Vertu Motors lifts profit forecast after record six months


Vertu Motors (AIM:VTU) PLC is the latest motor dealer to report positive results despite the challenges of lockdown.

The company, which has 154 outlets across the UK, has raised its full year forecasts and reinstated its dividend after reporting record interim results.

Six month profits rose from GBP4.7mln this time last year to GBP51.8mln on revenues of GBP1.9bn, with vehicle sales in all areas above market trends.

The second half has started well with a record performance in September, achieving a trading profit of GBP20mln.

So despite a cautious view of the rest of the year, given supply constraints and cost pressures, it now expects full year profits will be at least GBP65mln.

The previous range was GBP50mln to GBP55mln.

Chief executive Robert Forrester said: “The record profitability delivered in the period has undoubtedly been aided by very favourable used vehicle market conditions; however, this is a remarkable performance outperforming market trends…

“We have again generated significant free cash flow and have a very strong balance sheet making the group very well placed to benefit from the changes and significant opportunities which are ahead of it. The resumption of paying dividends to shareholders shows the board’s optimism in our strategy and its execution.”

Vertu shares have accelerated by 6.59% or 3.6p to 58.2p.

2.27pm: Angling Direct proves a catch after leap in profits

Nothing fishy about the share price rise of Angling Direct PLC (AIM:ANG).

The fishing tackle and equipment retailer has jumped 12.19% or 7.8p to 71.80p after it said it expected full year earnings to be ahead of market expectations at no less than GBP5mln.

That figure includes the costs of setting up a new European distribution centre as it continues its plan to establish an online fulfilment presence in the region.

The full year forecast comes after revenues in the first six months rose 19.5% and pretax profits jumped from GBP1.4mln this time last year to GBP3.7mln.

Chief executive Andy Torrance said: “We are pleased to have delivered a robust financial performance in the first half of the year, building on the operational and strategic progress made last year.

“These results demonstrate that the increasingly efficient, market leading omni-channel nature of the company’s trading platform, combined with its strong balance sheet, ensures it is well placed to serve customers across all channels as it emerges from the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

11.48am: Falanx climbs as its focus on cyber security pays off

Shares in Falanx Group Ltd (AIM:FLX) have secured a good gain after its latest update.

The company said its cyber security division had seen revenues in the six months to the end of September grow by 29% to GBP1.8mln, and had moved from a GBP0.28mln loss to a GBP0.1mln profit.

The division is now profitable on a monthly basis at the EBITDA level.

Meanwhile Falanx has received a final GBP1.5mln balance under its GBP2.5mln loan facility with BOOST&Co.

It plans to use the funds – as well as the proceeds of the recent sale of its Assynt division – for acquisitions in the cyber security sector and also for investment in sales and marketing and product development.

Non-executive chairman Alex Hambro said: “The receipt of this final tranche of funds from BOOST & Co completes the strategic repositioning of Falanx into a well-resourced “pure play” in the emerging field of cyber security service provision to UK SMEs. With the recent disposal of our strategic business intelligence division, we can now focus on the 24/7 protection of our clients with our Triarii technology platform and the seamless onboarding of future clients that will emerge from our channel partners.”

“Both our financial performance and position have markedly improved, and I am confident in Falanx’s new direction and future.”

Falanx is up 16% or 0.2p at 1.45p.

10.42am: Rambler Metals and Mining rises after receiving US$1mln bridge loan

Rambler Metals and Mining PLC (AIM:RMM, TSX-V:RAB) is in demand after positive news on its financing.

The company, which owns the Ming copper and gold mine on the Baie Verte peninsula in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, said NewGen Resource Lending and West Face Capital had arranged a US$1mln bridge loan, following a delay to finalising debt financing with the former.

Toby Bradbury, president and chief executive, said: “Work on closing our financing has undoubtedly taken longer than anticipated.

“This has been a challenging period and despite this we have continued to operate at a time when we expected to have received funds already.

“This would not have been possible without the patience and support of our suppliers for which we are very appreciative. We also thank West Face and NewGen for working together to reach a short-term financing solution for Rambler.”

The news has seen Rambler jump 22.67% or 4.25p to 23p.

9.27am: Shoe Zone back in profit after Back to School sales boost

Shares in Shoe Zone PLC (AIM:SHOE) are stepping out in style.

They are up 12.97% or 8.62p at 75.12p after the company said full year revenues came in at GBP119.1mln despite stores being closed for 16 weeks during lockdown.

This compares to a figure of GBP122.6mln last year and GBP162mln in 2019. Digital sales jumped by 58.5%.

But all its stores were open and fully trading by the end of April, which allowed it to trade positively over its key Back to School period and move quickly back into profitability.

So full year profits are now expected to be not less than GBP6.5mln. Last year it made a loss of GBP14.6mln.

It had a net cash position of GBP19mln, up from GBP13.3mln, so it intends to pay off the remaining GBP4.8mln of the government coronavirus loan by the end of the next financial year and restart paying dividends sooner than expected.

The cash increase came partly due to a delay in the arrival of new season stock caused by container and shipping issues. These products would normally have been paid for in September at a cost or around GBP2.5mln.

It was positive about the outlook but warned challenges remained.

Chief executive Anthony Smith said: “Shoe Zone has weathered an intensely challenging year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The negative impact of this has been largely mitigated due to quick action taken in areas we could control, by reducing costs, continuing and accelerating investment in our digital business and improving operations. As a result, we have emerged as a leaner, stronger and more resilient business.

“These are a solid set of preliminary results but there is still uncertainty ahead of us in the next 12 months, not only with the continuing impact of COVID-19, but also the challenges we face with the global supply chain and inflationary pressures. We have seen a minimum of a five-fold increase in container prices over the last 12 months and this will continue to impact us for at least a further six months until the issues being experienced in the whole supply chain return to more sensible levels.”

8.33am: Harland & Wolff flares up after gas storage project gets green light

In the midst of the energy crisis and growing concerns about supplies, a gas storage project off the coast of Northern Ireland has been given the green light.

Harland & Wolff Group Holdings PLC said the Islandmagee project had been awarded a Marine Construction Licence, allowing construction to begin.

Once it is built, seven gas storage caverns would hold around 500 million cubic metres of natural gas and provide security of supply during peak demand for up to 14 days for Northern Ireland.

The company said the UK has one of Europe’s lowest gas storage capacities at just 1% of its annual demand in storage, leaving the UK much less resilient to supply issues than other European countries which hold as much as 20-30% of annual demand in storage.

(Centrica of course closed its Rough storage facility in 2017 after the government decided not to subsidise maintenance and upgrades.)

Once fully developed, the Islandmagee gas storage project will hold over 25% of the UK’s storage capacity.

Chief executive John Wood said: “This is good news for consumers and businesses in the UK who are currently experiencing distressing hikes in energy prices and fears of potential blackouts as gas and power grids face peak demand stresses during the winter months.

“With the current energy supply crisis, everyone now understands just how important gas storage is to secure supply and protect against extreme volatility in gas and power prices in the UK.”

Islandmagee Energy also has longer term ambitions to store hydrogen.

During construction, 400 direct jobs will be created, as well as between 800 and 1,200 indirect jobs.

The news has lifted Harland’s shares by 16.9% or 3p to 20.75p

Also heading higher is Caspian Sunrise PLC (AIM:CASP), the Kazakhstan focused oil and gas group, after a postive update from its flagship BNG contract area.

Clive Carver, non-executive chairman said: “We continue to make the progress we expected with the horizontal wells and with the results from A8 have a further four oil bearing intervals to assess on our deep structures.

“With oil international prices now comfortably ahead of $80 per barrel we look forward to further strengthening of the Group’s financial position.”

Caspian has climbed 9.09% or 0.35p to 4.2p.


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