Just as you thought it would be impossible for Ashtead (AHT) to keep receiving earnings upgrades, another great quarter from the construction equipment rental group forces analysts to once again upwardly revise their estimates. What's particularly interesting is that it has increased utilisation rates, prices and fleet volumes, which Panmure Gordon describes as being 'the beginnings of a perfect storm in terms of potential drop-through to profits'. We highlighted Ashtead in April as one of two stocks with the greatest prospects in our asset rental sector report, alongside Speedy Hire (SDY). It has certainly delivered the goods. Yet coming off the back of a strong share price run, it is not surprising to see some investors take profits, hence the shares today fall 1.5% to 677p.
IT testing services supplier SQS (SQS:AIM) makes a 6.5p move higher to 385.5p on solid half-year results. That leaves the shares 150% up on our Play of the Week at the start of last year (see page 11 of PDF). Read our analysis of the stock here.
Profit takers moved in on investment platform Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.), down 2.9% unwinding some of the past week’s gains ahead of today's full-year results. The numbers themselves were strong with assets under administration up again at £36.4 billion to record a new high at 30 June, although jittery equity markets will not have helped sentiment to the FTSE 100 counter.
Argos-to-Homebase owner Home Retail (HOME) edges 0.5p higher to 144.8p on news that long-serving chief executive officer Terry Duddy will step down next summer. Retail sector stalwart Duddy, pointing to positive momentum in the business, will exit stage left by the next annual meeting on 2 July.
Bookmaker Ladbrokes (LAD) is flat at 189.8p despite making a strategically-important move into the Australian market. Given the likelihood of higher taxes in the UK for its online operations from December 2014, diversifying revenue streams is important to reduce the impact of this extra financial hit. Ladbrokes is paying an initial £13 million for GIPL, an online sports betting business. The market doesn't seem too fussed as the deal is small compared to moves made by rivals William Hill (WMH) and Paddy Power (PAP).
IT upgrade specialist Micro Focus (MCRO) lays out the details of its 60p per share cash return, as flagged by Shares in June, with capital or income options. But the market seems to be in profit taking moon, marking the shares down 5.5% to 728p, after a 32% year-to-date run.
Mobile money network Monitise (MONI:AIM) is in demand after signing a pair of interesting development deals. An agreement with IBM (IBM:NYSE) will help accelerate Monitise's mobile money expansion in Europe, while it has also secured a deal to roll out its 'Bank Anywhere' platform to hundreds of credit unions. Shares first highlighted Monitise in March 2011 at 20p, the stock jumps 6% to 48.75p today.
Blue collar recruitment agent Staffline (STAF:AIM) advances 3.4% to 532.5p on a decent set of half-year results. Net debt is falling, the dividend is up 22%, and there's a new plan to hit £1 billion revenue and £30 million profit by 2017, all through organic means. That's impressive but still a big challenge given that today's interims show £187.2 million revenue and £4.9 million pre-tax profit. Nevertheless, Staffline says it has identified all the necessary opportunities to hit its 'burst the billion' target.
Optimal Payments (OPAY:AIM) nudges ahead 3.2% to 227p after securing a European partnership with French payments platform, Payline.
Heart monitoring specialist LiDCO (LID: AIM) jumps 4.9% to 16.1p as US regulators approve one of its monitors. Management can now target its non-invasive blood pressure monitoring module (CNAP) with its LiDCOrapidv2 monitor and Unity software at 3.4 million patients following the Food & Drug Administration’s ruling. Securing this approval is part of LiDCO’s strategy, which we have looked at in a previous issue of Shares.
Superglass (SPGH) falls 5.4% to 43.5p despite the Stirling-based manufacturer of glass wool and mineral fibre insulation saying its full-year results would hit expectations and cash beating forecasts. Sales throughout the summer months were volatile and uptake on retrofit insulation measures under the Green Deal initiative was running at between 80% and 90% below 2012 levels.
Housebuilder Mar City (MAR) rises 7.4% to 10.8p after the £31.8 million cap reported a 250% increase in profit before tax to £1,053,000 in the six months to 30 June. The group also told investors that as of July, Mar City had become a registered provider to the Government's Help to Buy scheme.