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Small cap movers: Clear Leisure and Ascent Resources court attention


Progress in legal disputes was behind sharp share price rises for Clear Leisure PLC (LON:CLP) and Ascent Resources PLC (LON:AST) this week.

Investment company Clear Leisure, which has a penchant for investing in companies where court-led recoveries of misappropriated assets is a possibility, has seen its shares virtually double in February after a business update that read more like a court circular.

The company’s €1.03mln legal claim against the previous management of Sosushi, an Italian company it bought from the receivers, is now proceeding through an arbitration process following a green light from the Bologna Court.

Elsewhere in Italy, Clear Leisure has won the bidding to acquire the rights of a potential claim against former directors of Mediapolis, another dormant subsidiary of the company, and members of Mediapolis’s internal audit committee.

Clear Leisure paid €50,000 to acquire the rights to the claim and although Clear Leisure’s legal team is still assessing the value of the claim, the receiver had originally estimated that the value of the claim might be above €20mln.

As for energy and natural resources company Ascent, its shares rose by around two-thirds in the week as it confirmed it remains in direct negotiations with the Republic of Slovenia over coming to an amicable resolution to their long-running dispute.

The company also informed shareholders that PG-11A, one of its two development wells on the Petišovci tight gas field has now been put back into production as its local partner looks to take advantage of increases in local gas prices, which apparently are up by around 175% from mid-2020 levels.

Sticking with the legal theme, The Ince Group PLC (LON:INCE), a legal and professional services provider, has entered into a new venture with Mission Secure, one of the world’s leading operational technology (OT) cybersecurity companies.

Mission Secure will be providing its expertise to InceMaritime, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ince that will provide clients with a fully integrated cybersecurity offering that protects on-shore and on-vessel OT networks, safeguards operations, and ensures compliance and business continuity.

Ince shares were trading at around 62p, up 50% or so on the week.

It was “throwback Thursday” for MelodyVR Group PLC (LON:MVR) as it trumpeted the success of its music streaming platform Napster, which it acquired in August.

The company revealed the number of users more than doubled in 2020.

Millennials seem to have got to grips with this stock market trading lark with a particular predilection for iconic brand names from their youth – GameStop and Blackberry to name but two – so MelodyVR’s decision to change its name to Napster Group may prove to be an inspired decision.

Shares in the virtual reality entertainment content creator rose by around 26% in the first week of February.

The UK has not really seen the sort of “tulip mania” trading the US has experienced with GameStop while UK investors have also had to put up with US indices hitting new highs even as the world remains in the grip of a lethal pandemic, so it is worth noting that the FTSE AIM 100 index is now back above the level it was at before the great financial markets crisis of 2007.

The big winners since June 2007 include some familiar names and some huge gains – none bigger than Judges Scientific PLC (LON:JDG), which has risen 5,830% over the period.

AIM’s perennial champion, ASOS PLC (LON:ASC) is in the silver medal position with a gain of 3,600%.

Hutchison China Meditech Ltd (LON:HCM), Abcam PLC (LON:ABC) and IMPAX Asset Management Group PLC (LON:IPX) comprise the rest of the AIM 100’s top five, with gains of between 2,730% and 2,830%.

Looking at a shorter time-frame, the AIM All-Share rose to 1,208 this week from 1,161, a rise of 4.0%. Over the same period, the FTSE 100 rose 1.7% to 6,514.

The recovery from the bleak days of 2007 gives hope to this week’s big losers, which included tech stocks Bidstack Group PLC and IDE Group Holdings PLC (LON:IDE).

Bidstack, which has neat technology that displays advertising within a computer game, plunged 40% after it reported that losses for 2020 are expected to widen to £7.18mln from £5.36mln.

Revenues are set to be ahead of expectations at £1.7mln, up from just £140,000 the year before, but the group warned that the pandemic might well lead to “a further lengthening of sales cycles”.

IDE Group lost 23% of its value this week after its full-year trading update underwhelmed.

The network, cloud and information technology managed services provider said adjusted underlying earnings are expected to more than halve to around £500,000 from £1.1mln in 2019.

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