Investors are enjoying some festive cheer on Monday, with the FTSE 100 up 26.48 points to 6,633 against a backdrop of positive macro economic data for the UK and US. Among the main movers in a traditionally quiet session is unloved outsourcing group Serco (SRP), the prisons operator-to-cleaning services provider skipping 3.5% higher to 488.3p on the securing of a six-month extension to its contract with Australia's Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
This fosters positive sentiment towards the multi-disciplined support services company, which has recently tested investors' patience with everything from an electronic tagging scandal to a review of its entire business with the UK government and contract issues in its UK clinical health business. We previously highlighted the ongoing risks facing the £2.35 billion cap here.
With retailers under the microscope ahead of Christmas, car parts-to-bicycles seller Halfords (HFD) pedals 4% higher to 453p. Investors are growing increasingly confident about the group's turnaround plan under new CEO Matt Davies.
Heading in the opposite direction is Hovis-to-Mr Kipling brand owner Premier Foods (PFD), which falls 6% to 122.75p following reports it is planning a £250-£300 million rights issue in the New Year to tackle its £1 billion debt pile.
Aberdeen New Thai Investment Trust (ANW) falls 3.5% to 367p as political unrest in the South East Asian country continues to take its toll. The trust has a large exposure to the country’s banking system which could take a hit if the baht continues its slide southwards after more than 1,000 anti-government protesters surrounded prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s home in Bangkok at the weekend.
Specialist wood producer Accsys Technologies (AXS:AIM) adds 7.1% to €0.13 after announcing the formal approval of its licencing agreement with Belgian chemicals giant Solvay for the production and sale of its proprietary acetylated wood product Accoya.
Global payments platform operator Earthport (EPO:AIM) hits a record 29p (up 0.5p today) as investors continue to chase the stock in the wake of last week's Bank of America worldwide expansion deal. It's also a recent Shares Play of the Week at 24p.
A discounted £2.54 million share placing and lacklustre interim results weigh on electronic components supplier Solid State (SSP:AIM). It's shares dip 9p to 257.5p as it buys the ATOP business but unveils lower sales, profits and earnings in the six months to 30 September.
Investment company Sigma Capital (SGM:AIM) ticks up 0.6% to 40p on the back of news it has bought out its remaining stake in property related regeneration specialist Sigma Inpartnership from West Coast Capital Trading (WCC Trading). This residual stake relates to Sigma’s 2011 purchase of Inpartnership from WCC Trading.
In the resources sector, Sirius Minerals (SXX:AIM) moves 12.5% higher to 11.25p. It has signed a memorandum of understanding to sell 500,000 tonnes per year of polyhalite from its York Potash Project to agricultural production play Sichuan AMPC, bringing total committed tonnes to 4.28 million per annum.
Property and casualty insurer Hampden Underwriting (HUW:AIM) improves 3.5% to 145p as it increases its underwriting capacity through the £700,000 acquisition of Halperin. The micro-cap is also acquiring another Lloyds limited liability member, Nomina No 380 LLP, for £600,000 in cash.
Diagnostic specialist Akers Biosciences (AKR:AIM) advances 5.1% to 412.5p after raising £625,000 through a placing priced at 430p, well ahead of the prevailing market price, to help the US-base firm cover R&D costs.
Action Hotels (AHCG:AIM), the owner and manager of three and four star hotels in the Middle East and Australia, adds 1p to 65p in debut Aim dealings. Profitable and cash generative, the company has raised £30.5 million at 64p to fund development of its hotel pipeline in the Middle East.