources Limited (LON:LND) said drilling on the BAM gold deposit at its Junior Lake Property in Ontario continues to reveal visible gold in several intersections.

Jersey Oil and Gas PLC (LON:JOG) told investors the company’s September 2020 North Sea licence award has been formalised. It confirms the award of Merged Licence P2498 from last year’s 32nd Offshore Licensing Round.

Eden Research PLC (LON:EDEN) described its performance in 2020 as resilient as it weathered the impact of the global pandemic.

Quadrise Fuels International PLC (LON:QFI) said it has raised £500,000 from the sale of convertible securities to existing investor Bergen, providing funding to the middle of 2021 and allowing it to accelerate testing and development activities. 

Salt Lake Potash Limited (LON:SO4 ASX:SO4 PINK:WHELF) has completed its A$52mln fundraising, placing 130mln new ordinary shares as first announced in December. The second tranche of 5.025mln shares placed with directors has been completed following shareholder approval at the general meeting on January 22, including 3mln subscribed for by the chairman Ian Middlemas and 500,000 by chief executive Tony Swiericzuk. The company  also issued 500,000 Ordinary Shares to an employee in lieu of 500,000 performance rights that had vested, but expired on December 31, 2021.

DiscoverIE Group PLC (LON:DSCV) said the €14.5mln (£12.8mln) acquisition of Limitor GmbH has been completed. The deal, which was announced in early December, was subject to regulatory approvals that have now been received. A contingent payment of up to €3.5mln (£3.1mln) may be payable subject to the business achieving certain profit growth targets over the next three years.  

Arix Bioscience PLC (LON:ARIX) announced that it will report its 2020 annual results on Tuesday March 9. The company will host a virtual analyst presentation at noon on the day, followed by a Q&A session accessible via conference call or webcast at

Tissue Regenix Group PLC (LON:TRX) said it has written to all registered shareholders regarding its intention to adopt electronic communication methods for shareholder documents. The company said it is seeking to adopt electronic communication in order to improve its environmental sustainability efforts and ensure timely and cost-effective communications with all shareholders.




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