Non-life insurer Directline (DLG) gains 3.9% to 296.2p on paying a 10p a share special dividend and boosting its interim payment 4.8% to 4.4p. The cash return repeats the neat trick of last October when the group paid a 4p per share one-off payment. This time round, disciplined underwriting helped its profits improve 7.8% to £225.1 million in the first half despite competition hitting premiums.

British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) is flat at 330.6p after initially rising, on a long-awaited return to profit. Half-year results show operating profits of €230 million as  the airline benefits  from restructuring at Spanish airline Iberia and lower fuel costs. Yet stiff challenges remain, as Shares pointed out in May.

Replacement joint specialist Smith & Nephew (SN.) rises 2% to £10.47 on a positive outlook for profit margins. That's in spite of falling pre-tax profits as tough markets remains.

Aim minnow Eco City Vehicles (ECV:AIM) crashes 34% to 0.43p as it admits to a funding crunch. The supplier of the Mercedes Vito taxi's has launched a strategic review that could call in to question the company's very survival, with first half sales slumping 33% as competition bits.

Blackpool-based toys maker Casdon (CDY:AIM) is clobbered on a combination of news, collapsing 24% to 41.5p. The company shocks investors with news that it plans to de-list its shares from AIM after 25 years as a public company.  A 30% drop in annual profits adds to the grim backcloth for investors.

Healthcare research tool provider Avacta (AVCT:AIM) dives 12.3% to 0.9p as sales of its analytical  Optim line in North America miss expectations for the year to August. Adding to the bad news is word that in-clinic diagnostic device Sensipod’s development has been delayed.

A new venture in Mexico lifts oil and gas minnows Northcote Energy (NCT:AIM) and MX Oil (MXO:AIM) up 11% to 0.9p and 3.2% to 3.46p respectively. A ten-year tie up gives Northcote the right to participate with MX in any of its projects in Mexico, with the company taking up to 20% interest. MX, which is raising £2 million through a placing, enters a joint venture agreement with Mexican oil services business Geo Estratos, and alongside this partner due diligence will now get underway for three potential licence acquisitions.

Low-powered semiconductors technology developer Toumaz (TMZ:AIM) falls 5% to 6.88p with investors disappointed at the lack of progress on operating losses. The company ran-up £5.6 million deficit in the first half, unchanged from last year, despite a 32% jump in revenues.

A new £1 million contract to supply LED lighting with a major UK food and clothing retailer lifts energy saving solutions specialist APC Technology (APC:AIM) 4.6% to 39.5p. This follows this week's small acquisition of Green Compliance, taking the company into a new environmental services arena.

Drinks can maker Rexam (REX) ticks up 0.8% to 505p as interims come in slightly ahead of expectations despite the impact of aluminium prices and the strong pound. The football World Cup boosts business in Brazil and underlying pre-tax profit of £166 million - despite being down 1.7% year-on-year - is ahead of the consensus forecast of £156.6 million.

Personal goods powerhouse PZ Cussons (PZC) follows up well-received finals with news of an acquisition. The Imperial Leather soap maker, up 3.1p to 356.5p, is buying high-growth Aussie organic yoghurt brand Five:am for £44.1 million in cash. There's up to £7.7 million extra to follow if the brand hits performance targets.

Issue Date: 01 Aug 2014