Sales are going well for JD Wetherspoon (JDW) but tax is still the thorn in its side. The pubs operator warns that it will pay a higher corporation tax this year due to an increase in non-qualifying capital expenditure. There's also going to be year-on-year reduction in operating margins, says the company. But it is news of a 6.7% rise in like-for-like sales in the 12 weeks to 19 January that captures investors' attention, driving the shares up 4.6% to 825p.
Services exchange platform business Blur (BLUR:AIM) says that higher value projects may take longer to implement, and the market takes that as a veiled threat to future profits, knocking more than 4% off the stock to 760p. We take a closer look at the situation here.
Investors will have a new way of playing North Sea oil and gas from next month when Hurricane Energy joins Aim. The group, which has the backing of oil major BP (BP.), is due to start trading on 4 February with an anticipated market cap of £272 million. The group plans to target fractured basement reservoirs and the £49.4 million raised as part of the IPO process will help fund a horizontal well on the Lancaster basement discovery, estimated to contain 207 million barrels of contingent resources.
Cash-generative high street stationer WH Smith (SMWH) puts on 17p to £10.33 on a well-received Christmas trading statement. For the 20 weeks to 18 January, overall like-for-like sales were down 4%, yet the FTSE 250 retailer's tight cost control and margin management meant a good profit performance was delivered. Driven by an improving performance in the travel division, Investec analyst Kate Calvert pushes through a 2% increase in her full-year profit forecast to £113 million.
Software specialist Sage (SGE) says trading is in line with expectations, implying organic revenue growth of 6%. But it is optimistic talk about future cloud growth plans that capture investor's imagination, sparking a 6% share price rise to 437.6p. Shares raised doubts about the group's longer-term growth hopes in December.
A running Shares Play of the Week, home shopping-to-education supplies business Findel's (FDL) falls 6.4% to 290p on profit-taking. A strong third quarter trading update triggers upgrades to outer year estimates, revealing improved performances from Findel's two biggest businesses Express Gifts, which enjoyed a record Christmas, and Education Supplies, over the 16 weeks to 17 January.
Investors' hopes for a large cash windfall from Bezant Resources (BZT:AIM) have been dashed. Shareholders have been waiting a long time for Gold Fields to exercise an option to buy a copper asset from Bezant. The junior had told shareholders they would get a share of the $60.5 million purchase price. Sadly Gold Fields has now walked away, forcing Bezant to recommence efforts to either sell or joint venture the project. The shares fall 37% to 8.88p.
Non-life insurer Gable (GAH:AIM) improves 2.7% to 75.5p as it secures £10 million of commercial combined risk underwriting capacity across Europe from broker Aon UK (AON:NYSE).
Aim-quoted oil play Leni Gas and Oil (LGO:AIM) gushes up 15.7% to 1.14p as it secures environmental sign-off for a 30-well drill programme on its 100%-owned Goudron field in Trinidad. The work programme, due to start at the end of next month, is expected to lead to a substantial increase in the group's oil production.
Contamination and hygiene specialist Tristel (TSTL:AIM) jumps 13.8% to 51.5p as the company expects to beat its pre-tax profit targets for the year. It now expected to make more than the £700,000 originally forecast after a strong first half, following a successful restructuring.