London markets make early gains in opening trading on Monday as Irish building materials group CRH (CRH) and a host of oil stocks provide upward momentum. Investors are clearly relieved to find Brent crude trading above the key $50/bbl mark, while retail and financial stocks also make gains. London’s FTSE 100 is trading 28 points, or 0.4%, higher at 6,777 early on.
A big surge in crude prices on Friday - as data from Baker Hughes (BHI:NYSE) showed a 7% drop in US rigs drilling for oil - is translating into strength in the oil and gas sector with BG (BG.) up 3.8% to 920.7p, Tullow Oil (TLW) up 3% at 375.9p and financially distressed Afren (AFR) up 41.1% at 7.48p.
Budget airline Ryanair (RYA) slumps 5.3% to €9.85 as it shocks investors with a threat that falling oil prices could cap profits growth. The warning comes alongside improved third quarter net profit and the unveiling of plans for a €400 million share buyback.
CRH heads the Footsie leader board, up nearly 6% at £16.97, after agreeing a deal to buy assets from Philippines cement maker Holcim (HLCM:PS) and French industrial giant Lafarge (LAFP:PA). The €6.5 billion of assets deal will be funded by cash, debt and a near 10% equity share placing.
Office fit-out firm ISG (ISG:AIM) tumbles 21% to 280p as it says improvements in its business are more than offset by losses in its troubled construction unit. It estimates it will incur costs totalling £24 million – almost a quarter of its market capitalisation – on onerous contracts and payments to close offices.
Privately-held financial advisory firm Towry Law makes an offer for wealth manager Ashcourt Rowan (ARP:AIM) sending shares in the business soaring 56% to 264p. The take-out price is 270p in cash plus 5p in loan notes.
Depression applications microcap Ultrasis (ULT:AIM) leaps 38% to 0.27p as the market reacts strongly to doubled full year revenues and halved operating losses. The statement was posted after the close late on Friday, leaving investors all weekend to digest the figures.
In oil exploration, Mariana Resources (MARL:AIM) jumps 21% to 1.33p as it reports that snappily-named joint venture partner and operator Lidya Madencilik Sanayi ve Ticaret has completed an initial nine hole, 1,647 metre diamond drill program at the Hot Maden Prospect in eastern Turkey with excellent initial results.
Richland Resources (RLD:AIM) flops 15% to 1.38p as it unveils plans to flog all of its Tanzanite Experience retail outlets in Tanzania as its strategic review continues. It was now focussed on redeveloping the Capricorn Sapphire mine, Australia, that was on track to be commissioned in the first quarter.
Rounding up the sector, TXO (TXO:AIM) leaps 38% to 0.09p on press reports that the Bahamian Government has allocated $10 million to clean up an oil spill at Clifton Pier. 'TXO regards this development as very encouraging for Grand Bahama Group,' it says. GBG is one of TXO's four main investments.
Natural life sciences developer TyraTech (TYR:AIM) announces that its Vamousse head lice protection shampoo will be available in Walmart stores nationwide in the USA from April, and that the range is also now being distributed by Cardinal Health, a large US distributor. That sparks the shares to rally 9.5% to 4.38p.
Mobile enterprise software supplier Globo (GBO:AIM) rallies nearly 6% to 44.5p as it confirms full year revenues 48% up on last year at €106 million, with particularly strong growth coming from its GO!Enterprise suite.
Marine navigation technology supplier Software Radio Technology (SRT:AIM) expects to see demand for US Coast Guard-certified Class A and Class B transceivers to increase markedly over the next 12 months, following new regulations. Its shares rise 4% to 30.75p.
Education applications company RM (RM.) nudges close to 2% up to 157p after full year pre-tax profits rebound strongly. The running Shares Play of the Week unveils £15.8 million, up from £9.4 million a year ago, on revenue of £202.5 million, while there's also a 21% hike to the dividend.
Chinese marine snacks-to-frozen seafood supplier Aquatic Foods announces its intention to float on the junior Aim exchange tomorrow (3 Feb), having raised £9.3 million for a debut £79.3 million tag.
Kitchen maker and retailer John Lewis of Hungerford (JLH:AIM) cheapens 7.7% to 1.2p on a downbeat annual general meeting (AGM) update flagging disappointing first half sales following unexpected showroom staff departures.