Investors raised a glass to Punch Taverns (PUB) today, sending the shares 13% higher to 12p. The leased and tenanted pubs operator made encouraging noises about the long-awaited restructuring of its borrowings as it served up better-than-expected half-year figures.


For the half to 2 March, the £70 million cap reported taxable profits of £26.2 million, down on the prior year's £33.3 million result with woeful weather and fragile consumer confidence proving unhelpful.


Nevertheless, this profits haul was ahead of the £25.2 million forecast by broker Panmure Gordon.


Spirits were also raised as Punch, with a 4,357-strong pubs estate and 50% stake in drinks wholesaler and distributor Matthew Clark, said it expects to make progress in the second half.


Now guided by chief executive officer (CEO) Stephen Billingham – former CEO Roger Whiteside recently (1 Feb) resigned to take over as boss at British bakery retailer Greggs (GRG) – the indebted pubs play also said discussions regarding the restructuring of its borrowings are continuing and that the board believes 'a consensual restructuring can be launched in the first half of 2013.'


Punch continues to make progress with disposals of non-core pubs in order to address its debt pile and focus on a core estate of higher quality, geographically well-located pubs with good long-term growth prospects.


However Panmure Gordon only has a 'hold' rating and 7p price target for Punch, pointing out 'the stock's valuation is largely irrelevant as if a successful restructuring cannot be concluded there will be little equity value for shareholders; arguably only its shareholding in Matthew Clark worth circa 7p per share.'


Airline stocks were among the biggest fallers in the top flight, with a half-year trading update from easyJet (EZJ) highlighting a surge in Easter bookings as well as continuing pressure from fuel prices and the weaker pound. Click here for our take on the story.


Shares in Iberia and British Airways-owner International Consolidated Airlines (IAG) also experienced turbulence, falling 7.7% to 232.8p. In an update yesterday, IAG, which has put in a large order for 18 of Boeing's 787 Dreamliners, said traffic in March was negatively impacted by the timing of Easter as well as strikes by Iberia staff.


A very slight 0.5p dip to £32.88 at troubled AstraZeneca (AZN) reflected disappointing results from the £41 billion cap's new rheumatoid arthritis treatment.


The pharma giant confirmed that Fostamatinib failed to show an improvement under x-ray and produced several side effects, including hypertension and diarrhoea, a development which leaves a question mark over the drug’s future.


This is the latest set-back for the company, which earlier this week (2 Apr) said it had lost a legal battle to secure a US patent pertaining to an asthma treatment.


Small cap broker Cenkos Securities (CNKS:AIM) pleased with its full-year results. The securities firm reported secondary trading volumes at its Institutional Equities business had helped drive a 40% surge in revenues to £3 million, versus £2.2 million in 2011.


This was despite an extremely challenging environment revealed by last month's (28 Mar) London Stock Exchange (LSE) update for the 11 months to 28 February. The LSE stated the average daily value of shares traded via the SETS order book was down 15% on 2012.


The market's reaction to the finals, for the 12-month period to 31 December, said it all with Cenkos' shares up 10% at 88.5p against a wider FTSE 100 down 1.35%.


Investors also took heart from the strong flow of corporate activity, indicating the broker was well positioned to take a good share of the rising tide of initial public offering (IPO) and secondary placing work.


Revenue from its Corporate Broking and Advisory segment rose 14% to £40.1 million from £35.2 million in 2011.


Broadcast software supply minnow Pilat Media Global (PGB:AIM) rallied nearly 20% to 40p after it bagged a new video-on-demand deal with US pay-TV firm Starz. Worth an estimated $5 million, the deal is quite a coup for the £25 million cap.


Wireless sea vessel tracking techy Software Radio Technology (SRT:AIM) once more demonstrated its inherent unpredictability. Better-than-expected trading sent the shares racing 11% higher to 22.5p.


The microcap's new business is notoriously difficult to anticipate, even for management, but investors welcomed news of £10 million full year revenues and EBITDA of £2.2 million. The shares still trade 15% below the 2013 high of 26.5p hit in January.


Another strong performer was Minoan (MIN:AIM), the travel agencies owner and resort developer. Its shares jumped 26.5% to 7.75p on news of a positive court decision related to its five-star quality resort project in Crete.


Friday also saw Aim welcome Healthcare Investment Opportunities (HIO: AIM) for its first day of dealings. Chaired by well-connected healthcare sector mover and shaker David Evans, the debutante has raised £4 million at 10p a share for acquisitions and investments.

Issue Date: 05 Apr 2013