Astaire Securities this morning gave the nod to news that telephony solutions group Eckoh Plc (LON:ECK) had extended a contract with Ideal Shopping for two years. The broker noted that with no obvious expansion to the scope of services provided, the contract extension by one of Eckoh’s larger clients was “simply reassuring”. In its June full year results, Eckoh reported 19% growth in continuing operations to £7.9m with a £1.1m positive swing in adjusted pre-tax profits to £0.7m. The company is expecting to report a profit in H1. Turning to Ascent Resources (LON:AST), Astaire said it had trimmed its production forecasts for the current financial year following recent drilling results at Peneszlek in Hungary and the company’s increased interest at Petisovci in Slovenia. However, it said it was continuing to forecast a profit and was maintaining its 2011 EPS estimate of 0.9p. It added that Ascent’s balance sheet was now in excellent shape following the recent disposal of its Perazzoli stake and its Swiss subsidiary.
WH Ireland assigned a “market perform” rating to Domino's Pizza UK & IRL (LON:DOM), which today served up half year figures well ahead of expectations, with sales up 20.8% to £237.1m, like for like sales up 13.7% and pre-tax profits up 28.6% to 17.5m. The broker said it now expected to raise earnings forecasts by around 3% for the full year. Elsewhere, WH Ireland maintained an “outperform” stance at Hyder Consulting (LON:HYC), which said this morning it was trading marginally ahead of expectations on the back of a robust order book. Hyder’s performance has been mainly driven by the Asia Pacific region, in addition to foreign exchange gains and contract bonuses on project completions.
Evolution Securities urged a “buy” at Shire (LON:SHP), which has already seen its stock appreciate by more than 50% over the past year. In an initiation note, the broker said that near term sales of Adderall XR and HGT could drive increases in consensus and that modest pipeline success could drive company growth towards its mid teens sales growth goal. Moving on, Evo noted news that Petrofac (LON:PFC) had notched up its first production enhancement services contract from Petrom in Romania and assigned an “add” recommendation to the oilfield services company. The broker said Petrofac’s onshore and non-US exposure provided resilience in uncertain times and continued to offer upside through a substantial bidding pipeline.
Elsewhere, Evo reiterated a “buy” at Firestone Diamonds (LON:FDI), which has been awarded a mining licence for the BK11 kimberlite project in Botswana, where production is already underway. Likewise, property investor Wichford Plc (LON:WICH) retained its “buy” rating on news of an extended loan deal ahead of its next major refinancing. Evo said the news should help sentiment, but that it was still waiting for a solid bounce in the market for secondary properties (such as Wichford’s portfolio of job centres) to get the shares motoring.
Finally, Evo said investors would be disappointed that the Falkland Oil & Gas (LON:FOGL) Toroa-1 well in the South Falklands Basin had failed to find reservoired hydrocarbons – and no doubt those with a lack of appreciation of geography (let alone geology) will “beat up” all the Falklands exploration companies as a result. However, it said that smart investors would be aware of the massive geological and geographical “gap” between the South and North Falklands basins – the latter having been massively de-risked by the Sea Lion discovery made by Rockhopper Exploration (LON:RKH) . Attention will switch to the next prospect to be drilled – Ernest – a structure similar to the successful Sea Lion discovery in the North Falklands Basin.
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