Trading in the bonds of Carduus Housing (CHPB/CHP2) has been suspended pending clarification of its financial position. It is noticeable that the suspension announcement is the first not to include managing director Brian Gilmour as the contact name. Instead fellow director Drew Oswald is named at the end of the release. Carduus joined ISDX on 30 September 2015 when £3.5m of 6.5% unsecured bonds were admitted to trading. It has subsequently raised £3.5m from the issue of 6.25% unsecured bonds. The strategy is to invest in affordable housing, with initial investments in Scotland.
Other bond issuers continue to raise cash. Diversified Gas & Oil (DOIL) has raised a further £630,000 from 8.5% unsecured bonds, taking the total to £5.8m. Via Developments (VIA1) has raised an additional £80,000, making a total of £2.64m from eleven placings of 7% debenture stock since joining ISDX. Residential property acquisitions have been made in Manchester and Luton.
Hydro Hotel, Eastbourne (HYDP) has appointed Jonathan Owen as its new general manager. He starts on 16 May. The shares owned by the estate of Richard Cecil James have been equally distributed to Elizabeth Foster and Patricia Gray, who own 10.1% and 9.3% of the company respectively. There were also 200 shares traded at 800p each on 15 March. At 775p (750p/800p) a share, which values Hydro at £4.7m.
Titiana Internet Ventures (TITP) has failed to secure a renewable energy sector deal and it does not have the cash to maintain its ISDX quotation so shareholders are being asked to vote to terminate this quotation. At 2.5p (2p/3p) a share, Titania is valued at £44,000.
Robotic process software supplier Blue Prism (PRSM) has joined AIM. The business is loss-making but it is profitable in Europe and the costs of building up a base in the US have pushed the group into loss. The software enables automation of manual, rules-based admin processes and it has been available since 2008 and subsequently developed further with customers. Blue Prism raised £10m at 78p a share, while £11.1m was raised by existing shareholders. The share price ended the first day of trading at 110.5p.
Specialist IFA Frenkel Topping (FEN) has gained FCA approval to deal with retail clients and this is the final requirement for the new strategy. This involves taking on the fund management role for assets under management – £666m at the end of 2015. Frenkel has been opening additional offices in order to broaden its coverage of the country and this held back profit last year. Pre-tax profit dipped from £1.57m to £1.42m in 2015. There should be some recovery this year but the real benefits of the strategy should be more obvious in 2017 when profit is expected to be £3.28m. Meanwhile, the dividend has been increased by 25% to 0.8875p a share and there should be further growth in dividends in the coming years.
SIPPs administrator Curtis Banks (CBP) reported an improvement in pre-tax profit from £3.1m to £4m in 2015 as it won new business and got the full benefit from recent acquisitions. Curtis Banks will become the second largest SIPP provider following the acquisition of Suffolk Life from Legal & General for £45m. The enlarged group will have 65,000 SIPPs with assets of £18bn under administration. The deal is still waiting for regulatory approval. There are opportunities for further bolt-on deals.
Standard list shell Opera Investments (OPRA) is still trying to secure the reverse takeover of SoloPower Systems Inc (http://solopower.com/company/) that was originally announced last July. Financing the acquisition of the thin film solar technology developer has proved difficult and the structure of the deal is being changed. SoloPower will raise finance prior to a reversal into Opera, which is required to happen by 15 May or it will not go ahead. There was £1.08m in the bank at the end of June 2015. Opera has already incurred £400,000 of costs relating to the deal but Hudson, the backer of SoloPower, will reimburse £200,000 of these costs by the end of the month.
Highlands Natural Resources (HNR) has paid $32,000 to acquire 100% of 26 unpatented mining claims in Grand County, Utah. Highlands had been assessing oil and gas well logs and thinks there might be a potential uranium discovery in the area. Permits will have to be obtained and then exploration can start a few months later. The seller is Ticaboo Minerals which will have the right to a production royalty of 2% of the gross value of minerals produced from the mining claims. The principal focus of Highlands is still the oil and gas sector.