City gossips drag up takeover talk around Vodafone (VOD) on Friday, egging its shares 2% higher to 229.1p, with US giant AT&T (T:NYSE) in the frame according to Bloomberg reports. This is not new news, as Shares first flagged the potential for AT&T to use Vodafone as a route to bolster expansion in Europe more than six weeks ago.
Motor and home insurer Direct Line (DLG) moves 1.7% higher to 229p on news taxable profits powered 51% ahead to £124.2 million in the third quarter, up from £82.4 million a year ago. This good result was delivered in competitive markets, with Direct Line saying it wrote 4.3% fewer premiums over the opening nine months of the year.
Drastic times call for drastic measures but the market seems to like Johnston Press' (JPR) proposed ‘people’s paper’ – a radical reworking of one of its titles whereby 75% of the content is created by the local community - as the counter rises 9.3% to 14.8p. Codenamed the ‘Bourne Experiment’, after the Hollywood film and the Lincolnshire town in which the paper is based, the market is perhaps sensing that the move is more significant in terms of potential cost-cutting implications if the model is rolled out across the group, rather than it marking a new and profitable departure for the country’s local newspaper industry.
Such a model would certainly help address the financial pressures as the firm struggles with large debts even if it does little to improve its long-term prospects which hinge on creating a quality and informed product people actually want to read.
Clarkson's (CKN) £12.7 million acquisition of specialist tool supplier Gibb Tools gets the thumbs-up. Shares in the shipping services group sail 2.4% higher to £20.64 on the deal which allows Clarkson Port Services to further extend its Port and Agency client offer into the important tool supply market.
Indebted Premier Foods (PFD) falls another 9% to 137p as investors continue to digest yesterday's disappointing trading statement, which revealed slowing growth of key 'Grocery Power Brands' in the third quarter.
Postal services software supplier Escher Group (ESCH:AIM) takes a 10.5% dive to 257.5p after confirming delays to license fees. This looks a classic example of a very small supplier getting the short end of the stick from its very big customers. The implication is that this could happen again, although the company deserves some credit – it's the first negative since joining Aim in August 2011 at 170p.
First line of defence cyber security minnow Corero Network Security (CNS:AIM) jumps 6% to 19.62p after repaying loans early, a move investors clearly like. The pressure now is on for management to get new product lines into the market and build scale, something it has struggled with so far.
Goodbye INVU (INVU:AIM), the microcap document management systems supplier is de-listing from Aim after years of stagnation. Commanding a £50 million market value on a 31p share price five years ago, INVU stock crashes 32% on today's news to 0.42p, making it worth just £750,000.
Russian oil producer Urals Energy (UEN:AIM), which is the subject both of a cash bid and a shareholder battle for control of the company, gains 6.6% to 10.1p. The rise follows a positive operational update and the revelation that an alleged debt repayment agreement is a forgery and an indication from the company that it may take legal measures against those 'who have attempted to use this document to threaten the board and also the company'.
African oil explorer Sterling Energy (SEY:AIM) and running Shares Play of the Week ticks up 0.3% at 38.1p as it announces a tie-up with Aussie-listed Pura Vida Energy (PVD:ASX) in Madagascar. The latter will take a 50% interest in the Ambilobe block off the coast of the island nation in return for paying $1.25 million in back costs and paying for a seismic survey worth up to $15 million.
Profit-takers move in on One Media iP (OMIP:AIM) with the junior media play falling 7.9% to 16p on news accompanying the year-end trading update that it is to start paying dividends. The profitable, cash generative and now debt-free firm will make a 0.077p final distribution for 2013.