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Upper Crust owner SSP lifted by broker upgrade


3pm: Upper Crust owner SSP boosted by upgrade

SSP (LON.SSPG), which owns the Upper Crust and Ritazza outlets, is one of the top risers in the FTSE 250 after analysts at Berenberg upgraded the hospitality business from hold to buy.

Given that its outlets trade in airports and train stations at a time when far fewer people are travelling, Berenberg concedes the business faces “significant headwinds” in the near term. Tighter border controls amid the pandemic and the continuing lockdowns are hitting the company hard, and the analysts say it may have to conduct a fundraising if there is no significant pickup in demand.

But Berenberg believes the company is well run with good growth prospects in the medium term once the pandemic has been tamed. SSP shares have climbed 5.62% to 322.4p compared to Berenberg’s price target of 335p.

12.15pm: Dr Martens slips on first day of full dealings

Dr Martens (LON.DOCS) has lost a little of its cachet following a stomping arrival on the stock market. Shares have began trading unconditionally – they started limited trading on Friday – and edged 0.22% lower to 445p. This is still a huge premium on the offer price of 370p. The business, which produced its first boots in 1960, raised £1.3bn in the float and made paper millionaires of some 22m of its senior staff.

The bootmaker’s arrival is one sign of a resurgence of IPOs in the UK. Another is online greetings card group Moonpig (LON.MOON) which joined the market on Tuesday at 350p a share, climbed to 410p on the first day and is now up another 3.32% at 423.6p.  Neil Wilson at said the success of these floats was “a sign investors are still willing to pay a premium for growth and a premium for names they are familiar with.”

11.00am: BigDish falls after delaying platform development

Shares in restaurant technology platform BigDish (LON.DISH) have come off the boil after the company said that it was delaying a plan to develop its platform further, given the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the eating out sector.

It said: “The company announced on 24 September 2020 that a Letter of Intent was signed with an investor to progress the BigDish business. The company has progressed the techology goals. However, given the continued uncertainty in the UK restaurant sector, it has been agreed to revisit this opportunity at a later date when the outlook for the UK restaurant sector improves.”

It has also decided to diversify into a “high growth area of the wider food and beverage sector”, given the pandemic as well as changing consumer habits. This means in practice setting up a joint venture company called Amala with Phillipines businessman Archie Rodriguez to produce plant-based meat products, initially in Asia. The news has done little for its shares, which have lost 16.67% to 1.125p.

Elsewhere Bacanora Lithium (AIM:BCN) shares were down 14.73% to 47.75p, but held above the 45p price of its placing and retail offer which raised US$65m for the company. The proceeds will be used to develop its flagship Sonora project in Mexico and put it on track to become a lithium producer by 2023.

8.45am: GSTechnologies boosted by news of blockchain move

The magic word blockchain still has the power to put a spark into company shares. GSTechnologies Limited (LON: GST), which provides wireless, electronic cabling and security services, saw its shares soar 88% higher to 1.14p in early trade in Wednesday after it said it was setting up a new UK subsidiary to move into the blockchain area.

In a statement, GST chairman Tone Goh said: “The establishment of GS Fintech in the UK is intended as the first step in our planned expansion into areas utilising blockchain technology following the recent appointments of Jack Bai and Shayne Tan to the Company’s board.”

The group’s ambitions do not stop with the UK. It also wants to establish a similar blockchain-focused subsidiary in Singapore.

Staying with blockchain, Argo Blockchain (LON.ARB) climbed 8% higher to 93p. The company reported that its mining revenues for January were £2.48mln. up from £1.63mln in December, while its average monthly mining margin rose to 71% from 60% a month ago.

At the end of the month, Argo said it held 501 Bitcoin and Bitcoin Equivalent (BTC), adding that during the second half of January it had purchased 172.5 BTC as part of its asset management strategy.

Proactive news headlines:

Galantas Gold Corporation (LON:GAL) said it has reached a formal agreement with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) which can allow blasting to take place at the Omagh gold mine. The company noted that the agreement creates the potential for a materially improved economic arrangement for an expansion of underground blasting, which is necessary if the Omagh mine is to achieve full commercial production. “The agreement is the result of detailed cooperation between Galantas & PSNI and I am pleased that the new arrangements, in which the company has heavily invested, have been formalized in this way,” said Roland Phelps, Galantas chief executive in a statement.

4D pharma PLC (LON:DDDD) has updated investors on activities in the development program for its immune-oncology single strain live biotherapeutic candidate MRx0518. The AIM-listed firm said MRx0518 is in an ongoing Phase I/II clinical trial in combination with immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI) Keytruda (pembrolizumab), in patients with advanced malignancies who have previously progressed on ICI therapy.  The study is comprised of two parts – Part A, an initial safety phase assessing dose-limiting toxicities of the combination which was completed in May last year, and the Part B cohort expansion phase to assess clinical benefit in addition to safety which has begun.

Argo Blockchain PLC (LON:ARB) has updated on its cryptocurrency mining operations for the first month of 2021, highlighting higher revenues and expanded margins over the period. The company reported that its mining revenues for January were £2.48mln. up from £1.63mln in December, while its average monthly mining margin rose to 71% from 60% a month ago.

Directa Plus PLC (LON:DCTA) said it has received a grant for its face masks as part of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. The producer and supplier of graphene nanoplatelets based products for use in consumer and industrial markets said the grant has a total value of €100,000, on a non-refundable basis, and covers a project which is expected to be concluded within the next 8 months. As part of the Inno4Cov-19 Project, the grant will be used to assist Directa’s research into using graphene technology to help prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Guild Esports PLC (LON:GILD) said it has signed Tai Starčič, also known as TaySon, Europe’s top-ranked professional Fortnite player, as the fourth member of its esports team for the game. The company said TaySon’s signing elevates its team to the top spot in the region from second place, adding that TaySon has “immense popularity at a grassroots level” having recently been named ‘Player of the Year’ in the 2020 Competitive Awards for Fortnite as voted for by fans. TaySon has signed a one-year contract with Guild with an option to renew for another year. He will compete under the Guild banner in all upcoming European and international Fortnite tournaments, starting with the new FNCS EU season on February 5.

Open Orphan PLC (LON:ORPH) said its hVIVO division has opened a new quarantine clinic in East London. The new 19-bedroom Whitechapel Clinic is directly opposite the Queen Mary BioEnterprise Innovation Centre (QMB), which houses hVIVO’s state-of-the-art FluCamp. The converted former boutique hotel will be used as an additional unit for human challenge trials and volunteer recruitment screening. There are quarantine rooms across three floors, with each level fully converted to include a nurses’ station. In a separate statement, Open Orphan PLC said it had received notice of exercise of warrants by investors who participated in the Venn loan note financing in December 2018 over 1,349,349 ordinary shares of  0.1p each in the capital of the company at a price of 0.1p per share for 477,703 ordinary shares and at a price of 2.2 p per share for 871,646 ordinary shares. The gross proceeds of this exercise received by the company amounts to £19,653.91.

World High Life PLC (LON:LIFE) said it has appointed Tony Calamita, one of the founders of its subsidiary Love Hemp Limited, as its chief executive and as a director with immediate effect. The cannabidiol (CBD) specialist said Calamita has “played a crucial role in the rapid development of Love Hemp’s business”, creating what it said is “one of the UK’s leading CBD and health and wellness suppliers”.

Destiny Pharma PLC (LON:DEST) said Brazil’s Industrial Property Office has granted it an additional patent over XF-73, a nasal gel being developed to prevent post-surgical infections such as MRSA. The Brazilian authorities have issued what is known as a notice of allowance pending full approval next month. It will be the 84th patent from three patent families covering the XF platform. In the same announcement, Destiny said it expects to share the results of its ongoing phase IIb trial towards the end of March, after which it will concentrate its efforts on a phase III programme.

Scancell Holdings PLC (LON:SCLP) has said it would either develop its cancer immunotherapy in-house or with a new partner after ending a clinical development tie-up with Cancer Research UK (CRUK). The decision to curtail clinical development work on Scancell target SCIB2 followed a re-assessment of the charity’s collaboration model in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the company said. CRUK was due to fund and sponsor a phase I/II trial of SCIB2 in combination with a checkpoint inhibitor drug in patients with solid tumours.

Curzon Energy PLC (LON:CZN) has reset its reboot, and is now set to be the vehicle for a British plastic recycling business. The company told investors it has terminated its letter of intent with Sun Seven Stars Investment Group (SSSIG), a move that closes the door on the previously proposed and protracted deal for the London Critical Metals Market (LCMM). Curzon has, at the same time, announced the signing of a separate letter of intent with Poseidon Enhanced Technologies Limited. The Poseidon deal envisages a reverse takeover which would see the AIM-quoted entity become a producer of low-cost recycled plastics for the food and beverage industry.

Sensyne Health PLC (LON:SENS) has launched the first operational AI algorithm for coronavirus (COVID-19) patients built on its SENSE engine. SYNE-OPS-1 was co-developed with the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which has now integrated the system and is using it to manage COVID-19 patients in its intensive care unit.

Zaim Credit Systems PLC (LON:ZAIM), the Russia-focused microloans group, said it increased lending by 65% in the fourth quarter of 2020 as it switched its business online. Loans issued over the three month period were £3.8mln compared to £2.3mln in the previous quarter, with a 250% jump in online borrowing to £2.9mln. Online now comprise 76% of the loan book, Zaim said, which added that the group continued to trade profitably in the fourth quarter.

Digitalbox PLC (LON:DBOX), the mobile-first digital media business has appointed Marcus Rich as its new chairman. Rich, who joins on February 17, 2021, was most recently chief executive of TI Media and led the sale of to Bandlab Technologies, and oversaw the overall sale of the business to Future PLC. He replaces Robin Miller, who made the decision to step down in October last year.

Bacanora Lithium PLC (LON:BCN) said it has successfully raised USS$65mln via an equity funding comprising a share placing and a retail offer. Some 106.9mln new shares are being issued at a price of 45p each, a 19.6% discount to Tuesday’s mid-market closing price. Chief executive Peter Secker, in a statement, noted that the funding was the final piece in the company’s financing commitment to bring Stage 1 of Sonora into production. “This successful fundraising will allow the company to achieve its ambition of becoming an international lithium production company,” Secker said.

Minds + Machines Group Limited (LON:MMX), one of the world’s leading owners and operators of Internet Top-Level Domains (TLDs) said, further to the announcement of January 25, 2021, it has confirmed the appointment of Tony Farrow as its CEO to the company’s board. It noted that Farrow holds 750,000 ordinary shares of no par value in the company and 750,000 restricted stock units over ordinary shares.

Power Metal Resources PLC (LON:POW) the AIM-listed metals exploration and development company said it has received notices to exercise warrants over 13,295,000 new ordinary shares of 0.1 pence each in the company, with 10,795,000 warrants exercised at a price of 1.0p per ordinary share and 2,500,000 warrants exercised at a price of 0.7p each. Subscription monies of £125,450 have been received by Power Metal in respect of these exercises.

AdEPT Technology PLC (LON:ADT) has said it is presenting at the MelloMonday event on February 8, 2021, via Zoom Webinar. It noted that Phil Race, CEO and John Swaite, CFO will be presenting to participants and taking questions during the event.

Tiziana Life Sciences PLC (NASDAQ:TLSA) (LON:TILS), a biotechnology company focused on innovative therapeutics for oncology, inflammation, and infectious diseases, said an interview with Dr Kunwar Shailubhai, its CEO and CSO, is now available online via the following link: In the interview, D. Shailubhai discusses the positive effect of nasally administered Foralumab in coronavirus (COVID-19) mediated pulmonary and systemic inflammation and its potential related to newly identified COVID-19 variants in UK, South Africa, and Brazil. He also comments on the nearly 2x improvement shown in CT scans of the lungs of patients treated with Foralumab as compared to those in the control group.





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