Cardiff-based cake and bread manufacturer Finsbury Food (FIF: AIM) baked in a 17.2% gain to 51p after announcing the sale of its 'Free From' business for a princely £21 million. This represents two thirds of its market cap.

 

Finsbury says the sale of the business, which produces gluten-free bread and other products and accounted for 14% of group turnover, to Genius Foods transforms a balance sheet. The group has undergone rehabilitation since John Duffy took over as chief executive officer (CEO) in 2009. The transaction will allow the food producer to focus on growing its cake and bread businesses and licensed brand portfolio, as well as swoop for select bolt-on acquisitions.

 

Finsbury's shares have more than doubled since the summer with investors responding to positive organic sales growth trends and ongoing debt reduction under Duffy's stewardship. Things aren't all plain sailing, as the company continues to face headwinds including the margin-eroding effects of elevated energy, egg, flour and sugar costs as well as fragile consumer confidence, yet last year's (14 Nov '12) £3.9 million funding will help speed up much-needed investment in efficiency projects within its core UK Cake business.

 

British Airways-owned International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) posted losses before tax of €997 million in 2012 compared to the previous year's profits of €503 million. The £4.1 billion cap airline blamed ongoing restructuring of its Spanish subsidiary Iberia which accounted for €202 million as well as an impairment charge of €343 million. Group revenues rose 10.9% to €18.1 million in 2012, with British Airways making an operating profit of €347 million while Iberia losses before one-off items amounted to €351 million. Shares were trading up 8.4% at 240.4p.

 

FTSE 100 copper producer Kazakhmys (KAZ) dropped 5.8% to 637.5p after disappointing investors with its trading update. The dividend has been severely cut and it faces multi-billion dollar write-downs, as we discuss in detail here.

 

Troubled majority-state owned lender Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is down 4.2% at 332.3p after its pre-tax losses trebled to £5.2 billion in 2012. Its fifth consecutive annual loss was partly due to the fines it has paid for various scandals, including the miss-selling of payment protection insurance, while its bonus pool shrank 25% year-on-year to £607 million.

 

Four months after being spun out of RBS, insurer Direct Line's (DLG) results were well received with the shares advancing 0.3% to 211.1p. The impressive share price gains since its flotation in October 2012 bode well for rival Esure's imminent entrance to the stockmarket, as we discuss in detail here.

 

A solid set of full-year results fuelled the rally in Howden Joinery (HWDN), rising 9% to 207.5p. The kitchens supplier has more than doubled in price since June 2012. Net cash jumped from £57.1 million to £96.4 million and it has reported a significant hike in the dividend, going from 0.5p to 3p per share.

 

Life insurer St James’s Place (STJ) advanced 0.9% to 489.2p after a strong set of financial results. Its pre-tax profit rose 23% to £134.6 million and the dividend is up by a third to 10.64p. Investec analyst Kevin Ryan believes its consensus-beat growth will continue, adding: ‘The outlook remains strongly positive given the unique in-house sales force.’

 

Recruitment agency Impellam (IPEL:AIM) has declared a 35p special dividend, sending its shares up 11.2% to 394.88p. This is despite pre-tax profit more than halving in 2012. Impellam says its restructured operating model provides a platform for sustainable cash generation, hence why it feels comfortable paying the special dividend.

 

Having last year suffered the closure of its Maltby colliery and a fraud in its Belgium operations, coal haulier-to-trader Hargreaves Services (HSP:AIM) looks to be slowly regaining market trust. Half-year results today show a 6% rise in underlying operating profit to £24.6 million. The shares advanced 3.5% to 853p.

 

Microcap technology group Instem (INS:AIM) jumped 33.3% to 130p after winning a US government contract. The market also liked a scoping study on Central Rand Gold's (CRND) Crown West project, sending its stock up 11.5% to 0.58p. The deposit will cost $26 million to bring into production with a 10-year mine life. It will produce 53,000 ounces of gold per year once fully operational. Despite the positive news, not everyone is convinced it will resurrect interest in the troubled company. '(Crown West) is unlikely to rescue this distressed stock,' says stockbroker Numis. Central Rand Gold has been dogged by operating problems for years.

 

Microcap motor insurance claims management expert Helphire (HHR) has dropped 20.1% to 3.32p after announcing plans to refinance its borrowings and move from the main market to Aim.

 

US-based energy minnow Northcote Energy (NCT:AIM) is up 1.6% to 1.58p after revealing a 40% increase in net reserves after acquiring an additional 10% working interest in the Horizon project, in Osage County in Oklahoma. Oil explorer Jupiter Energy (JPRL:AIM) slicked up nearly 15% to 46.5p after its latest well, J-59, uncovered oil in two separate reservoirs.

 

Structural steel firm Severfield-Rowen (SFR) dropped 5% to 67.9p after it swung to a £23.3 million loss for 2012, from a profit of £6.8 million a year earlier, and unveiled plans for a £47.9 million rights issue.

 

West African-focused natural gas play Gasol (GAS:AIM) advanced 7.6% to 23.4p after announcing a memorandum of understanding with Ghana’s state-owned energy company to investigate ways to supply gas into the west African country. The shares have advanced more than 70% year-to-date with the group announcing similar agreements in Benin and Togo.


Issue Date: 28 Feb 2013