African oil explorer Ophir Energy (OPHR) is the latest exploration company to disappoint with drilling results, falling 18.5% to 240.7p as its Padouck Deep-1 offshore Gabon prospect fails to uncover commercial quantities of hydrocarbons. Taking some positives the group does note some elements necessary for exploration success were present in the pre-salt play.


Engineering conglomerate Smiths Group (SMIN) falls 6.4% to £12.64 as it announces a 20% drop in first half pre-tax profit to £132 million and warns of a 4% to 5% hit to full-year earnings from the strong pound. We take a closer look at the news here.


Glencore Xstrata (GLEN) dips 0.9% to 308.8p after China's MMG confirms talks to buy the FTSE 100 miner's Las Bambas copper project in Peru but says there is no guarantee a deal will happen. A successful acquisition is expected to cost more than $5 billion. Glencore was asked to sell the asset by the Chinese authorities in order to get approval for its takeover of Xstrata in 2013 and show the combined entity wouldn't have a monopoly on the supply of copper.


Annuity provider Partnership Assurance (PA.) falls 7% to 296.6p on a bad start to the year, where sales in the first quarter will be lower than those collected in the final quarter of 2013, a year in which its pre-tax profits improved 24% to £83 million.


Investors are not happy with NCC (NCC) boss Rob Cotton after the chief executive sells half of his 11 million shares stake. NCC falls 6% to 191p, although it is worth noting the shares had previously doubled from 105p since April 2013.


Ten-pin bowling centre operator Essenden (ESS:AIM) moves into profit and a net cash position, reflecting its efforts to revitalise the business. The shares have trebled in price since September 2013 thanks to resolution of onerous lease problems, growth in operating margins and cash generation. We highlighted the stock's potential in January at 49.5p. Today it rises 14.6% to 86.5p.


Dalata Hotel (DAL:AIM) falls 8% to €2.30 on its stockmarket debut. The largest hotel operator in Ireland has raised €265 million to buy more hotels and pay down borrowings. At the end of 2013 it had €4.1 million net debt.


High purity stevia ingredients producer PureCircle (PURE:AIM) sours 10p to 630p despite half-time figures to December revealing sales up 32% to $34.9 million. PureCircle looks unlikely to hit consensus estimates for the year, though growing stevia take-up from food and beverages behemoths and losses culled to $2.36 million (2012: $7.2 million) are positive takeaways.


The neat fit acquisition of Pebble Beach Systems gets Vislink (VLK:AIM) investors excited, sparking a 10% jump in the shares to 45.25p. The £14.9 million deal look well-priced and adds important software to the high-tech broadcast equipment designer.


International payments platform operator Earthport (EPO:AIM) has won an important three-year contract with Japan's biggest remittance organisation, Kyodai. This is the first meaningful deal as part of Earthport's Asia-Pacific expansion and it sends the shares nearly 5% higher to 36.4p. Earthport is a running Shares Play of the Week from December at 24p.


Carpets manufacturer Victoria (VCP:AIM) weaves in a 1.34% gain at 302p on news it has struck a balance sheet-strengthening sale and leaseback deal for its Kidderminster factory.


Gene therapy specialist Silence Therapeutics (SLN:AIM) drops 3.4% to 300p on plans for a potential share sale to help fund clinical trials.


Cancer diagnostic and therapeutic specialist ValiRx (VAL:AIM) improves 8.4% to 0.3p on having enough cash to take its products through to human testing. Share sales and disposals have boosted the £960,000 cash it had at the end of 2013.


Versarien (VRS:AIM), a developer of advanced micro-porous metals for thermal management, slips 2.8% to 25.7p as a trading update fails to inspire the market, merely saying results will meet expectations.

Issue Date: 19 Mar 2014