The week has kicked off with renewed speculation of a possible takeover of mobile telecoms giant Vodafone (VOD), driving shares in Britain's second biggest quoted company up 5% up to 195.5p. A report from the FT claims a bid from US telcos AT&T (T:NYSE) and Verizon Communications (VZ:NYSE) is in the offering, worth a staggering £245 billion, if 'sources' close to events are on the money.
The market rumour mill has been spinning rapidly over Vodafone's plans for its 45% stake in US mobile firm Verizon Wireless (click here for our recent story on the subject matter). The latest gossip would see Verizon Communications take full ownership of Verizon Wireless in the US, with AT&T hoovering up Vodafone's non-US assets. This could be a neat way for Vodafone's management to avoid a nasty $20 billion capital gains tax liability on the sale of its Verizon Wireless stake while handing shareholders a hefty 33%-odd premium, even after today's share price rally to boot. We suspect that there's plenty of I's to dot and T's to cross on this one though, patience is likely to be required.
Following speculation by the Russian media last year, Highland Gold (HGM) has bought the high-grade Kekura gold deposit. The purchase price is much less than previous speculation and will be funded entirely by debt, helping shares in the miner advance 2.9% to 88.25p as investors were relieved that an equity raising wasn't needed. The deal looks interesting but has a few negative issues to consider, as we explain in detail here.
FTSE 100 steel giant Evraz (EVR) retreated 3.2% to 214.9p after buying a 51% stake in the Timir iron ore joint venture with Russian resources group Alrosa for $160 million. It is trying to secure future raw material supplies for steel manufacturing.
Telecom Plus (TEP) added 25p to 1,026p after posting a year-end trading update showing 55,000 new service adds, its seventh straight quarter of plus-50,000. News of a full-year payout worth 31p a share, 15% up year-on-year, underlines the multi-utility supplier's impressive value creation for investors.
An £80 million contract win helped sustain the share price rally in Interserve (IRV), pushing the stock up a further 1.8% to 508.5p. This means the support service-to-construction group has nearly doubled in price since last May. The contract is a three-year facilities management deal with nuclear power station operator Magnox.
Investment banking software supplier First Derivatives (FDP:AIM) remains under pressure, falling 6% to 577.5p after revealing a disputed bad debt will see expectations missed. The size of the provision, relating to a legacy contract at its Cognotec business bought in 2010, remains under wraps. Underlying trading looks otherwise in line, albeit stressed by still slow IT spending by its major customers.
Consumer healthcare-focused pharmaceutical group Futura Medical (FUM: AIM) jumped 9.8% to 61.5p after closing a licensing deal with consumer products group Church & Dwight (CHD: NYSE). The Trojan condom maker is to market and distribute CSD500 – Futura’s erection-enhancing condom – in North America and parts of Europe. Futura will receive an undisclosed upfront payment and sales royalties. The news comes more than six months after Futura ended discussions with consumer goods company Reckitt Benckiser (RB.) to distribute the product after they were unable to agree commercial terms.
Shares in branded showers, tiles and adhesives supplier Norcros (NXR) rose 6.1% to 17.5p as the market warmed to the acquisition of Eurobath International. The business trades as 'Vado' and distributes everything from taps and mixer showers to valves and bathroom accessories. The deal, which sees Norcros shelling out £11 million in cash and assuming £900,000 of debt, looks a good fit for Norcros. As well as expanding its product range, Eurobath will boosts its market position in South Africa and growing presence in sub Saharan Africa.
Micro-cap engineering firm Turbo Power Systems (TPS:AIM) was firmly in gear, up 29.3% at 0.54p, after extending an existing loan agreement with TAO Sustainable Power Solutions by £2.1 million to just north of £8 million. The company also revealed it had secured a £200,000 contract to assist Vale Soluções em Energia (VSE), TAO's parent company, in a study of sub-sea power distribution concepts for the Brazilian oil and gas market. The group specialises in electrical machines and power electronics facilities and had indicated in last month's full-year results (11 Mar) that it was targeting Brazil in partnership with VSE. Brazilian state energy firm Petrobras has a $236.7 billion investment budget for the next five years; a significant proportion of this expenditure targeted on its massive discoveries off the coast of the South American country.
Security specialist Digital Barriers (DGB:AIM) slipped 3.8% to 178p after saying that delays to finalising deals in the US will result in the forthcoming results (out 29 May) showing a higher-than-expected operating loss.
Property group Development Securities (DSC) jumped 1.2% to 152.3p after securing approval to re-develop Cross Quarter in South East London. The company and its joint venture partner Berkshire Investment Capital are to build houses, a hotel, a supermarket and commercial space on the 10 acre, £85 million mixed-use regeneration scheme in Abbey Wood.
Is it all over for saucepan maker Metalrax (MRX:AIM)? Shares in the specialist engineer have been suspended after a series of financial problems. It is preparing to go into administration.
Cabling firm HellermanTyton (HTY) enjoyed a 0.9% bump to 203.9p as public trading got underway for its shares on the London Stock Exchange. Conditional trading started last Tuesday (26 Mar) among institutional investors.
Microcap electricity supplier Rurelec (RUR:AIM) jumped 22% to 12.5p ahead of its arbitration hearing against Bolivia which gets underway today. The Permanent Court of Arbitration, based in the Hague, is set to decide on the compensation the UK company will get after the Bolivian government nationalised its controlling stake power firm Empresa Guaracachi in May 2010. The claim has been independently assessed at $142.3 million (£93.6 million), nearly twice the size of its current £52 million market value.
African Eagle Resources (AFE:AIM) slumped 15.7% to 1.08p after flagging up potential tax liabilities. It says Tanzania's tax man is reviewing the miner's previous tax filings.
Pre-tax profits of £1.8 million were bang on the money for buses CCTV technology supplier 21st Century (C21:AIM) but the shares jumped 13% to 15.25p on expansion plans. Its CCTV kit is widely used here in Britain but the £14.2 million cap is pushing into European markets. It hopes to build on successes scored in Sweden by moving into France, Portugal, Poland and Spain using its new driver monitoring technology as a springboard.
California-based oil producer Sefton Resources (SER:AIM) nudged ahead 1% to 0.62p after a study estimated the net present value of its assets at £17 million.