London's FTSE 100 slides 47.74 points lower to 6405.7 on Wednesday on nervousness ahead of minutes from the US Federal Reserve's monthly policy meeting, although part-nationalised lender Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) puts on 1% at 74.5p after selling off non-core assets. The bank has raised some £500 million through selling German life insurer Heidelberger Leben and selected UK loans to US investment bank Goldman Sachs (GS:NASDAQ). These deals boost its reserves and strengthen its position as a UK high street lender ahead of a potential sale of taxpayers’ 39% stake in the bank, a strategy we have previously discussed here.
The fall in metal prices continues to prompt a rethink by miners over their business strategy. Today's key announcements are led by African Barrick Gold (ABG), which dips 0.3% to 155.4p after replacing its chief executive officer. Out goes Greg Hawkins who has led the company since it split from Barrick Gold (ABX:NYSE) in 2010. In comes Brad Gordon, former boss of Intrepid Mines (IAU:TSX). Also in the gold space, Hochschild Mining (HOC) falls 4.5% to 215.4p after it tells shareholders they won't be getting a half-year dividend because earnings have been hit by lower commodity prices.
Park Plaza-owner PPHE Hotel (PPH) retreats 1.5% to 304p after a slight dip in half-year pre-tax profit from €5.3 million to €5 million. Revenue per available room – the key performance benchmark in the hotels industry – fell by 0.8% to €94.8 million, PPHE blaming 'soft market conditions' in Europe. Analysts remain bullish on the stock, saying it is cheap relative to peers.
Russian oil producer Ruspetro (RPO) is unchanged at 32.5p despite announcing a $30 million crude oil prepayment facility with Glencore Xstrata (GLEN) to fund the appraisal and development of its assets. The agreement requires the company to deliver a minimum of 15,000 metric tonnes per quarter (around 1,200 barrels of oil per day) of crude oil to Glencore.
Investors cheer news of an £11 million cash inflow into Renew (RNWH:AIM), the result of selling 71 acres of land near Rugby. The shares rise 3.4% to 123p as Renew says it will use the cash to pay off debt used to buy Lewis Civil Engineering earlier this month which cost £7.9 million. The company has also written down the value of property assets in the US and made provisions against contract costs that are unlikely to be recovered. The overall impact is a £1.3 million exceptional net gain before tax in its 2013 results, to be published on 21 November.
The owner of the Scottish ITV Network licences STV (STVG) pops up 6% to 185p on better-than-expected first-half numbers. Sales came in at £51.2 million and adjusted operating profit, before exceptional items, was £8.2 million. The market also welcomed news that ITV (ITV) has re-commissioned popular TV programme Catchphrase.
Shares in branded cookers company AGA Rangemaster (AGA) warm up 6% to 110p on a positive outlook statement alongside half-year figures to end-June. Though the £71.8 million cap behind iconic British cast iron ovens brand AGA reports flat operating profits of £1.5 million for the first half, chief executive William McGrath expects the recent pick up in housing transactions on both sides of the pond to drive higher second half sales. Shares looked at the implications of a housing market boom for AGA in our recent cover story.
Investors are starting to cotton on the story at facial recognition techy Seeing Machines (SEE:AIM), which jumps 27% to 3.5p on forecast-thumping finals. Shares flagged the opportunity last month, and we'll have more on today's news later on the website.
Software consultancy microcap Triad (TRD) leaps over 16% to 16p on no news today. Something similar happened in June, when the company was forced to deny knowledge of the shares 40% leap, but it looks like some in the market believe a buyer is sniffing around.
Packaging firm Robinson (RBN:AIM) ticks up 3.3% to 158.5p as interim results show a 267% year-on-year increase in pre-tax profits to £2.2 million and rewards shareholders with a 14% hike in the payout to 2p.
Profit takers swoop on eProcurement microcap @UK (ATUK:AIM), sending the shares 3% lower to 38.5p. The shares have rocketed 319% in three weeks since the company's cash generation news axed the threat of a possibly dilutive fundraising any time soon.
Advanced plastics and tyre recycling firm Symphony Environmental (SYM:AIM) is up 28.2% to 6.25p as it secures a five-year supply and marketing agreement with a division of Johnson & Johnson (JNJ:NYSE), one of the world's largest pharmaceutical and healthcare companies. The two parties have been working together for the last 24 months to produce a master batch which can be put into plastic products at the manufacturing stage to control dangerous bacteria.