Derbyshire-based chocolatier Thorntons (THT) jumped 7.3% to 74p on a positive Easter trading update and profit upgrade. In the midst of an encouraging turnaround under chief executive officer Jonathan Hart, the £47.2 million cap said Easter trading was satisfactory. Combined with similar results from Valentine's Day and Mother's Day, Thorntons reckons pre-tax profits for the year to 29 June will beat the current £3.1 million consensus estimate.
The premium chocolate manufacturer, which did express caution about the economy and weak consumer spend in this morning's brief missive, says it will post a fuller update later this month (24 April) once it has worked through the details of recent trading. Panmure Gordon remains a buyer and reiterates its recently increased price target of 100p. 'Thorntons is highly financially and operationally geared and the upside is therefore considerable', writes the broker. 'We believe that our forward year forecasts have considerable upside and we remain buyers because we believe that it can drive sales through a number of channels and that its profits will further benefit from a reduced cost base.' Panmure also believes that Thorntons' 'historic levels of profitability are within reach.'
Outsourcing group Babcock (BAB) was flat at £11.03 after saying that trading was in line with expectations. Analysts found no reason to nudge up earnings forecasts and the general consensus is that the shares are fairly valued.
Interserve (IRV) dipped 3% to 495.1p after announcing it will invest £10.5 million in a joint venture to build an office, hotel and retail space in Edinburgh. This is a precursor for £150 million of construction work to be undertaken by Interserve.
A major contract win in Russia for ground engineering specialist Keller (KLR) failed to wow investors, with the shares easing 0.68% to 804p. Worth around £35 million, the group's largest contract in Russia to date is for the preparation of a complete excavation pit for a Moscow residential complex. 'This award comes on the back of several smaller contracts in Russia completed by Keller in recent years,' enthused CEO Justin Atkinson, 'including the foundations for the ice rink in Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics. It is encouraging to see our business gaining traction in this growing market.'
Shares in Quindell (QPP:AIM) sparked up almost 11% to 13p on the unveiling of a five-year deal with the RAC, a deal which could potentially see the insurance claims outsourcery business process as much as £500 million a year of claims. Click here for our take on the story.
Gem Diamonds (GEMD) said its chief financial office Kevin Burford is to retire. He will be replaced by financial manager Michael Michael. Investors welcomed the potential cost-saving measure, sending the shares up 3.1% to 134.25p. Also helping the stock was a push from Liberum Capital which highlighted the diamond producer as one of its top mining picks in a research note.
Cannabinoid-based therapeutics company GW Pharmaceuticals (GWP:AIM) improved 3.8% to 48p after patenting the delivery of its Sativex formulation in the USA. Sativex treats or is being trialled to treat MS spasticity, cancer and neuropathic pain and is dispensed through an aerosol spray. The news comes ahead of the Salisbury-based company’s secondary listing in New York this month.
US medical technology specialist Electrical Geodesics (EGI:AIM) became London’s newest arrival after raising £8 million in an IPO valuing the company at £29.3 million. The proceeds will be used to boost sales of the neurodiagnostic firm's brain monitoring devices.
Water-based clean technology company PuriCore (PURI) perked up 0.5p to 44.5p on news it is to sell its Vashe wound therapy in the USA, Mexico and Canada. The company has signed a marketing and distribution agreement with SteadMed Medical for the non-antibiotic treatment for acute and chronic wounds. Under the terms of the tie-up, PuriCore receives an upfront payment of $500,000 and will receive royalties 'in the high teens' based on sales volumes.
Sweden-based Beowulf Mining (BEM:AIM) crashed 24% to 9.12p after a disappointing resource update on the northern part of its Kallak project. Expectations have been too high for Beowulf's project and today's announcement shows that Kallak North has barely got any bigger since its maiden resource in 2011. Instead, Beowulf has simply moved a large proportion of the tonnage into a higher resource category.
AIM-quoted oil explorer Leni Gas & Oil (LGO:AIM) ticked up 2.1% to 0.96p after announcing plans to bring ten additional wells on its Goudron field in Trinidad into production. Elsewhere, Chinese coal bed methane (CBM) specialist Green Dragon Gas (GDG:AIM) was up 8.9% at 209.1p after announcing a 37% increases in its proved (P1) reserves to 59 billion cubic feet (bcf). These reserves were assigned a net present value of $324 million – up from $263 million last year.