Pittards returns to profit despite lockdown and Brexit

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Air Partner (LSE:AIR) PLC saw a boost for its charter and freight businesses during the pandemic, giving it record results last year.


It did not expect this to last as restrictions eased, but even without this the group has performed strongly and it is now forecasting that the current year’s figures will be well above market expectations.


For the first six months, it reported gross profit of GBP18.6mln, reflecting a strong recovery in private jets and a robust performance in group charter and freight as they returned to more normalised trading levels.


This compares to GBP27.7mln last year and GBP17.2mln in the prior, pre-pandemic period.


The company said it was pleased with the results, since the financial performance came from all areas of its portfolio of aviation services and was therefore more sustainable.


It added: “Importantly, all products (Group Charter, Private Jets, Freight and Safety & Security) have contributed at least 20% to gross profit.”


In August 2021, the company bought Kenyon International Emergency Services, a leading emergency planning and incident response company, and is on the lookout for further acquisitions.


It said as the business continued to get back to normal, it believed underlying pretax profit for the year could be 66% ahead of the result pre-COVID-19.


Its shares are 4.26% better at 98p and analysts at Canaccord Genuity (TSX:CF, LSE:CF) have raised their target price from 105p to 120p.


12.58pm: Pittards returns to profit despite lockdown and Brexit


Leather and luxury goods group Pittards plc (AIM:PTD) has reported an improved first half performance despite the challenges of the pandemic and Brexit.


Revenues rose 46% to GBP9.7mln and it turned a GBP2.3mln pretax loss into a GBP0.3mln profit.


It has seen growth in the UK market accelerate, with exports down from 89% of sales in 2019 to 84%.


But it said operating the business was more challenging than usual in the first half due to the national lockdown and Brexit which “resulted in slower logistics (international shipping market) [and] travel.”


Overall though it was positive. Chairman Stephen Yapp, said: “We are seeing gathering momentum in the group’s recovery. Profitability and cash flow for the first half are in line with expectations and ahead of the second half of 2020. Our business model continues to evolve and during the period we invested GBP0.8mln in new product equipment. The group’s entry into several new markets is showing positive returns.”


It has reinstated the interim dividend at 0.5p a share.


Its shares have climbed 10.77% or 7p to 72p.


12.00pm: Harvest Minerals sees its shares grow as fertilizer sales look set to beat its target


Harvest Minerals Ltd, the fertilizer producer, has seen its shares grow strongly after a positive update.


It reduced its half year losses from US$1.84mln to US$1.06mln, and has seen a boom in sales which has continued into the third quarter.


Accumulated sales of KP Fertil – its natural fertilizer produced in Brazil – reached 74,159 tonnes in the nine months to September.


This is a 196% increase on the same period last year, and represents 93% of its full year target of 80,000 tonnes.


It said an extensive marketing campaign launched in May 2021 for coffee, sugarcane and other crops, along with an effective schedule of production were the key catalysts to boosting sales.


Sales of a higher margin 25kg bag from June 2021, targeting small to medium sized farmers and resellers, also contributed to the overall performance.


Harvest is also expanding its sales activities beyond its immediate market in Minas Gerais and Sao Paulo.


It said the Brazilian agriculture sector continued to be robust over the half-year and several sector associations forecast double digit growth in most of the crops targeted by the company.


Chairman Brian McMaster said: “We anticipate sales to remain strong in the last quarter of the year and therefore expect to surpass our original sales target.”


Its shares are currently up 15.45% or 0.6p at 4.44p.


10.40am: Fashion retailer Quiz hit by pandemic store closures and lack of social events


Fashion retailer Quiz PLC (AIM:QUIZ) struggled to find answers to the problems caused by the pandemic, and saw sales slump and losses increase.


Its full year revenues decreased by 66% to GBP39.8mln as its stores and concessions were shut during lockdown, while underlying losses before tax rose from GBP3.1mln to GBP9.6mln.


Gross margin decreased to 53.4% from 60.3% reflecting an increased level of discounting in part as a result of the enforced stores and concessions closures.


It cut its store numbers from 82 to 66 in the UK and Republic of Ireland, and said it was now focused on more attractive locations, with a significantly lower rental cost base linked to revenues generated, and more flexible leases.


As part of this restructuring Kast Retail Limited, a subsidiary which previously operated the group’s standalone stores, was placed into administration and the business and certain assets of Kast were acquired by the group for a cash consideration of GBP1.3mln.


Quiz has also seen a significant fall in the number of concessions, further to the closure of Debenhams and Outfit stores,


A key part of its business is outfits for social events, which clearly suffered during the pandemic.


Since restrictions were lifted, it has seen a gradual improvement in sales with its performance approaching pre pandemic levels on a like for like basis.


Tarak Ramzan, founder and chief executive officer, said: “Against a backdrop of highly challenging trading conditions during the year, including the enforced closures of stores and concessions for substantial periods and the cancellation of social events that are a key driver for demand of Quiz’s trademark occasion wear, we have taken decisive actions to position the business to return to long-term profitable growth, including reducing the size of our store estate, decreasing costs, and maintaining very tight cash management.


“We have continued to invest in our own e-commerce channels as we optimise our omni-channel model. We remain confident in the strength and appeal of Quiz as an occasion wear led brand, as has been evidenced by the increase in demand and positive trends across our operational key performance indicators as social events returned during the summer. This continues to underpin the board’s confidence in our ability to continue to improve performance and achieve profitable growth as more normal trading patterns return.”


But the company’s shares have reacted badly to the update, down 27.66% to 17.65p.


9.33am: Nostra Terra Oil and Gas boosts balance sheet and upgrades reserves


Nostra Terra Oil and Gas Company plc (AIM:NTOG) has seen its shares gush up after it bolstered its balance sheet and upgraded its annual reserves.


The company, which has development and production assets in Texas, said it had renewed its senior lending facility, doubling it in size from US$5mln to US$10mln.


The facility has also been extended from January 2022 to January 2025.


Nostra said it can deploy funds from the facility for operational purposes and acquisitions in its current areas of operation in the US, or in other areas, should the opportunity arise.


Meanwhile total net proved reserves increased by 27% over 2019 year end reserves (973,180 barrels oil versus 764,030 barrels oil)


Matt Lofgran, Nostra Terra’s chief executive officer, said: “We’re very pleased to have increased the value of the US assets, upgrading reserves, and providing further growth opportunities ahead. For the remainder of the year our focus in the US is on growing production in lower risk areas, in which we’re fully-funded.


“We’re also very pleased to have a substantial increase in both the facility size and borrowing base, along with a 3-year extension, in our senior facility. This exemplifies the value in our portfolio and operations and shows the alignment between us and the bank to be able to grow significantly with access to non-dilutive funds at such a great rate.”


Its shares are up 23.53% at 0.53p.


8.28am: Fulcrum Utility Services boosted by strong order book for net zero projects


Fulcrum Utility Services Ltd (AIM:FCRM) has seen its shares spark up after a postive update.


The infrastructure company specialising in net-zero projects said trading had been in line with expectations in the first half, with its contracting and smart metering business winning a series of new high value contracts.


It has also cut costs by reducing non-operational headcount by 15% since January.


The company said its order book was underpinned by GBP24mln worth of contracts with E and Ecotricity.


It said: “This momentum is continuing into the second half of the year. The group’s smart metering exchange and management services have seen a recovery post COVID-19 and the size of the addressable target market for the group’s offering in this regard remains, the board believes, substantial…


“The board remains excited by the group’s growth potential, encouraged by the positive progress made and order book growth achieved in the period, and will continue to evaluate organic and strategic growth opportunities to ensure that the group meets its fullest potential.


“The extremely strong market drivers presented by the UK’s energy transition, continues to provide clear and significant growth opportunities for Fulcrum, and the Board is confident that the group is well positioned to capitalise on them now and in the future.”


Its shares are up 9.5% or 1.9p at 9.5%.


Also heading higher is Anglo Asian Mining PLC (AIM:AAZ, FRA:A4A, OTC:AGXKF).


The gold, copper and silver producer has jumped 13.46% to 147.5p after it signed heads of agreement with the government of Azerbaijan for the award of three new concessions with a combined area of 882 square kilometres. The new concessions will be immediately effective following ratification by the Azerbaijan parliament.


It said the agreement was “a transformational milestone in the history of the company” with the Garadagh porphyry deposit alone containing over 300,000 tonnes of copper with an in-situ value of over US$3bn at current prices.


Chief executive Reza Vaziri said: “The recent cessation of hostilities with Armenia has presented an opportunity for Anglo Asian to develop its remaining contract areas, granted in 1998 … and to significantly accelerate its growth strategy towards becoming a mid-tier gold and copper producer.


“Following extensive negotiations, we are very pleased to have secured two additional highly strategic mining properties immediately adjacent to the north of the Gedabek contract area. Together with the new Demirli mining property, they ensure the company is now in an excellent position to generate long-term sustainable growth with a greatly increased resource and reserve base with outstanding exploration potential.”

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