London stocks get off to a cautious start on Monday with more talks between the European Union and Greece closely watched by investors. The benchmark FTSE 100 index is trading off 7 points in early deals at 6,867, while WTI crude loses 0.7% to $52.39/bbl and Brent crude slips 0.6% to $61.15/bbl.
Utility stocks were again lower on the possibility of higher US interest rates, which means reduced returns for investors. Centrica (CNA) leads the industry fallers, sliding 2.7% to 279.25p, with SSE (SSE) 1.5% off at £15.44, while United Utilities (UU.) loses 1.3% to 941.75p.
Beer brewing behemoth SABMiller (SAB), a running Play of the Week, adds 2.1% at £35.29 on whispers secretive investment firm 3G Capital is mulling a bid, possibly as part of a consortium including AB InBev (ABI:B).
Grocery titan Tesco (TSCO) ticks 1.55p higher to 243.15p on reports CEO Dave Lewis is to cut up to 10,000 jobs as part the retail giant's turnaround drive (link to Agenda special). Rumours ITV's (ITV) Archie Norman, who helped revive Asda in the 1990s, is being sounded out as the embattled supermarket's next chairman also stoke interest in the stock.
The big news story today surrounds online gambling company 888 (888) as it calls-off a potential £700 million takeover with rival bookmaker William Hill (WMH). 'Significant differences of opinion on value with a key stakeholder' are blamed but it triggers a 14% slump in 888's share price to 146.8p. William Hill edges up 0.6% to 385p.
Oil services firm Hunting (HTG) is down 4.8% to 472.3p as it essentially unveils a profit warning for 2015 - something Shares warned was likely last year. Although 2014 numbers will be in line with expectations the company is removing guidance for the current year and says previous consensus forecasts should not be relied on.
Among the market's bigger movers, cancer detector device-maker Angle’s (AGL:AIM) plans to raise £6.7 million from investors has sparked a 12% shjare price collapse to 74p. That's hardly surprising given the hefty 23% discount the new shares are being offered at based on Friday’s 84.2p closing price.
Life sciences company Retroscreen Virology (RVG:AIM) falls 8.6% to 248p on lower clinical trial activity for influenza continuing into the first half of 2015 as pharmaceuticals divert their anti-viral teams to work on Ebola vaccines. This change in strategy saw the company’s revenues fall to at least £18 million last year, down from £27 million recorded in 2013.
Chinese business-to-business e-commerce platform JQW (JQW:AIM) jumps 20.74% (2.26p) to 13.13p, albeit from a low base, as investors welcome a positive pre-close trading update and news of a good start to 2015 . Sales for the year to December beat market expectations, up 60% to RMB 784 million. JQW also closed the year with RMB 395 million in cash, after paying an interim and special dividend, equal to 21.3p per share or 195% of Friday's closing market cap.
Resources microcaps are typically volatile, with Red Emperor Resources (RMP:AIM) seeking a two-year extension to its exploration period from the government of Puntland to allow for a wrangle between that body and the Federal Government of Somalia over legitimacy of oil concession contracts to be resolved. RMP is refraining from operational activity there. It jumps 45% to 2.03p.
After suitor Seplat Petroleum (SEPL) walked away late Friday, embattled Nigerian oil producer Afren (AFR) is under renewed pressure falling 4.7% to 6.93p. The relatively modest sell-off suggests the news had been largely priced in by the market.
Progress with financing an antimony roaster in the Middle East sends Tri-Star Resources (TSTR:AIM) up 23% to 0.08p. Its 40%-owned subsidiary SPMP has struck a deal with Bank Nizwa for up to $40 million. The remaining $30 million of capital expenditure will come from a $10 million mezzanine loan and $20 million from joint venture partners. Read our recent story on the company's plans.
3Legs Resources (3LEG:AIM) says Peterhouse Corporate Finance has been appointed Joint Broker to the Company with immediate effect. Peterhouse has undertaken to provide a share sale facility until 23 February. Shares in 3Legs crash 82% to 0.26p.
Wearable fitness technology company Fitbug (FITB:AIM) rises 10.4% to 6.6p on news US Midwest hypermarket chain Meijer will stock its Orb and eight Kiqplan products from April. The retailer has placed an opening stock order of $83,000 across 219 stores, adding to the tech minnow's roster of supermarkets.
Mobile gaming group Nektan (NKTN:AIM) gains 3.9% to 199p after signing a contract with News UK to create and operate a gaming product for The Sun newspaper. Nektan will retain a share of the net revenue generated by Sun Play which it says will have a 'significant impact' on the company's trading in 2015.
Beleaguered builder Balfour Beatty (BBY) brightens on news that the group is selling an 80% interest in the Thanet offshore high-voltage electricity transmission project for £40 million. Shares in the £1.6 billion cap nudge 0.4% higher to 236p.