TRADING UPDATES: Vertu margins remain strong; Donegal behind

Writer,

The following is a round-up of updates by London-listed companies, issued on Wednesday and not separately reported by Alliance News:

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Auto Trader Group PLC - Manchester-based vehicle marketplace - Completes acquisition of Autorama UK Ltd, a UK-based digital leasing platform focused on new vehicles. Auto Trader will fork out an initial £150 million, with a further £50 million of deferred consideration to be settled in shares, subject to performance conditions. On Wednesday, says: ‘The acquisition will enable Auto Trader to establish itself as a leading marketplace for leasing new cars which is set to benefit from the growth of electric cars, new manufacturers entering the UK market, lower take up of company car schemes and a shift towards new digital distribution models. Leasing provides consumers a cost-effective way to access a new car with a model that is consistent with any future move towards usership.’

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Vertu Motors PLC - Gateshead, England-based car dealership - Says margins in both its new retail and fleet channels have remained strong despite continued constrained supply of new vehicles in the UK. Also seen supply constraints continue in used cars. Notes strong start to financial year but is ‘premature at this stage to indicate any changes to market expectations of the full year trading profits.’ Adds: ‘Management remains focused on the delivery of operational excellence around cost, conversion and customer experience. In addition, the group continues to evaluate and execute acquisition opportunities as it seeks to deliver its core strategic objective of growth.’

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Jade Road Investments Ltd - pan-Asian diversified investment vehicle - Seals partial divestment in Meize Energy Industries Holdings Ltd, a privately-owned wind turbine blade manufacturing company in China. It is currently the third-largest holding in the company's portfolio - sitting at 7.7% of its net asset value. Offloads 112,500 shares for $1.2 million, representing a 12% stake, and now holds a 6.3% stake. The price implies a valuation of $10.0 million for the company's investment in Meize. ‘This divestment, of which the sale consideration is settled offshore, marks the culmination of a lengthy and successful turnaround effort by the company for private investment in China,’ it adds.

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Donegal Investment Group PLC - Donegal, Ireland-based agricultural firm - Says results for the current financial year, ending August 31, are ‘behind plan but satisfactory given increasing input costs and new inflationary environment.’

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Highway Capital PLC - cash shell - Operating loss in year to February 28 widens to £541,132 from £134,790 in year prior. Administrative expenses rises to £543,132 from £299,290. Currently in middle of reverse takeover of Guinevere Capital Esports & Entertainment.

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Ecofin US Renewables Infrastructure Trust PLC - London-based investor in US renewable energy assets - Focusing on progressing the construction of its Echo Solar portfolio - which includes the Minnesota and Skillman solar projects. ‘The investment team is also actively working towards closing the next batch of four Echo Solar Portfolio projects located in the states of Virginia and Delaware,’ it continues. ‘In addition, the investment team has executed a term sheet with a tax equity investor. Due diligence by the investor to provide tax equity financing to the Echo Solar portfolio is ongoing.’

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AVI Global Trust PLC - Exeter, England-based investor in family-controlled holding companies, closed-end funds and asset-backed opportunities - Plans to issue JP¥8.0 billion, about £47.8 million, of fixed rate unsecured debt, for a term of ten years. Notes annual interest rate on the debt will be 1.38%. Chair Susan Noble says: ‘The company's board has taken the decision to put in place fixed rate borrowings in Japanese yen at what it believes may prove to be an attractive rate of interest. Further, in light of the company's substantial investments in Japanese companies, borrowing in Japanese yen provides a natural hedge against exchange rate fluctuations.’

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Circle Property PLC - London-based buyer, developer and manager of regional office assets in UK - Repays full £19.2 million outstanding under revolving credit facility, leaving firm with no debt. At June 22, has £5.1 million cash balance. Was able to pay off most of debt following Kents Hill Park Conference Centre sale in March. Plans minimum of two returns of capital will made to shareholders, the first of which is expected to occur by March 2023. It adds: ‘The company continues to make targeted asset sales in an orderly manner over a period of two to three years - if not sooner - in line with its recently updated strategy.’

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UP Global Sourcing Holdings PLC - Oldham, Greater Manchester-based consumer brands owner trading as Ultimate Products - Buys Salter.com domain name, which will now take the place of Salterhousewares.co.uk as the Salter brand's direct-to-consumer e-commerce channel. Expects the new site, which is operated entirely by Ultimate Products employees, to benefit from being easier to remember, type and share, as well as ranking higher from an SEO perspective. Also plans overhaul of Beldray.com, the DTC channel of Beldray, the group's laundry, floorcare, heating and cooling brand. Hopes to increase share of revenue derived from online channels.

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Bonhill Group PLC - London-based media company specialising in business information, events and data analytics - Expects first half revenue to be 9% higher year on year thanks to return of live events. Sees Ebitda loss of £1.3 million, broadly in line with year prior, with operating cost savings ‘fully offset by salary increases and general inflation’. Also plans to to dispose of its Business Solutions & Governance division, and will focus purely on financial services - which comprises the Investment News and Last Word businesses and represent about 85% of group revenue in 2021. Notes BSG division comprises SmallBusiness.co.uk, GrowthBusiness.co.uk, Information-Age.com, and DiversityQ which includes the 'Women in…' events series. The division is being made available for sale in part or whole.

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Directa Plus PLC - London-based graphene nanoplatelets supplier - Ganted Italian patent covering the use of its G+ pristine graphene nanoplatelets applied to textile substrates for high bacterial filtration efficiency media for filtration applications. ‘G+ applied to textile substrates provides proven antibacterial and antiviral performance. The target filtration market applications cover both medical and industrial use. Directa Plus started work on air filtration in 2020 with a signature project that successfully supplied face masks with anti-SARS-CoV-2 protection,’ it adds. Following the grant of the patent, company's IP portfolio comprises 20 patent families with 73 patents granted and 28 patents pending.

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Ensilica PLC - Oxfordshire-based semiconductor designer and supplier with design centres in India and Brazil - Enters non-exclusive sales representative agreements with Quantum Leap Solutions Inc for North America, and Cedar Technologies Ltd for the UK, Nordic regions and Poland. ‘We view these appointments as significant additions to EnSilica's sales network and global reach,’ Chief Executive Ian Lankshear says. ‘We believe this will result in growing our sales pipeline and accelerating our growth by bringing in high value ASIC supply opportunities.’

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Roquefort Therapeutics PLC - London-based investor in early-stage medical biotechnology businesses - Enters conditional share sale & purchase agreement with the shareholders of Oncogeni Ltd, a UK biotech company developing novel patented cancer medicines. Firm agrees to buy entire share capital of Oncogeni through issue of 50.0 million new shares. Also, plans placing to raise £1.0 million through subscription for 7.2 million new shares at 0.14 pence per share.

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Global Petroleum Ltd - oil & gas exploration in Africa and the Mediterranean - Notes interest in Namibian offshore exploration has risen unprecedentedly - a development which has become evident to firm in the course of its farmout of PEL 94. Adds: ‘Whilst focus is understandably intense in the Orange Basin - especially in the region of the discoveries - Global's view is that oil-prone opportunities there are both limited and likely to be very expensive. The company believes that the Walvis Basin, where PEL 94 is situated, also has the potential to be extremely successful, but has the advantage of much shallower water depths generally than the discoveries in the south.’ In Italy, plans to progress our exploration permit applications in the Southern Adriatic, but notes permits now only apply to future exploration for gas, as opposed to oil.

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Atalaya Mining PLC - Cyprus-based copper producer - Says it continues to focus on four projects: Proyecto Touro in north Spain; Proyecto Masa Valverde; Proyecto Riotinto East; and Rio Narcea in southwest Spain. At annual general meeting Chair Roger Davey says: ‘To date, 2022 is seeing considerable inflationary pressures, with increased volatility in both costs and commodity markets as a result of the recent geopolitical events in Ukraine. Nevertheless, commodity prices remain strong and strengthened by the experience and improvements achieved over these last two difficult years. We look forward with confidence to ongoing investment in our portfolio of projects to continue the growth path, and increase the value of your company.’

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Trident Royalties PLC - London-based mining royalty and streaming company - Believes it is well placed to continue to create value for shareholders, saying at its annual general meeting, its business model is well suited to the current economic environment. ‘Appetite for mining development capital continues to be strong and royalties are likely to be an increasingly important component given more challenging public markets,’ it adds.

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Phoenix Global Resources PLC - London-based upstream oil and gas company focused on Argentina - Confirms in discussions with 84% shareholders Mercuria Energy Group Ltd over potential cancellation on AIM listing and trading on the Buenos Aires Stock Exchange. Mercuria to potentially offer shareholders 7.5 pence for each share.

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Wentworth Resources PLC - Tanzania-focused natural gas production company - Notes just under 38% of shareholders vote against director remuneration report at annual general meeting. Says the vote against the resolution came from a single shareholder. ‘While pleased the resolution was passed, the board notes the result of this resolution and the significant vote against it. Over the past number of years and in the lead up to the AGM, we have engaged with shareholders to understand their voting intentions and reasons for voting in this way. The primary driver of the vote against related to the absence of a post vesting shareholding period for the LTIP awards,’ it adds.

Separately, says average daily production year to date is 92.2 million standard cubic feet per day, compared with 79.9 million scf per day during the same period in 2021. Company's production guidance for the year, provided in January 2022, remains unchanged at 75 to 85 million scf per day.

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Oriole Resources PLC - London-based gold exploration company focused in Cameroon and Senegal - Submits updated environmental impact assessment for Muratdere copper-molybdenum porphyry development project. Notes it has a 1.2% post-tax net smelter return royalty in the project, which is operated by Lodos Maden Yatirim Sanayii ve Ticaret AS, a wholly-owned mining investment company of Istanbul-quoted investment company Pragma Finansal Danismanl?k Ticaret AS. Says new plan sees gross metal revenues over the mine life are expected to be in excess of $650 million. Mine plan includes 16 million tonnes of ore reserves with an average ore grade of 0.52% copper, 0.0125 % molybdenum, 0.11 grammes per tonne gold and 2.40 grammes per tonne silver.

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Savannah Energy PLC - Energy company focused on Africa - Says 80%-owned subsidiary Accugas Ltd starts gas sales to First Independent Power Ltd's Trans Amadi power plant in Port-Harcourt, Nigeria. Deal was struck in April, with firm supplying up to 65 million standard cubic feet of gas per day.

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