The long-awaited merger between Glencore (GLEN) and Xstrata (XTA) has finally got the green light. China has approved the deal, conditional on selling Xstrata's Las Bambas copper project in Peru and certain supply commitments for copper, zinc and lead to the Asian country. Xstrata is set to delist on 2 May and shares in the combined group to start dealing on 3 May.
Glencore jumped 3.5% to 333.4p and Xstrata advanced 4.4% to £10.09 on the news. Interestingly, Xstrata boss Mick Davis will no longer take up a six-month role at the enlarged group. He will still get paid £4.6 million previously budgeted for working those six months and 30 hours' use of a private jet.
Also in a rising trend was Rio Tinto (RIO) after publishing its first-quarter operations review. The figures were quite alarming with not a single area of production growth compared with the fourth quarter of 2012. Apart from aluminium, output fell across the board. But this isn't a surprise to analysts who actually expected a worse performance from its key commodity, iron ore. This represents roughly three quarters of its forecast earnings in 2013, so a better than expected performance is the reason behind today's share price jump.
Recruitment company Michael Page International (MPI) slumped 5.4% to 376p after a weak trading update. It is a good example of how highly-rated companies can fall fast upon the slightest bit of bad news, as we discuss in detail here.
Micro filtration technology specialist Porvair (PRV) continues to find fans in the market, the shares up over 2% to 225.75p – roughly double the level of a year ago. The King's Lynn-based £95 million cap has got off to a flying start in 2013, bolstered by an £11 million contract extension from the UK government, adding to workloads in India announced in February.
Shares in specialist high-tech electronics supplier e2v Technologies (E2V) rallied 3% to 116.88p after unveiling a record order book worth £195 million, £130 million of which is due for 2013 delivery. Add this to net debt slashed from £30 million to £10 million, investors are starting to put January's profit warning behind them.
Luxury interior furnishings star Walker Greenbank (WGB:AIM) strutted in with strong annual numbers, yet the shares gave up 2p at 98.5p after a stellar recent run. The £59 million cap behind heritage brands including Sanderson and Morris & Co grew taxable profits 11.7% to almost £6.4 million in the year to January, during which the company enjoyed its significant growth in the US for the first time since 2008.
Palm oil play M.P. Evans (MPE:AIM) fell 12p to 498p as the £279.4 million cap posted a 46% profits drop for 2012. The producer of Indonesian palm oil and Australian beef cattle reported profits of US$21.6 million, down from US$39.7 million a year earlier, as strong crop increases were unable to make up for falling crude palm oil (CPO) and beef cattle prices. Reassuringly, the dividend for the year was held at 8p.
Investors are starting to realise that West African Minerals (WAFM:AIM) is not living up to the hype that surrounded its iron ore prospects last year. Latest drill results are, once again, not the premium-quality iron that the company initially suggested. The stock retreated 2.5% to 33.5p.
Among the microcaps, loss-making branded products developer and distributor Litebulb (LBB:AIM) dimmed 8% to 0.58p. Investors were seemingly unimpressed by news that its in-house branding agency Rizon Studios has inked a strategic deal with US-based licensing agency Evolution. Under the terms of the tie-up, Rizon will have exclusive development and licensing rights for the Miramax film catalogue including Pulp Fiction, Hellraiser and Gangs of New York.
Ukraine-based energy firm Cadogan Petroleum (CAD) was up 15% to 16.25p after it reached an agreement with Global Process Systems over its $29.5 million purchase of two gas processing plants – ending litigation between the two parties.
US oil and gas producer Silvermere Energy (SLME:AIM) fell 45% to 2.75p after an unpaid subscription for new shares worth £80,000 left it in in default on its outstanding financial commitments on the I-1 well in the Gulf of Mexico. It says this could 'prejudice its interest' in the well.