Insurance claims specialist Quindell Portfolio (QPP:AIM) refuses to budge from the spotlight with new queries raised by the emergence of an unconventional derivative contract used by the company. The equity swap, which was flagged in Tuesday's full-year results was reported in the national press as a way of protecting the owners of Accident Advice Helpline, one of the UK's biggest no-win, no-fee claims specialists, against falls in the Quindell share price during sale negotiations. However, Quindell chief executive Rob Terry seems to have given a slightly different line to City number-crunchers at yesterday's analyst briefing.
One City analyst who was at that meeting told Shares it looks like a contract for difference (CFD) bet on its own share price. Quindell's advisers categorically denies that this was a CFD when asked by us. While there is no suggestion that this has broken any rules, this type of financial instrument is rare in acquisitions. The analyst suggested that Mr Terry needs to clarify the details of the derivative contract, how it works and why it was used. The shares collapsed by nearly 30% in early trading before recovering some of its losses to 8.2p, 20% down.
FTSE 100 credit report agency Experian (EXPN) jumped 5.5% to £12.36 after reporting full-year results, hitting expectations. Canaccord Genuity says the stock is 'expensive and increasingly risky' and has a 'sell' rating with an 898p price target.
A potential takeover situation means today's trading update from ferroalloy producer Eurasian Natural Resources (ENRC) is somewhat meaningless, leaving the shares virtually flat at 301.4p. Production remains at full capacity across all divisions except iron. Edison analyst Gavin Wood reckons a bid from the Kazakh founders is 'likely to be made ahead of the 17 May cut-off date'.
Bradford-based supermarket Morrisons (MRW) fell 2.6% to 289p, despite the struggling grocer announcing much improved first quarter sales. A 1.8% decline in like-for-like sales (excluding petrol) for the 13 weeks to 5 May compared favourably with a dreadful 4.1% fourth quarter decline. Morrisons reaffirmed its intent to launch its first online food operation by January 2014, yet failed to provide any further details regarding its potential tie-up with Ocado (OCDO), sending shares in the online grocer 11p lower to 199p.
Property and casualty insurer Beazley (BEZ) improved 1.5% to 230p after announcing a strong start to the year. Its gross written premiums improved 11% to US$518 million in the first quarter, compared to the same period of 2012. This was mainly driven by a 24% increase in its marine division, while its premium rates on renewed business were up 2%.
Real estate investment trust Hammerson (HMSO) fell 1% to 538.5p after reporting a fall in occupancy levels in its retail portfolio. The number of its units in administration by the end of March was 81, representing 2.4% of passing rents. Its tenant sales in France were also weak, declining 5.1% during the period.
Life insurer Old Mutual (OML) advanced 3% to 222p after its funds under management increased 7% to £288.4 billion in the year’s opening three months. Net client cash flow was £3.9 billion, up 6%, while life and savings sales improved 14%. Management also provided an update on its African operations where it recorded sales in Nigeria for the first time and agreed an acquisition in the country.
Shares in housebuilder Barratt Developments (BDEV) fell 3.1% to 315.9p despite the group reporting a strong start to 2013. In the 18 weeks to 5 May 2013, the £3.1 billion cap reported a 9.7% increase in net private reservations as well as an 18% uplift on the prior year in net private reservations per week per active site.
Private label shampoo-to-shower gels group McBride (MCB) shed 0.75p to 117.5p on an uninspiring trading update and downbeat outlook statement. The £215.5 million cap's sales were 5% down year-on-year between 1 January and 8 May, reflecting 'weak consumer demand in Western Continental Europe and ongoing branded promotional activity' in the UK. McBride also warned June year-end net debt will be higher than forecast at around £90 million due to currency swings and a short-term increase in working capital.
Superdry brand-owner SuperGroup (SGP) lost 2p at 718p, despite posting a strong fourth quarter update showcasing the youth fashion retailer's resilience. Over the 13 weeks to 28 April, retail sales rose 10.9% to £43.8 million and like-for-like sales skipped 5% higher. Analysts were also pleased with evidence of marked acceleration in growth in the wholesale division, where fourth quarter sales advanced more than 20% to £43 million, demonstrating growing overseas appetite for the brand.
Shares in pump maker Spirax-Sarco (SPX) ticked down 0.7% to £27.40 despite telling the market that year-to-date trading was in line with expectations – with sales increasing 6% in the four months to the end of April.
Specialist engineering play IMI (IMI), which has expertise in fluid control processes, gained 3.3% to £13.20. The rise followed an update which confirmed trading was in line with expectations and sounded a positive note on its full year prospects despite organic revenues falling 3% in the first four months of the year.
British Polythene Industries (BPI), which supplies a number of end users with the widely-used plastic, was ahead 1.3% to 552p having said it anticipates 'a good result for the first half'.
Mobile telecoms and software tester Anite (AIE) beat muted third quarter expectations sending its shares up4.8% to 127.3p. Analyst Lorne Daniel at FinnCap says a typically strong fourth quarter months could spark renewed interest in a company recently flagged by Shares.
A reassuring trading update from Lonrho (LONR:AIM) helped the shares nudge up 0.9% to 5.35p. Its decision last year to focus on higher-margin business appears to be paying off. The agriculture logistics specialist says first quarter margins have improved, although there's slower growth in revenue.
Microcap semiconductors developer CML Microsystems (CML:AIM) saw its shares rally 8.4% to 420p after revealing it will beat market forecasts for the financial year to March 2013. The specialist supplier of technology to the data storage and communications makes around 20% operating margins on sales. It has guided £25 million revenue for the period. Healthy cash generation also leads to better-than-expected £8.9 million net cash position. Its results are published on 11 June.
Cross-border electronic payments supplier Earthport (EPO:AIM) has sealed a deal with Latin America remittance payments group Viamericas. The pair will work together in expanding to markets outside the Americas and Caribbean regions. The market shrugged off the announcement with the shares edging 0.25p lower to 20.5p.