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Rutherford Health (RUTH) has called for a further subscription by Woodford as laid out in the flotation prospectus. A further £15m has been raised at 176p a share. These shares go into the LF Equity Income Fund and its stake rises to 25.1%. Further cash will be required to open a fourth clinic in Liverpool. The current share price is 227.5p (210p/245p).
Greencare Capital (www.greencare.capital) is set to join NEX. This is an investment vehicle that will invest in medicinal cannabis and other cannabis-related products. NEX-quoted Eight Capital Partners (ECP) is set to own a 12.5% stake. E-Value One will own two-thirds of the company.
Bulgaria-focused property investor Black Sea Property (BSP) has agreed o cancel the sale of 23 plots of land in Byala. There has been a rise in value of the plots since the 2014 deal to sell the land for €1.02m. It is costing €1.15m to get the land back.
Medicinal cannabis company Sativa Group (SATI) says that BMAK Investments and Ken Lawrence has increased their combined stake from 4.27% to 7.96%.
Trading in European Lithium Ltd (EUR) shares has been halted on the ASX. This is ahead of an announcement for the financing of a definitive feasibility study for the Wolfsberg lithium project.
Compton Beauchamp Estates has raised its stake in Newbury Racecourse (NYR) from 31.9% to 40.9%. The shares were acquired for 775p each from non-executive director Erik Penser, who also controls Compton Beauchamp Estates. His interest remains at 40.9%.
Harwood Wealth Management (HW.) is recommending a 145p a share cash bid. Shareholders can opt to take a combination of cash and securities. Management believes that it needs greater financial backing to make more acquisitions. Carlyle and Hurst Point are working together on the bid.
Adamas Finance Asia (ADAM) says that 85%-owned Future Metal has commenced dolomite production and it is on course to reach the daily production target of 800-1,000 tonnes over the next three months. That could double by the middle of the year. This will depend on signing up customers. Adamas has bought back 2.4 million shares at 16.1p a share.
Wealth management firm Kingswood Holdings (KWG) is acquiring a 85% stake in US wealth management firm Chalice for £3.1m. Kingswood could make a pre-tax profit of £4m in 2020.
Internet domains manager Minds + Machines (MMX) has renegotiated its onerous contract and it will cost $5.1m in cash. The estimated liability was $7.9m. The contract could still generate $500,000 in revenues. There will be a trading update in January.
Regency Mines (RGM) is setting up a partnership with Ion Ventures to identify and prioritise its most commercially attractive battery metals projects. Regency will issue shares to Ion in return for consultancy. James Parsons has become executive chairman and Regency. A one-for-100 share consolidation has been completed.
Sure Ventures (SURE) says that Sure Valley Ventures (25.9%-owned by Sure Ventures) investee company Artomatix is being acquired. The company automates 3D content creation and the original investment was 14 months ago. Sure Ventures share of the sale proceeds is €1.6m, which is five times the original investment.
Contango Holdings (CGO) has advanced a total of $356,314 to develop the Lubu coal project in Zimbabwe. The plan is to acquire the project, where mining could commence in the second half of 2020, and if the acquisition is not completed by next Christmas Eve the cash will be returned. Contango believes it can complete the fundraising to acquire Lupu in January.
Cobra Resources (COBR) has raised £613,000 and filed a prospectus for the reverse takeover of Lady Alice Mines, which owns an exploration licence for an area in South Australia including the former Prince Alfred copper mine, as well as a 75% interest in five gold exploration tenements near Wudinna. The prospectus should be published in January.
Zenith Energy (ZEN) is acquiring 80% of the Congo subsidiary of AIM-quoted Anglo African Oil and Gas (AAOG). This company owns 56% of the operator of the Tilapia oilfield in the Republic of Congo. Production is 30 barrels of oil per day. Multiple potential productive reservoirs have been identified. Zenith will fund its share of up to $5.5m of a work programme, plus a renewal payment of up to $2m. The Congo subsidiary owes Anglo African Oil £12.5m and it will retain 20% of the debt and novate the rest to Zenith.
James Ritchie has been appointed chief restructuring officer and interim finance director of stevia sweeteners developer PureCircle Ltd (PURE).
Trading in the shares of Barkby Group (BARK) has been suspended ahead of further information about a proposed reverse takeover. The acquisition of a group of companies referred to as the Dickson controlled entities is expected to cost £30m, predominantly paid in shares. There will also be a share placing to provide working capital for the enlarged group. Charles Dickson would become executive chairman if the deal goes ahead. The businesses include Workshop Coffee, which operates four coffee shops and is a wholesaler of speciality coffee, a commercial property developer. Barkby will also acquire the right to invest in two private companies: Transcend Packaging, which won a contract to supply McDonalds with paper straws, and VivoPlex, which has developed a medical device for fertility monitoring.
Brewer and pubs operator Daniel Thwaites (THW) says fears that interest rates will fall has required a £4m increase in the provision for its interest rate swaps. That is a non-cash item and underlying pre-tax profit increased from £5.6m to £6.2m in the six months to September 2019. That figure also excludes a quadrupling of property disposal profit to £800,000. Interim revenues improved 7% to £53.4m. The new brewery is operating at full capacity, while there was a small increase in like-for-like pub revenues. The contribution from hotels improved. Net debt was reduced by £8.6m to £61.6m compared with 12 months before, although £22.5m has been reclassified as due within one year. The interim dividend is unchanged at 1.1p a share.
NEX and AIM-quoted AFH Financial (AFHP) says it is trading in line with forecasts. The wealth manager will report underlying EBITDA of more than £17m, up from £10.4m, in the year to October 2019. Funds under management were £6bn. The contribution from acquisitions has been earnings enhancing. The total dividend is expected to be 8p a share and this is expected to rise by one-quarter to 10p a share in 2019-20. There was still £11.9m in the bank at the end of October 2019, although there is estimated to be £32.2m of contingent consideration and a £15m convertible loan in the balance sheet. The current focus is on organic growth and there should be enough cash generated, along with the current balance, to pay the deferred consideration over the next two years.
Ashley House (LSE: ASH) has published a trading statement and it is changing its year end from April to October following the disposal of the Morgan Ashley joint venture. In the 12 months to April 2019, revenues fell from £18.5m to £11.9m and a pre-tax profit of £805,000 was turned into a £2.95m loss. There was a loss contributed by joint ventures. Net debt was £1.8m.
Clinical support systems supplier DXS International (DXSP) is considering a move to AIM. This would be part of a potential fundraising to enable further investment in the business. DXS has already announced that it has been awarded a place on the NHS GPIT Futures framework from the beginning of 2020. This replaces the GPSoC2 framework and means that systems and services will be able to be bought centrally rather than with GP funds. The focus will be on the existing core product DXS Point of Care, analytics and reporting service CompleteCare, digital medicines service ExpertCare and condition management platform MyVytalCare. The first is already on sale and the rest will be launched in early 2020. DXS is gaining final approvals for its four solutions to be listed in the NHS catalogue.
AfriAg Global (AFRI) has raised £160,000 at 0.1p a share. This cash will be invested in additional shares in Apollon Formularies, which will take the company’s stake to 2.68%.
Primorus Investments (PRIM) believes that the lack of flotations is providing it with more opportunities. Primorus has received the £275,000 it was owed by Zuuse and still owns 57,205 shares and holds options over one million shares at A$0.50 (26p) each. The latest fundraising by Zuuse is at A$1 a share. There is a potential market to sell the shares even before a flotation.
Rutherford Health (RUTH) shareholder Formation Group has appointed Andrew Bennett as a non-executive director of the proton beam therapy firm.
David Lenigas has been appointed chairman of NQ Minerals (NQMI) and the board is in talks to replace existing debt with lower-cost debt. First Sentinel, which is run by former NQ Minerals director, has been appointed as corporate adviser.
Block Commodities (BLCC) has raised £388,000 from an issue of convertible loan notes and shares. This is less than the company wanted to raise more than six months ago. The share issue raised £133,000 at 0.02p a share, with a warrant exercisable at the same price, and the conversion of the loan notes will also be at the same price. The cash will be used to move into the medicinal cannabis sector. Additional shares are being issued to pay creditors.
EPE Special Opportunities Ltd (ESO) had net assets of 246.47p a share at the end of October 2019.
One hundred shares in Equatorial Mining and Exploration (EM.P) will be consolidated into one new share on 18 November.
Karoo Energy has changed its name to IamFire (FIRE).
Queros Capital Partners (QCP) will leave NEX on 28 November.
DBAY Advisors does not intend to bid for Eddie Stobart Logistics (ESL) and instead will acquire 51% of the underlying subsidiary that owns the transport operations. The poor financial situation of the business led to the change of strategy and Eddie Stobart Logistics has recommended the deal, which involves the injection of £55m of additional finance through a PIK Facility. This will pay off a £35m loan and provide working capital. The deal requires the extension of other existing debt facilities. The interim results to May 2019 are still being compiled. An operating loss of at least £12m is expected, but the underlying business could make a full year operating profit of up to £2m. There could be a goodwill write-down of £50m. Net debt will be around £200m. Wincanton (WIN) is still considering a rival deal.
ECO Animal Health (EAH) is still suffering the after effects of the African Swine Flu outbreak in China and the US/China trade war hitting imports from the US. First half revenues from China fell by three-fifths. Restocking will take time to flow through in terms of FCO’s results. There will be a sharp fall in full year profit. The interims could also be affected by accounting policy changes.
Advanced surface coatings provider Hardide (HDD) has been selected to coat parts for the new F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. This is an important step in building up business in the aerospace sector. The Hardide-A coating will replace HVOF thermal spray coatings. HVOF is one of the most widely used coatings in aerospace and Hardide-A is said to be technically superior. Hardide has also been awarded a patent for a water droplet erosion resistant coating for blades and vanes, including those used on steam and gas turbines for power generation. A field test is planned.
Adamas Finance Asia (ADAM) says that a test production run is planned later this month by 85%-owned Future Metal at its quarry in China. The plan is to restart production by the end of the year. This will help to underpin the Adamas NAV and provide potential upside. At the end of September 2019, NAV was 84p a share, which is more than three times the share price. Future Metal is 45.2% of that NAV and when the quarry is up and running then Adamas could raise cash by selling some of its stake. Cash is required to invest in new opportunities that are being presented to the company. Adamas issued 16.18 million shares at 34.8p each for its equity investment in Infinity TNP.
Safestay (SSTY) has bought the Hotel Auberge in Berlin, which is near to Berlin zoo, and intends to turn it into a 150-bed hostel. The site has an eleven year lease. This is the latest acquisition this year and it takes the total number of hostel sites to 18. The plan is to have 20 hostels by 2020.
PureCircle Ltd (PURE) chief executive Magomet Malsagov has stood aside temporarily pending further investigation of the classification of the stevia sweeteners supplier’s inventory and other transactions. The investigations have identified that inventory was $23m too high. Other transactions could lead to additional valuation changes. There could be write downs of intangibles and inventories. There should not be any increase in net debt, although the figures are still not fully audited. Bank covenants may need to be waived. Finance director Rakesh Sinha had previously resigned, although he remains with the company until the end of January.
Automotive information publisher Haynes Publishing (HYNS) is seeking a buyer. Management believes the company needs to be part of a larger group with greater financial resources.
BWA Group (BWAP) is acquiring Kings of the North Corp, which owns five groups of exploration licences in Canada. BWA will pay £4.66m for the business, which is owned by a Canadian Stock Exchange listed company. Management believes that there is significant upside in the licences. Nearly $C1m needs to be spent for the licences to be renewed.
World High Life plans to join NEX on 12 September. This is an investment company that intends to acquire businesses involved in medicinal cannabis. The company (www.worldhighlife.uk) has already raised £2.4m from subscribers and no additional cash will be raised on flotation.
Adnams (ADB) director Guy Heald has purchased 3,000 B shares at £95.21 each. That takes his shareholding to 15.1%. The shares were sold by Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge, whose interest has been reduced to 6.32%.
Better news from Ashley House (LSE: ASH) because a scheme in Romsey has reached financial close. There are still two other delayed schemes that have not completed. Funding sources are being explored.
Tectonic Gold (TTAU) is selling its 2.5% royalty interest in the Graphmada graphite mine in Madagascar for up to A$550,000 in cash and convertible notes in royalty business SilverStream.
Primorus Investments (PRIM) reported a decline in net assets from £5.16m to £4.74m in the six months to June 2019. Management believes there are plenty of opportunities in the pre-IPO market.
Capital for Colleagues (CFCP) has agreed the terms for a realisation of its investment in Cotswold Valves, because it no longer wants to focus on employee ownership. The equity interest is being sold for its £220,000 cost and loans totalling £450,000 have been rescheduled. The cash will be received over a three year period.
KR1 (KR1) has made investments in the Nym Protocol project, Alice Si, a blockchain-based social funding platform developer, and Nexus Mutual, which is a follow-on investment.
Resources-focused investment company Hot Rocks Investments (HRIP) increased its cash position from £17,000 to £47,000 in the year to March 2019, but net assets fell from £722,000 to £687,000.
Good news from car dealers Cambria Automobiles (CAMB) and Vertu Motors (VTU). Cambria says that trading in the eleven months to July 2019 has been well ahead of the same period last year and the full year profit will be higher than market estimates. New car sales are lower but Cambria is making more profit on each sale because of the mix of franchises and greater exposure to the luxury end of the market. More profit was made on each used car sold as well. Vertu says that its trading is in line with expectations, helped by price stability in the used vehicle market since July.
Mirada (MIRA) has won a new contract for the deployment of its Iris multiscreen digital TV product with a new Spanish interactive TV services provider Plataforma Multimedia de Operadores. Mirada’s technology will be used to deliver content to Android set-top boxes, smartphones, laptops and other devices. The commercial launch will be early next year and the plan is to build up a subscriber base of 600,000.
Adamas Finance Asia (ADAM) says that its consolidated NAV increased by 3.5% to $96.3m (£78.4m) in the six months to June 2019. That includes cash of $5.4m. There was interest income of $677,000 in the period. Production at Future Metal Holdings’ dolomite magnesium limestone mine in China should restart before the end of the year.
A secured creditor has appointed voluntary administrators to five subsidiaries of Management Resource Solutions (MRS) but the businesses continue to trade. A creditors meeting is set for 16 September. The businesses will need to be recapitalised.
Filtronic (FTC) has decided to sell its antenna division.
Colin Harrington has switched from executive chairman to chief executive of Rose Petroleum (ROSE) following the departure of its previous chief executive Matthew Idiens. Rick Grant will become chairman. Gordon Stein is a new independent non-executive.
Avation (AVAP) reported full year results that were ahead of expectations. The commercial aircraft leasing company’s pre-tax profit was 15% ahead of forecasts and there was also a tax credit which further boosted earnings per share. The dividend was raised by 45% to 10.5 cents a share.
Packaging manufacturer and distributor Macfarlane (MACF) has acquired the Leyland Packaging Company for up to £3.25m, with up to £1m in the form of an earn-out based on performance of the distributor in the year to August 2020, in cash and shares. In 2018, Leyland made a pre-tax profit of £550,000 on revenues of £4.06m.
Fully listed shell Highway Capital (HWC) has published its accounts for the year to February 2019. They showed net liabilities rising to £781,000. There was cash of £245,000 in the balance sheet following the repayment of loans. Trading in the shares has been suspended for three years.
Standard list shell Boston International Holdings (BIH) is considering potential acquisitions outside of the foreign exchange sector.
Argo Blockchain (ARB) has ended discussions about a partnership with Hive Blockchain Technologies. Argo believes that its investment in additional crypto mining capacity has provided it with the scale it needs.
Sure Ventures (SURE) is investing a further €2.5m in Sure Valley Ventures Fund.
SG Recruitment Ltd (SGRL) generated revenues of £777,000 in the 15 months to March 2019. The nursing staff provider lost £2.63m. Since the year end, more contracts have been signed with NHS hospitals, as well as with a hospital in the UAE. The staff offered to hospitals have all obtained qualifications in English and 76% end up being employed. Most of the previous debt has been converted into shares, so net debt was £91,000 at the end of March 2019.
Lombard Capital (LCAP) reported an increase in net liabilities from £234,000 to £537,000 at the end of March 2019. There were £750,000 worth of bonds issued during the period.
PCG Entertainment (PCGE) hopes that the acquisition of Vox Markets and Align Research should be closed in early October. Previous operations have been provided for in full and have been sold. There was £14,000 in the bank at the end of March 2019.
A new investor to Walls and Futures REIT (WAFR) has subscribed £100,000 for shares at 70p each, which is a one-third premium to the market price at the time. Westerby Trustee Services Ltd owns 3.8% of the company on behalf of Westerby Private Pension (R Prest).
Cadence Minerals (KDNC) says that the judicial restructuring plan for the Amapa iron ore project has been approved by the Sao Paulo commercial court. This will enable Cadence to acquire a 20% stake in Amapa. A further $3.5m investment will take the stake to 27%. Cadence plans to consolidate 100 existing shares into one new share. Shareholders will be asked to approve the proposal at the AGM on 20 September.
Paul Tuson is stepping down as finance director of Rutherford Health (RUTH) and the reappointment resolution was withdrawn from the AGM agenda.
Sativa Investments (SATI) has opened its third Goodbody CBD Wellness store in Bristol, following store openings in Bath and Cirencester. It is seeking franchisees to roll-out further stores around the country.
Panther Metals (PALM) chief executive Darren Hazelwood has acquired 18.87 million shares at 0.3p each. That takes his stake to 10.3%.
First Sentinel (FSEN) has raised £59,000 at 14p a share via a placing with D Beta One EQ Ltd.
President Energy (PPC) insists that it will continue to be profitable even though the Argentinian authorities are attempting to fix the price that producers can sell oil and the dollar exchange rate used for the price for a 90-day period. President has decided to delay its well drilling programme until the first quarter of 2020 and the focus will be gas wells. Gas sales from four wells in Estancia Vieja and Las Bases will commence production by the end of September. A new gas pipeline should be completed by the end of the year. finnCap has withdrawn its forecasts.
Order books and production volumes are ahead of last year at gift wrap and greetings products supplier IG Design (IGR) thanks to a combination of organic growth and last year’s US acquisition. IG is on course to increase pre-tax profit from £30.3m to £36m.
Online musical instruments retailer Gear4Music (G4M) says that it has taken actions that are already helping to improve gross margin.
Cambridge Cognition (COG) says sales are lower than expected. The digital neuroscience services provider says that full year revenues will fall from £6.13m to around £5.5m. The loss will be around £2.8m. First half revenues were £2.1m and the loss was £1.74m. There is a strong order book, so this augurs well for next year.
Adamas Finance Asia Ltd (ADAM) has funded the second tranche of the investment in Infinity Capital Group. The $2m is being funded equally by Adamas and a Hong Kong family office.
Blockchain Worldwide (BLOC) intends to move to AIM if its acquisition of media-focused artificial intelligence and machine learning company Entertainment AI goes ahead.
At a general meeting, shareholders in Tex Holdings (TXH) approved the 2018 report and accounts and directors’ remuneration report, but they did not approve the reappointment of Scrutton Bland as auditors.
Argo Blockchain (ARB) is reaping the benefits of its investment in crypto mining equipment. The cost of 1,000 machines has already been recouped and Argo is on course to recoup the cost of a further 2,267 machines.
Ross Group (RGP) did not generate any revenues in the six months to June 2019 and the loss was £3.15m. Ross acquired start-up operations during the period. They will supply Chitin.
Asian consumer businesses investor Symphony International Holdings (SIHL) increased its NAV by 14% to $560.4m in the six months to June 2019.
George Bennett has become chief executive of Rainbow Rare Earths (RBW) and Martin Eales has left the board. In the year to June 2019, Rainbow sold 850 tonnes of concentrate from the Gakara project, although bad weather hampered production in the fourth quarter. Sales prices have declined.
China-focused healthcare investment company Cathay International (CTI) reported a decrease in revenues from $49.2m to $38.3m. There was a $7.9m gain on the sale of shares in Zhejiang Starry Pharmaceutical, but that was not enough to cover the operating loss and interest costs.
Britdaq-quoted Staminier Ltd has secured a three-year option over 13 acres of land near to the south terminal of Gatwick Airport and it wants to build a car park with 2,200 spaces. In July, Staminier acquired a majority stake in eco-friendly housebuilder Eco-Space 41 Ltd. There is a four-year option to acquire the other 49% for £750,000. The strategy is to acquire businesses at a discount to their intrinsic value. There are plans to move to a more liquid stockmarket.
Asset Match will provide a trading facility for shares of former AIM company Albert Technologies Ltd. The first auction will be during September.
US Oil and Gas (USOP) has raised $382,000 at 31p a share. This follows a fundraising in July of $577,000 at 30p a share. The cash will be spent on exploration.
Walls and Futures REIT (WAFR) grew revenues by one-third to £136,000 but the ethical housing provider moved from profit to loss. In the year to March 2019, revenues improved from £103,000 to £136,000. The main reason behind the reported loss was a reduction in the gain on revaluation of assets from £198,000 to £145,000. The NAV still increased from £3.25m to £3.31m. These figures were prior to the acquisition of a property in Didcot. There is a pipeline of other potential transactions.
Barkby Group (BARK) has appointed finnCap as its corporate adviser.
Peterhouse has resigned as corporate adviser to Gamfook Jewellery (GAMF) and that follows the resignation of its auditor Crowe and the continued delays to the publication of the accounts for 2018. Peterhouse took over as corporate adviser from Daniel Stewart in March. Gamfook floated in December 2018.
Rutherford Health (RUTH) has opened its latest centre in Reading. The company was previously known as Proton Partners International Ltd.
Henry Lees-Buckley is taking on the chief executive role at Sativa Group (SATI) and Geremy Thomas has moved to deputy chairman.
Injection moulded plastic products Coral Products (CRU) returned to profit in the year to April 2019, although the underlying pre-tax profit only edged up from £568,000 to £580,000 because of a decline in exceptional costs. The second half was not as good as the first half, but cost cutting enabled a recovery at the end of the year. Net debt was £8.2m at the end of April 2019. There is no final dividend following the interim of 0.25p a share. Continuing problems at a major customer could continue to hamper progress. Equipment enabling recycling of plastic products is up and running. New products will be launched later this year, including roof tiles and road highway sound barriers.
International staffing provider Empresaria (EMR) had a tough first half, but despite this the company still expects to maintain its full year profit at £11.4m. Interim net fee income was 7% ahead but underlying pre-tax profit was one-fifth lower at £3.7m. That suggests a much stronger second half even though the German and Japanese businesses remain subdued, although they could start to recover. The diversification of the business in terms of sectors and geographies helps to offset the weakness in parts of the group. New chief executive Rhona Driggs is putting in place a new strategy, which should help next year’s figures.
Adamas Finance Asia Ltd (ADAM) has maintained its NAV at $1.10 a share (88p a share). Investee company Hong Kong Mining Holdings is still on course to restart mining operations and it is acquiring additional land for mining activities. Fook Lam Moon is assessing opportunities to expand its catering operations. The internal fit out for Infinity Capital’s Tellus Niseko project should be completed before the end of September.
MySale Group (MYSL) has raised £11.2m at 2p a share, which is a 58% discount to the market price. There will be £5.5m used to pay down bank facilities. The number of shares in issue is trebled. This follows a strategic review by the retailer, which is refocusing on Australasian operations and the selling down of stock. The cost base will be reduced.
Transport optimisation software and equipment supplier Tracsis (TRCS) grew its cash pile to £24m at the end of July 2019, even after paying around £9m on acquisitions. Pre-tax profit is in line with expectations at £9.4m, up from £8.5m.
Breedon Group (BREE) intends to change its tax domicile from Jersey to the UK. The company will still be incorporated in Jersey. The general meeting to gain approval to change the article of association will be held on 9 September.
Packaging supplier Robinson (RBN) improved gross margins by 12 percentage points to 19.7% in the first half, but that was partly offset by higher overheads. Pre-tax profit improved from £478,000 to £684,000. Net debt was £9.1m. The interim dividend is unchanged at 2.5p a share.
IT services provider Adept4 (AD4) is in talks to acquire CloudCoCo, which was set up by former sales directors of Redcentric. The deal would involve the issue of new shares that would nearly double the number in issue. The Business Growth Fund has agreed to sell £5m of unsecured loan notes to MXC Capital for £3.5m.
Data software and services provider D4T4 (D4T4) says that the figures will be second half weighted this year but not as much as last year.
Science Group (SAG) has increased its stake in Frontier Smart Technologies (FST) by subscribing £1m at 25p a share. This takes the stake to 52.3% (costing £6.9m) and this means that Frontier’s results will be consolidated. A standby facility is also being provided. Frontier’s cost base is being reduced.
Commodity trading and risk management software provider Brady (BRY) expects 2019 revenues to be around one-fifth lower than previous forecasts. That means that revenues are expected to decline from £23.2m in 2018 to £19m and this will lead to a loss of more than £4m.
Three directors have been removed from the board of Management Resource Solutions (MRS) and they have been replaced by John Copley and Robert Wall following a requisitioned general meeting.
Cancer therapies developer Scancell (SCLP) has initiated the UK SCIB1 phase 2 clinical trial for advanced melanoma, where SCIB1 is used in conjunction with the checkpoint inhibitor Pembrolizumab.
The financial director of Maestrano (MNO) has resigned to take up a role in Australia. The software company continues to undertake due diligence on a potential acquisition. An Australian bank client has decided not to go ahead with a new banking platform. There should be enough cash to last into next year.
Cyber security company Osirium Technologies (OSI) has signed up the first customer for its Opus privileged process automation software, plus two customers for the PxM platform. The Opus client is an asset manager that is already a user of PxM.
Cellcast (CLTV) has called a general meeting on 6 September in order to approve the sale of its operations. The company will change its name to Vintana.
BATM (BVC) reported an improved interim profit, but that was due to a one-off unrealised gain after an investment in the Ador diagnostics joint venture. Revenues dipped from $58.2m to $56.2m. The second half performance will be more important. Revenues are expected to grow from $119.6m to $128.5m, with pre-tax profit jumping form $2m to $6.7m. There is further longer-term growth to come from both the biomedical and networking divisions. The recent fundraising means that there is plenty of cash to finance growth.
Argo Blockchain (ARB) is further increasing its capacity and this could make it the largest quoted cryptocurrency miner by next year.
Injection moulding and engineering company Tex Holdings (TXH) says net assets per share have fallen from 168p to 140p after it swung into loss last year. There is no final dividend. The plastics division is trading profitably and orders have improved at the engineering division.
Path Investments (PATH) plans to acquire FineGems Extraction Corporation, which has a 75% stake in a company that holds the Jagoda licence in Zambia. The assets are near to production. They are manganese ore and tourmaline deposits. The acquisition would leave existing shareholders with 50% of the enlarged share capital.
Gold explorer IMC Exploration (IMC) has raised £150,000 at 1p a share and has paid £27,000 of professional fees in shares. The cash will be spent on exploration and geological work on a tailings project in Avoca, County Wicklow.
Dev Clever (DEV) has appointed Novum Securities as joint broker and raised £436,000 at 3.4p a share. The consumer engagement systems company has secured a three-year agreement with Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions, which will offer Dev Clever’s Engage gamification platform and its learning and development platform to retail customers.
Proton Partners International (PPI) joined NEX on 28 February and from day one it became one of the largest companies on the market. The introduction price was 225p, valuing the proton beam therapy provider at £334m, and the share price ended the week at 2275p (210p/245p). Woodford-related interests own 41.9% of Proton (www.proton-int.com) and they invested £20m at 200p a share on admission and promised to invest up to £80m at a maximum price of 176p each. Woodford received a further £1m worth of shares at 200p each in consideration for these arrangements. Proton is four years old and it has completed three centres offering proton beam therapy for cancer patients with another planned in Liverpool. Each cancer centre has cost between £35m and £42m. There is also a cancer diagnostics subsidiary. In the eleven months to January 2019, revenues were £1.11m and the loss was £18.6m.
Formation Group (FRM) owns 4.35 million shares in Proton Partners International, which it acquired in March 2018 at 115p each. The 225p a share flotation price means that the value of the 2.85% stake has nearly doubled to £9.78m. At Formation’s AGM, the resolutions to reappoint Grunberg and Co as auditor and for the board to authorise its remuneration were not passed. Michael Kennedy has resigned from the board.
Trading in Dozen Savings (DS01) 5% secured bonds March 2020 commenced on 1 March. So far £91,000 worth have been issued. The plan is to raise up to £7m. The company has been created to offer the bonds to customers of its financial services-focused parent company, Project Imagine (www.projectimagine.com). The bonds cost £100 each and the price at the end of the first day of trading was £107.50 (£90/£125). The FCA has granted Project Imagine an e-money licence and an investment licence.
IFA consolidator AFH Financial (AFHP) says that trading is in line with expectations in the first four months of the year. Past acquisitions are achieving more than 90% of their deferred consideration targets.
Field Systems Designs (FSD) reported a lower profit in the six months to November 2018 because of delays in energy form waste business. Two of these projects have still not been completed. Sales to the water sector have been strong, but they are likely to decline as the latest water regulation AMP6 period. In the six months to November 2018, revenues were flat at £11.8m, but pre-tax profit fell from £168,000 to £46,000.
Sandal (SAND) reported a dip in interim revenues from £1.88m to £1.73m and that led to a swing from profit to loss. EnergieMiHome home automation product sales were lower than expected but the products are being sold in more outlets.
Ace Liberty and Stone (ALSP) has spent £6.17m on two properties that are both let to the Communities and Local Government department, as Jobcentre Plus centres, on leases with an unexpired term of 8.4 years. The property in Bolton cost £2.54m and has a net initial yield of 7%. The Northampton site cost £3.63m and has a net initial yield of 6.75%.
Milamber Ventures (MLVP) says that investee company Essential Learning has been placed in liquidation after problems with historic data led to the company losing its government-funded training contracts. Milamber invested £228,000 in Essential in a two year period and provided services worth £270,000. It also issued £100,000 worth of shares to Essential minority shareholder Goldvista Properties. Goldvista has loaned Milamber £310,000 and this is likely to be converted into shares. Goldvista’s £6,000 loan to Essential has been written off. The shares issued to Gravity Investment Group for a 15% stake in Essential have been cancelled. Milamber is conducting due diligence on apprenticeship training businesses.
Inqo Investments Ltd (INQO) has raised £1m at 90p a share and the cash will be used to invest in healthcare, education and eco-tourism businesses in Africa that are two-to-three years from profitability and have a positive social impact.
Trading in Via Developments (VIA1) debentures has been suspended because the accounts for the year to September 2018 have not been published.
Karoo Energy (KEP) says it intends to move to AIM “as soon as practically possible”. A general meeting has been called for 18 March in order to gain shareholder approval to issue shares at the time of the move.
Altona Energy (ANR) has left AIM and the board intends to visit a vanadium mine in China that could become part of a joint venture. Altona still intends to invest in the Arckaringa coal project in South Australia.
John Eckersley is stepping down as chief executive of Capital for Colleagues (CFCP) in order to focus on his role as managing partner of Castlefield Partners and Alistair Currie will become chief executive.
Internet of Things products supplier LightwaveRF (LWRF) is raising up to £3m through a placing, subscription and open offer at 8.5p a share. Year-on-year growth in sales in the first quarter was 156% taking the figure to £1.15m.
Churchill China (CHH) and Portmeirion (PMP) have bought the stake in ceramic materials supplier Furlong Mills that was previously owned by Dudson. Churchill has paid £454,000 for 9.5%, which takes its stake to 55.6%. This means that Furlong will be consolidated in Churchill’s figures. In 2017, revenues were £8.6m and pre-tax profit was £500,000. Portmeirion spent £363,000 to take its stake to 44.4%.
President Energy (PPC) is raising up to £6.5m at 8p a share, including a £2.8m debt for equity swap by the chief executive, to invest in its gas infrastructure and accelerate its drilling programme.
Itaconix (ITX) has secured an exclusive global supply agreement with Nouryon for bio-based polymers used in hair care, skin care and cosmetics. This contract comes after a joint development agreement with Nouryon and follows the previous supply agreement for polymers used in detergents. Nouryon will sell the polymers to its own customers in the personal care sector for use in their consumer products.
Audioboom (BOOM) is raising £1.5m at 1.3p a share and this cash will enable the podcast company to make upfront payments for content. Audioboom says that it is on course to achieve higher revenues in 2019 than in the 13 months to December 2018. The success in generating revenues and orders is helping to attract content providers.
Parity (PTY) has won a two-year contract with the Department for Education for the digital transformation of the Funding and Contracting Service, which makes £6bn of payments each year. The deal could be worth up to £4.5m. Matthew Bayfield has taken over as chief executive of Parity from Alan Rommel, who is chief operating officer. Bayfield plans to focus more on the data consultancy activities.
Westmount Energy Ltd (WTE) is nearly doubling its shareholding in JHI Associates Inc to 3% and the investment is 81.8% of Westmount’s gross assets. JHI’s main asset is a 17.5% carried interest in the Canje block, offshore Guyana, which is operated by ExxonMobil. The first well could be drilled by early next year.
Verona Pharma (VRP) used up £18.1m of cash in its operating activities in 2018. There is still £64.5 in the bank. Verona generated positive data for ensifentrine (RPL554) used as a treatment for COPD in a phase IIb clinical trial. The focus is COPD and further trials for cystic fibrosis are unlikely in the short-term. Financial resources will be focused on progressing the nebulised ensifentrine to a phase III study. Verona is likely to seek partners for its dry powder and pressured meter dose inhaler formulations. The results of the part one of the dry powder inhaler clinical trial for COPD could be available before the end of the first quarter. The second phase should then commence with results expected in the second half of the year.
Trading in Herencia Resources (HER) shares has been suspended because it appears that pre-conditions for the financing that has been negotiated are not likely to be met. More cash is required to enable the company to continue trading.
Telematics supplier Quartix (QTX) increased its fleet sales, but insurance business fell and overall revenues profit are set to decline in 2019. In 2018, revenues were £25.7m and pre-tax profit was £8.1m, but that figure is forecast to fall to £6.5m this year.
VietNam Holding Ltd (VNH) has published a prospectus for its move to a premium listing, which should happen on 8 March.
Adamas Finance Asia Ltd (ADAM) has commenced a share buy back scheme for up to $500,000 of shares at a maximum price of 79 cents a share, which is a 25% discount to pro forma NAV. Adamas has separately agreed to buy back 730,529 shares at 10 cents each. The first tranche of 159,847 shares has been issued to China Aerospace for its stake in Hong Kong Mining.
NetScientific (NSCI) says that it will not get the required backing for the resolution to cancel the AIM quotation, so it has adjourned its general meeting. Shareholders owning more than 30% are against the plan.
MyCelx Tech (MYX) has raised $1.83m at 230p a share in order to finance the potential increase in demand for water treatment services.
Telit (TCM) has sold its automotive division for $105m and has received $67.5m in cash, but it has granted the buyer a loan of $38.5m for a six week period because other debt finance was not obtained in time.
Air Partner (AIR) says that its pre-tax profit will be at least £5.8m in the year to January 2019. The charter division was boosted by strong demand for freight and commercial jets. The consulting and training division has won new contracts.
G3 Exploration Ltd (G3E) plans its third demerger in its time as a quoted company. This time shares in Green Dragon Gas, which owns its producing assets, will be distributed to shareholders. Green Dragon Gas will then either be sold or float on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
Wealth manager Walker Crips Group (WCW) says that political uncertainty has hit broking commissions and the launch of new products, which means that the 2018-19 results will be lower than for 2017-18. Chief executive Sean Kin Wai Lam has bought 15,000 shares at 28p each.
Laura Ashley (ALY) has rejected the bid approach by Flacks and says that the indicative offer of 2.748p a share fails to provide a fair value for shareholders.
London Finance and Investment Group (LFI) has a 43.8% stake in NEX-quoted Western Selection. In the six months to December 2018, NAV fell from 65.4p a share to 62p a share. The interim dividend is unchanged at 0.55p a share.
BigDish (DISH) has launched a new restaurant bookings website and upgraded its technology. It is also widening its coverage to include Southampton.
Path Investments (PATH) says that the period of exclusivity included in its heads of agreement with ARC Marlborough has been extended to 29 March. The plan is to acquire ARC, which has a nickel and cobalt project in Queensland, via a share issue.
Oil and gas firm Curzon Energy (CZN) has raised £95,000 at 1.58p a share, which is a 21% premium to the market price. The cash will be invested in a gas project in Texas.
National Milk Records (NMRP) increased its interim revenues from £10.5m to £11.7m, although some of this was due to seasonal factors and one-off testing business. Pre-tax profit improved from £0.96m to £1.13m. Net debt was £2.06m at the end of December 2018. Every part of the business grew its revenues. Milk volumes are set to be strong in the second half, although milk margins are been squeezed by a decline in the milk price and higher feed costs.
Barkby (BARK) has completed the acquisition of Centurian Automotive for an initial payment of £201,000 in shares at 4.775p each, with up to £251,000 more based on performance over three years. Operating profit in each of the years is required to be at least £200,000 in order to achieve the full payment. The consideration represents a discount to net assets and will be equivalent to up to 20% of Barkby. In the year to March 2018, the automotive dealer made a pre-tax profit of £123,000 on revenues of £5.6m.
Sandal (SAND) says there was a significant increase in Energie MiHome sales in December, particularly later in the month, but trading is still below expectations because of a lack of cash to spend on marketing. The stock overhang has been unwound. A Wi-Fi adapter plug has been added to the range, which is being rolled out in Denman’s Electrical Wholesale branches.
Sport Capital Group (SCG) owned Palermo Football Club for less than one month before selling it back to the previous management team. It was bought for a nominal sum and is being sold for a nominal value, following further due diligence. The company’s representatives joined the board in December and resigned last week. Debt will be settled at the same time. Sports Capital had been trying to raise up to £20m over the next few months.
Trading has recommenced in the shares of EcoVista (EVTP) after it published its results for the year to August 2018. There was a £142,000 property revaluation gain and net assets were £1.39m. There are plans to launch a €10m Eurobond issue to fund further property site acquisitions in London, Hertfordshire and Essex.
Gold explorer Tectonic Gold (TTAU) has completed stage one drilling on the Specimen Hill project in Queensland and each hole drilled intersected gold. Geological modelling results will be available in March. A further 7,500 metres of drilling is being planned.
Auxico Resources Canada Inc (AUAG) has raised $400,000 at 20 cents a unit (one share and one-half warrant). The expenses of the placing were $28,000. The cash will be used for assessing coltan opportunities in Colombia and Brazil. NQ Mining (NQMI) has raised £54,000 at 11p a share.
Panoply Holdings (TPX) has made its third acquisition since floating in December. UK-based GreenShoot Labs provides digital services using artificial intelligence technology. There is no initial consideration and any payment will depend on performance.
Marketing and media services provider Ebiquity (EBQ) traded in line with expectations last year. The disposal of the advertising intelligence was completed on 2 January. This cut net debt to around £8m. The continuing business is expected to continue to grow at 8% a year.
Online merchandising software and services provider ATTRAQT Group (ATQT) increased its 2018 revenues by 26% to £17.1m and the loss declined from £4.1m to £2.7m. The largest customer has renewed for two years. Annual recurring revenues are £16m.
GRC International (GRC) has acquired data consulting business DQM Group for an initial £5.9m with up to £5m in deferred consideration, although it is not expected to be more than £3.5m. This is a significantly earnings enhancing deal.
Cabot Energy (CAB) is consolidating 100 shares into one new share and raising up to £2.85m at 10p per consolidated share. The cash will pay off trade creditors. The main focus is Canada but Cabot believes its Italian oil and gas exploration assets could still be valuable even though the Italian government has suspended exploration work and is reviewing the situation.
The administrator has sold most of the businesses of Patisserie Holdings (CAKE) but there will be no money for shareholders. Dublin-based Causeway Capital has acquired Patisserie Valerie and AF Blakemore acquired Philpotts for a total of £13m, of which £3m is deferred. Baker and Spice was sold to the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs for £2.5m. The AIM quotation will be cancelled on 25 February. Paul Mumford of Cavendish Asset Management believes that the company’s banks should have supported a rescue and been more attentive to what was happening at the company. He thinks that shareholders should seek compensation from the banks.
Malvern International (MLVN) has confirmed that it moved into profit in 2018. The education business has doubled its London-based revenues and this made up for difficult trading in Malaysia.
Realm Therapeutics (RLM) is selling is hypochlorous acid assets for $10m and intends to leave AIM. Realm already had $18.8m in the bank at the end of 2018. The plan is to use the cash to complete a strategic transaction in the life sciences sector. The ADSs will continue to be listed on Nasdaq.
Stride Gaming (STR) has started a strategic review. The choices are acquisitive or organic expansion or the sale of the online gaming company.
Renalytix AI (RENX) has secured a joint venture with laboratory and clinical trials operator AKESOgen and this will enable Renalytix AI to provide additional services in the US. The artificial intelligence-based kidney diagnostics already has a presence in New York and the new joint venture is based in Georgia.
Administrators have been appointed to Utilitywise (UTW) but none of the subsidiaries is in administration. Shareholders are not likely to get anything from the administration process. Unitlitywise was unable to raise the cash it required to keep going and meet liabilities.
Heavitree Brewery (HVT) improved full year revenues from £7.3m to £7.61m and pre-tax profit grew from £1.55m to £2.25m, although that included profit on the sale of pubs and other property of £824,000, up from £6,000. The previous year had benefited from the write-back of a bad debt provision. The final dividend is being increased from 4p a share to 4.25p a share. Heavitree no longer has to cover a pension scheme deficit because three people transferred out of the scheme.
Bowmark Capital has launched a 110p a share recommended cash bid for Tax Systems (TAX) and MXC Capital Ltd (MXC) has accepted with its 25.6% stake. The bid values the tax software provider at £100.6m.
Kodal Minerals (KOD) has published the results of the drilling programme at the Bougouni lithium project. These will be used to update the JORC resource, which should happen by the end of February. Kodal has met with the Mali authorities to update them.
Insignals Neurotech is the third Portuguese spin out for Frontier IP (FIPP) and it will hold a 33% stake. Insignals is developing technology for brain stimulation surgery.
Scientific Digital Imaging (SDI) has made another scientific instruments acquisition and it has raised £2.5m at 34p a share to help finance it. A further £100,000 was raised via PrimaryBid. Graticules manufactures reticules and graticules and fits with the digital imaging division. It cost £3.4m and has added 6% to next year’s earnings per share.
Strategic Minerals (SML) has announced a trebled resource at Redmoor, in which it has a 50% stake. There is an inferred tin equivalent contained metal of 137,000 tonnes.
James Latham (LTHM) has acquired the timber merchant that has the rights to sell Accoya wood in Ireland. Abbey Woods will cost an initial €1.825m with a further €300,000-€400,000 depending on completion accounts. Further deferred consideration of up to €400,000 depending on performance over two years. Last year, Abbey Woods generated EBITDA of €379,000 on revenues of €7.5m and it has operations in Dublin and Cork.
Vast Resources (VAST) says that the tranche B offtake finance from Mercuria Energy Trading did not happen. This means that the planned December and January repayments of the loan from Sub Sahara Goldia Investments have not been made Talks continue with potential finance providers to replace the cash to invest in 80%-owned copper, silver, gold, zinc, lead, tungsten, molybdenum Baita Plai project. Bergen Global Opportunities Fund is pausing the second tranche of the $3m bridge facility because the share price has been below 0.2p for two days. A placing has raised £896,000 at 0.135p a share and this will repay the £525,000 owed to Bergen. There are discussions with a potential cornerstone investor for a diamond project in Zimbabwe.
RiverFort Global Opportunities (RGO) has subscribed for shares in Pires Investments (PIRI), that will give it a 24.3% stake. RiverFort is taking nearly 50% of the shares issued in a placing that raised £782,000 at 2.4p a share for Pires. The cash will be used for new investments.
Trading in the shares of African Battery Materials (ABM) will resume on Monday 18 February following the issue of 200 million shares at 0.5p each. The cash will be used to pay creditors and leave enough to finance the business for 12 months. Andrew Bell has been appointed executive chairman and Paul Johnson as executive director.
Windar Photonics (WPHO) will undershoot the 2018 forecast, but there should be higher orders from Vestas and another manufacturer next year. Even so, 2019 forecasts are likely to be reduced. Total 2018 revenues were 59% ahead at €3.5m and higher gross margins meant that the loss before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation fell from €1.22m to €360,000. The end of year order book was worth €1m.
Nostra Terra Oil and Gas (NTOG) has more than trebled its proved and probable reserves to 2.43 million barrels of oil. Net proved reserves are 764,030 barrels of oil.
President Energy (PPC) has updated the reserves position. The Argentina and Louisiana reserves are valued at almost $300m, which is equivalent to 21p a share. That is more than twice the market capitalisation. Production is predominantly oil but gas production will increase this year.
Harwood Wealth Management (HW.) has acquired IFA Castleton Financial Planning for up to £1.6m.
Trading in the shares of Urals Energy (UEN) has been suspended following the resignation of Allenby as nominated adviser. A general meeting, which will be held on 22 February, has been called by Adler Impex SA in order to remove three directors and appoint four other directors. Oil production was 1,690 barrels/day in January. Loans made without board approval have meant that the company is short of cash.
Waste-to-energy technology developer PowerHouse Energy (PHE) is confident that it could sign up a customer in the next quarter. There is increasing interest and six potential sites are being assessed. Potential engineering, procurement and construction contractors have approached PowerHouse. Development partner Waste2Tricity is in negotiations with Toyota Tsusho, which would be a way of entering the Japanese market.
Braveheart Investment Group (BRH) has reduced its stake in Remote Monitored Systems (RMS) from 5.9% to 1.32%. Stephen Jones increased his stake from below 3% to 14.5% in just over one month.
Dewscope Ltd, where Mark Horrocks is a director, has cut its stake in Sabien Technology (SNT) from 12.7% to less than 3%. Chris Akers has also reduced his stake from 16.9% to less than 3% and Brendan Adams has cut his shareholding from 4.2% to under 3%. These stakes were acquired on 14 December, when the mid-price was 0.11p. On 11 February, when the shares were sold, the share price increased from 0.145p to 0.175p. Sabien reported a decline in interim revenues from £462,000 to £342,000, but the loss was reduced from £233,000 to £207,000 due to cost reductions.
TV programme producer DCD Media (DCD) expects to report revenues of £7.3m and a small EBITDA in 2018. Trading has started well in 2019 helped by business that was delayed from last year.
HaloSource (HAL) is seeking shareholder approval for the disposal of assets to Strix (KETL) for $1.3m. The cash will pay creditors and fund the winding down of the business. The AIM quotation will be cancelled on 12 March.
WANdisco (WAND) has raised $17.5m at 546p a share to provide cash to support relationships with partners. WANdisco has become an advanced technology partner with Amazon Web Services.
Adamas Finance Asia Ltd (ADAM) is issuing 6.1 million shares to China Aerospace for a 6.8% stake in Hong Kong Mining Holdings, where Adamas already has a 84.8% stake. This is a complicated deal, but Adamas can tell China Aerospace where to transfer these shares. It means that Adamas will not necessarily increase its shareholding in the mining company. Sorting out what was effectively a stock overhang should make it easier to do a deal that will unlock cash for Adamas.
NetScientific (NSCI) has concluded its strategic review and it has decided to cancel its AIM quotation. The remaining cash will be spent on the investee companies with the best prospects of providing a return before the company runs out of money.
Angus Energy (ANGS) is repaying the £1.5m initial advance from YA II and RiverFort Global Opportunities. Angus has raised £2.2m at 4p a share.
The University of British Columbia has ordered a polariser system from Polarean Imaging (POLX).
Begbies Traynor (BEG) has made the earnings enhancing acquisition of profitable Newcastle insolvency practice KRE. The initial payment is £450,000 with up to £150,000 more based on revenue targets over 12 months.
Full year figures will be lower than expected at IFA Tavistock Investments (TAVI) but a maiden dividend is still on the cards.
Crossword Cybersecurity (CCS) will report a 45% increase in 2018 revenues, with most of the growth coming from software.
Cryptocurrency mining services provider Argo Blockchain (ARB) is refocusing its business. All existing contracts will be terminated by the beginning of April. The focus will be Argo’s own currency mining. Ongoing costs will be cut by one-third. Net cash is £15m and that is much more than the market capitalisation of Argo. The cash outflow should be stemmed in the second half of 2019. Hadron Capital recently increased its stake to 7.6%.
Trading is in line at fasteners supplier Trifast (TRI) even though the UK automotive market is weak. More than two-thirds of sales are overseas. Additional UK stocks for Brexit are worth around £2m.
Commercial aircraft leasing company Avation (AVAP) expects to report a doubled interim profit on revenues that have risen from $52.4m to $58m.
Outdoor digital media company Grand Vision Media Holdings (GVMH) has signed a partnership agreement with Rakuten Bank in Japan to add to the one it signed with CY Group in South Korea. GVMH’s marketing services will help its partners promote themselves to Chinese tourists. GVMH has glasses-free 3D technology.
Helen Sachdev has been appointed as a non-executive director of Athelney Trust (ATY) and Frank Ashton has taken on the role of executive chairman. Discussions continue with Gresham House Asset Management about taking over the management of the company’s investments.
Future (FUTR) has secured a new £90m revolving credit facility and it is acquiring CyclingNews.com and Procycling Magazine, which generate annual revenues of £2m. This deal widens the sports publishing activities.
REA Holdings (RE.) significantly increased palm oil production in 2018, even though extraction rates were lower than expected. The Kota Bangun coal concession is heading towards reopening the mine, although there are local disputes.
by Virginia Greco, CERN.
The accelerator technology underpinning Europe’s first particle-therapy facilities, driven by the TERA Foundation during the past 25 years, is poised to unleash new treatment modes in more compact ways.
Last September the TERA Foundation – dedicated to the study and development of accelerators for particle therapy – celebrated its 25th anniversary. Led by visionary Italian physicist Ugo Amaldi, TERA gathered and trained hundreds of brilliant scientists who carried out research on accelerator physics. This culminated in the first carbon-ion facility for hadron therapy in Italy, and the second in Europe: the National Centre for Cancer Hadron Therapy (CNAO), located in Pavia, which treated its first patient in 2011.
The forerunner to CNAO was the Heidelberg Ion-Beam Therapy Centre (HIT) in Germany, which treated its first patient in 2009 following experience accumulated over 12 years in a pilot project at GSI near Darmstadt. After CNAO came the Marburg Ion-Beam Therapy Centre (MIT) in Germany, which has been operational since 2015, and MedAustron in Wiener Neustadt, Austria, which delivered its first treatment in December 2016.
While conventional radiotherapy based on beams of X-rays or electrons is already widespread worldwide, the treatment of cancer with charged particles has seen significant growth in recent years. The use of proton beams in radiation oncology was first proposed in 1946 by Robert Wilson, a student of Ernest Lawrence and founding director of Fermilab. The key advantage of proton beams over X-rays is that the absorption profile of protons in matter exhibits a sharp peak towards the end of their path, concentrating the dose on the tumour target while sparing healthy tissues. Following the first treatment of patients with protons at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in the US in 1954, treatment centres in the US, the former USSR and Japan gradually appeared. At the same time, interest arose around the idea of using heavier ions, which offer a higher radio-biological effectiveness and, causing more severe damage to DNA, can control the 3% of all tumours that are radioresistant both to X-rays and protons. It is expected that by 2020 there will be almost 100 centres delivering particle therapy around the world, with more than 30 of them in Europe (see “The changing landscape of cancer therapy”).
Europe entered the hadron-therapy field in 1987, when the European Commission launched the European Light Ion Medical Accelerator (EULIMA) project to realise a particle-therapy centre. The facility was not built in the end, but interest in the topic continued to grow. In 1991, together with Italian medical physicist Giampiero Tosi, Amaldi wrote a report outlining the design of a hospital facility for therapy with light ions and protons to be built in Italy. One year later, the pair established the TERA Foundation to raise the necessary funding to employ students and researchers to work on the project. Within months, TERA could count on the work of about 100 physicists, engineers, medical doctors and radiobiologists, who joined forces to design a synchrotron for particle therapy and the beamlines and monitoring systems necessary for its operation.
Ten years of ups and downs followed, during which TERA scientists developed three designs for a proton-therapy facility initially to be built in Novara, then in the outskirts of Milan and finally in Pavia. Political, legislative and economic issues delayed the project until 2001 when, thanks to the support of Italian health minister and oncologist Umberto Veronesi, the CNAO Foundation was created. The construction of the actual facility began four years later.
“We passed through hard times and we had to struggle, but we never gave up,” says Amaldi. “Besides, we kept ourselves busy with improving the design of our accelerator.”
Meanwhile, in Austria, experimental physicist Meinhard Regler had launched a project called Austron – a sort of precursor to the European Spallation Source. In 1995, together with the head designer – accelerator physicist Phil Bryant – he proposed the addition of a ring to the facility that would be used for particle therapy (and led to the name of the project being changed to MedAustron). Amaldi, Regler and Bryant then decided to work on a common project, and the “Proton-Ion Medical Machine Study” (PIMMS) was created. Developed at CERN between 1996 and 2000 under the leadership of Bryant and with the collaboration of several CERN physicists and engineers, PIMMS aimed to be a toolkit for any European country interested in building a proton–ion facility for hadron therapy. Rather than being a blueprint for a final facility on a specific site, it was an open study from which different parts could be included in any hadron-therapy centre according to its specific needs.
The design of CNAO itself is based on the PIMMS project, with some modifications introduced by TERA to reduce the footprint of the structure. The MedAustron centre, designed in the early 2000s, also drew upon the PIMMS report. Built between 2011 and 2013, with the first beam extracted by the synchrotron in autumn 2014, MedAustron received official certification as a centre for cancer therapy in December 2016 and, a few days after, treated its first patient. “In the past few years we have worked hard to provide the MedAustron trainees with a unique opportunity to acquire CERN’s know-how in the diverse fields of accelerator design, construction and operation,” says Michael Benedikt of CERN, who led the MedAustron accelerator project. Synergies with other CERN projects were also created, he explains. “The vacuum control system built for MedAustron was successfully used in the Linac4 test set-up, while in the synchrotron a novel radiofrequency system that was jointly developed for the CERN PS Booster and MedAustron is used. The synchrotron’s power converter control uses the same top-notch technology as CERN’s accelerators, while its control system and several of its core components are derived from technologies developed for the CMS experiment.”
All the existing facilities using hadrons for cancer therapy are based on circular cyclotrons and synchrotrons. For some years, however, the TERA Foundation has been working on the design of a linear accelerator for hadron therapy. As early as 1993, Amaldi set up a study group, in collaboration with the Italian institutions ENEA and INFN, dedicated to the design of a linac for protons that would run at the same frequency (3 GHz) as the electron linacs used for conventional radiotherapy. The linac could use a cyclotron as an injector, making it a hybrid solution called a cyclinac, which reduces the sizes of both accelerators while allowing the beam energy to be rapidly changed from pulse to pulse by acting on the radiofrequency system of the linac. In 1998 a 3 GHz 1.2 metre-long linac booster (LIBO) was built by a TERA–CERN–INFN collaboration led by retired CERN engineer Mario Weiss, and in 2001 it was connected to the cyclotron of the INFN South Laboratories in Catania where it accelerated protons from 62 MeV to 74 MeV. This was meant to be the first of 10 modules that would kick protons to 230 MeV.
In 2007 a CERN spin-off company called ADAM (Applications of Detectors and Accelerators to Medicine) was founded by businessman Alberto Colussi to build a commercial high-frequency linac based on the TERA design. Under the leadership of Stephen Myers, a former CERN director for accelerators and technology and initiator of the CERN medical applications office, ADAM is now completing the first prototype. It is called Linac for Image Guided Hadron Therapy (LIGHT), and the full accelerator comprises: a proton source; a novel 750 MHz RF quadrupole (RFQ) – designed by CERN – which takes the particles up to 5 MeV; four side-coupled drift-tube linacs (SCDTL) – designed by ENEA – to accelerate the beam from 5–37.5 MeV; and a different type of accelerating module, called coupled-cavity linac (CCL) – the LIBO designed by TERA – which gives the final kick to the beam from 37.5 to 230 MeV. The complex will be 24 m long, similar to the circumference of a proton synchrotron.
Compared to cyclotrons and synchrotrons, linear accelerators are lighter and potentially less costly because they are modular. Most importantly, they produce a beam much more suited to treat patients, in particular when the tumour is moving, as in the lungs. The machine developed by ADAM is modular in structure to make it easier to maintain and more flexible when it comes to upgrading or customising the system. In addition, thanks to an active longitudinal modulation system, the beam energy can be varied during therapy and thus the treatment depth changed. LIGHT also has a dynamic transversal modulation system, allowing the beam to be rapidly and precisely modulated to “paint the tumour” many times in a short time – in other words, delivering a homogeneous dose to the whole cancerous tissue while minimising the irradiation of healthy organs. The energy variation of cyclotrons and synchrotrons is 20–100 times slower.
“The beauty of the linac is that you can electronically modulate its output energy,” Myers explains. “Since our accelerator is modular, the energy can be changed either by switching off some of the units or by reducing the power in all of them, or by re-phasing the units. Another big advantage of the linac is that it has a small emittance, i.e. beam size, which translates into smaller, lighter and cheaper magnets and allows to have a simpler and lighter gantry as well.” In the last decade, LIBO has inspired other TERA projects. Its scientists have designed a linac booster for carbon ions (while LIBO was only for protons) and a compact single-room facility called TULIP, in which a 7 m-long proton linac is mounted on a rotating gantry.
The new frontier of hadron therapy, however, could be helium ion treatment. Some tests with these ions were done in the past, but the technique still has to be proven. TERA scientists are currently working on a new accelerator for helium ions, says Amaldi. “Helium can bring great benefit to medical treatments: it is lighter than carbon, thus requiring a smaller accelerator, and it has much less lateral scattering than protons, resulting in sharper lateral fall-offs next to organs at risk.” In order to accelerate helium ions with a linac, we need either a longer linac compared to the one used for protons or higher gradients, as demonstrated by high-energy physics research at CERN and elsewhere in Europe. The need for future, compact and cost-effective ion-therapy accelerators is being addressed by a new collaborative design study coordinated by Maurizio Vretenar and Alessandra Lombardi of CERN, dubbed “PIMMS2”. A proposal, which includes a carbon linac, is being prepared for submission to the CERN Medical Application group, potentially opening the next phase of TERA’s impressive journey.
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