Grafton expects profits to beat forecasts after bumper March and April

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Grafton Group PLC (LON:GFTU) expects full year profits to significantly beat forecasts after a bumper performance in March and April.

The building materials distributor and DIY firm – known for its Selco brand – said revenues between January and 18 April rose 32.9% to £846.8mln with growth in the latest two months ahead of forecasts.

It was helped by the fact that all its distribution, retail and manufacturing branches continued to trade as essential suppliers.

So it expects operating profit for the year to be 15% to 20% higher than concensus forecasts of £206mln, also helped by higher property profits. As it heads into the key trading periods of May and June, it cautioned that the outlook for the second half depended on consumer spending patterns returning to normal.

Chief executive Gavin Slark said: “We have made a very positive start to the year and are encouraged by the improving trends and momentum in trading in the period which we expect to continue through the remainder of the half year.  Despite some ongoing uncertainty related to the pandemic, Grafton is well placed for continued progress in the current year supported by our market leading businesses and strong financial position.”

Its shares have jumped 11.49% or 125p to 1213p.

2.58pm: Software group sees orders jump in first quarter

Pebble Beach Systems Group PLC (LON:PEB) has, like most businesses, been hit by the effects of the pandemic, but it has started to see signs of recovery.

Full year revenues at the software group – which specialises in services for the broadcasting and streaming industries – fell by 25% to £8.4mln with customers being slow to make investment decisions. Adjusted earnings fell from £3.8mln to £2.7mln.

On the bright side it said orders had jumped 86% in the first quarter of the new year, compared to the same period last year before COVID-19 hit business.

Chief executive Peter Mayhead said: “Our investment in technology is key to the future success of our growth strategy and we always look to our customers in the broadcast markets for validation of our approach. Engagement with those customers verifies that they are facing significant challenges as they look to balance many competing pressures; the advent of remote production, the reduction of barriers to entry as internet-based platforms enable new entrants into the market, and increasing content costs driven by hit shows from the major streaming services.

“When added to the growing competition for advertising spend from social media, the need for innovation is clear. To sustain their competitive edge, broadcasters must build on their historic ability to channelise and distribute content to an audience whose platform of choice is still overwhelmingly linear. They are doing this by investing in technology that enables them to leverage the benefits of digital-based workflows…

“2020 was a challenging year for all, yet our commitment to delivering on our annual plan in line with our company’s values enabled us to weather the storm without the need for staff furlough, redundancies, or reduction in our technology investment. We look forward to 2021 with a high level of optimism as we continue to launch new applications to the market, broadening our suite of cutting-edge, fully integrated, and scalable capabilities.”

The company’s shares have added 13.89% or 1.25p to 10.25p.

2.15pm: Investment firm helps fund DiscovOre

Investment group Gunsynd PLC (LON:GUN) has moved higher after unveiling an investment in a healthcare business.

It is paying £200,000 for 10mln shares in DiscovOre as part of a £3.5mln fundraising.

DiscovOre plans to invest in businesses involved in developing treatments for mental health issues.

It intends to invest in fully regulated and approved psychedelic medicines that its directors believe are fast becoming accepted as treatments not least in the area of mental health.

Gunsynd director Hamish Harris said: “The board of Gunsynd is pleased to be able to invest in this area as mental health is increasingly getting the attention it deserves.  We have looked at many investments in life sciences as part of our investment policy and have until now not invested in this area.  This investment, however, fits in with our policy of picking emerging trends in the market particularly where we consider there could be a first mover advantage combined with the possibility of helping to alleviate a significant societal issue.”  

Gunsynd shares are up 3.51% or 0.065p to 1.92p.

12.00pm: Cybersecurity specialist launches free protection test

BrandShield Systems PLC (LON:BRSD), a specialist in monitoring, detecting and removing online threats, is in demand.

It has unveiled a free platform, claimed to be the first of its kind, to help companies uncover cyber vulnerabilities.

The External Threat Protection Test is designed to help Chief Information Security Officers and any online company understand their risk exposure in seconds and how protected they are against phishing attacks, cybersquatting and the like.

The idea is that companies will then take a closer look to see if they need BrandShield’s other services.

Chief executive Yoav Keren aid: “Even though damages from cyber threats including external threats such as phishing attacks, scams and online fraud are estimated to reach $10.5 trillion annually by 2025, many chief security officers lack sufficient resources and insights to deal with the rising threats to their organizations.

“Our free service will help close their cyber defense gaps and help them take the necessary steps needed to minimize fraud exposure and protect companies and employees from malicious criminals trying to cause harm. The Threat Protection Test tool has the potential to act as a significant multiplier to our marketing and sales team efforts as we continue to drive top line growth in the coming period.”

Martin O’Sullivan at house broker Shore Capital said: “We see this as a welcome initiative around sales and marketing that will help chief security officers better appreciate the value of BrandShield’s platform and help them take the necessary steps needed to minimize their cyber vulnerabilities. In other words, it should leverage the sales team efforts as the company continues to drive top line growth.”

Its shares have been leveraged 5.17% or 1.19p higher to 24.19p.

10.47am: Telemetrics group sees losses edge up

Shares in fleet management and telematics group Trakm8 Holdings PLC (LON:TRAK) have gone into reverse

They have fallen 7.14% or 1.25p to 16.25p after it said the COVID-19 lockdowns had cut around £4mln off full year revenues to the end of March. In total, they dropped 18% to £16mln due to fewer shipments of its hardware to insurance and fleet customers.

It expects an increased loss of around £0.3mln, from £0.2m the previous year.

The company received £0.9mln from the Job Retention scheme support and deferred £1.8mln worth of VAT, PAYE & NI payments.  It has reached agreement with the taxman to pay back this liability over the next two financial years.  

On the outlook, it said: “Covid-19 has continued to have an impact during April and there remains some ongoing uncertainty for the coming months. The resumption of driving tests occurred only on 22nd April and so it is too early to know when there will be an increased take up of telematics insurance policies.  Demand in the fleet sector is already improving.

“Subject to there not being any further Covid-19 related lockdowns or significant component supply issues that cannot be resolved quickly, the company is confident that the financial performance will significantly improve for the new financial year and expect revenues will revert to pre-COVID-19 levels, which with recently lower costs should lead to a profitable business for the year.”

9.59am: Luxury group to beat expectations

Asia remains a crucial market for luxury brands, and the region has proved a bit of a lifesaver for business at Mulberry Group PLC (LON:MUL)

The handbag group said in November that it expected full year revenues for the year to March 2021 would be below the previous year, although losses would be reduced.

Now it has announced that in the light of continuing growth in Asia, strong sales from its digital platforms and improved margins due to lower mark-down sales, it would outperform expectations and turn in a small underlying profit for the year.

Its shares have jumped 14.96% or 38p to 292p.

8.30am: Retailer rises on outlook and bid hopes

French Connection PLC (LON:FCCN) has revealed the damage done by the shutdowns caused by the pandemic, but the beleaguered fashion retailer could yet be the target of a takeover bit.

Full year revenues fell 40.4% to £71.5mln as it had to shut its stores, while there was also reduced demand from wholesale customers.

Its losses rose from £2.9mln last year to £11.7mln, thanks to the decline in sales and one-off stock provisions. Cost cutting helped mitigate some of the decline, with rents re-negotiated with landlords, use of the government’s furlough scheme and reducing staff numbers.

Online sales improved in the second half, with strong performances from homeware and casual clothing (not surprising, given people were stuck at home during lockdown).

The company is more positive about the outlook.

Chief executive Stephen Marks said: “Our key focus for the year has been to navigate our way through the difficult challenges we have faced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Initially we worked with our key stakeholders to stabilise the business and secure new financing.  Trading had been broadly in line with our expectations at the time of the financing but we were then hit by the second and third national lockdowns in the UK.   Given the new financing, together with the actions being taken to optimise sales, tightly manage costs and preserve cash, we are confident that the group is well positioned to navigate any further period of uncertain consumer demand…”

With stores having predominantly re-opened in the UK, we are seeing a much better sales performance than we experienced at the end of the first national lockdown although it will take time to see how quickly things develop over the coming months, in our own stores but also for our wholesale customers.  Overall though I feel that we are definitely moving in the right direction once again.”

There is also the prospect of a bid. 

In February it received two early stage approaches from US funds Spotlight Brands and Go Global. Since then other interested parties have emerged so there are now a number of talks taking place. It said: “These discussions continue although at this point there can be no certainty that an offer will be made for the company.”

The market has reacted well to this update, with the company’s shares up 1.4p or 6.22% to 23.9p.

Also heading higher is Alba Mineral Resources PLC (LON:ALBA) after a positive update from its Amitsoq graphite project in southern Greenland.

It said purification test work on graphite from the site confirmed it was suitable for use in Lithium Ion batteries.

Executive chairman George Frangeskides said: “”Our test work programme at Pro Graphite in Germany, which has now concluded, has achieved our objectives. We can now move forward with our plans to define a large-tonnage deposit at Amitsoq in the knowledge that our graphite not only has exceptionally high average grades but is also battery grade material which can be sold into the electric vehicle sector, which is by far the largest growth market for graphite.”

Alba has added 23.64% or 0.07p to 0.34p.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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