Avacta – 117p

11 May 2020 – update on progress

The company has announced that it has shipped Affimer reagents for Covid-19 antigen testing to its diagnostic test development partners Cytiva and Adeptrix ahead of schedule.  Cytiva will work with Avacta to develop a saliva test for mass population screening to diagnose Covid-19 and hopes to have a prototype within a few weeks.  Adeptrix is working on another project to develop a Covid-19 laboratory test to run on hospital mass spectrometers.  The shares remain a SPECULATIVE BUY.

Vertu Motors – 25.7p

7 May 2020 – trading update

A detailed trading update has been provided by the automotive retailer.  Following the introduction of the UK Government’s social distancing restrictions which came into effect on 23 March, all retail vehicle sales and aftersales operations were temporarily closed from the close of business on 24 March, with vehicle sales deliveries suspended.  On-line and telephone sales operations have continued and an order bank had been built up since 25 March, comprising 825 retail vehicle orders and 749 fleet and commercial orders as at the date of the announcement on 7 May.  The majority of the dealership aftersales operations were reopened in late March and have been providing vital service and repair services to key workers, vehicles undertaking essential activities and vulnerable customers who rely on their cars.  Van repairs have also represented a significant level of work undertaken.  Costs are being managed very closely with the furlough scheme being used to temporarily layoff approximately 80% of staff.   Careful control of site closures has delivered other cost savings, including an approximate 60% saving on dealership energy costs versus the month prior to closure.  Adjusted net debt, excluding used vehicle stocking loans, was £2.8m at 29 February 2020 and a further £10m of the revolving credit facility was drawn in March.  Although the immediate future is uncertain the company is well managed and should ride out the current difficult situation.  We keep our BUY rating.

ITV – 74.36p

6 May 2020 – trading update

A trading update has been provided for the first quarter of 2020.  Total external revenue was down 7% at £694m (2019: £743m).  Total ITV Studios revenue was down 11% at £342m (2019: £385m), impacted by the phasing of deliveries and restrictions on working practices due to Covid-19.  Broadcast revenue was up 2% at £500m (2019: £489m).  ITV total advertising was up 2% and online revenues were up 26%.  ITV total viewing was up 2% with very strong growth in online viewing up 75%, simulcast viewing up 112% and reach up 40% on the ITV Hub.  ITV main channel’s share of viewing was slightly higher at 17.9%, its best quarter since 2009.  ITV Family share of viewing was down 2% at 23.6%, partly impacted by the volume of the BBC’s news output.  We continue to rate the shares as a BUY.

Avacta – 108p

6 May 2020 – final results

The company has issued its results for the 17 month period to 31 December although given the stage of the group’s development and the more recent events relating to coronavirus these are really irrelevant.  Revenue for the period rose to £5.5m (year to 31 July 2018: £2.8m) whilst the loss before tax was £18.1m (year to 31 July 2018: £10.4m).  Despite these results the shares remain a SPECULATIVE BUY

Carr’s Group – 117.75p

4 May – director dealing

Since the release of interim results last month there have been a number of share purchases by directors.  Most recently, Finance Director Neil Austin added 4,500 shares to his holding at an average price of 114.48p on 1 May.  He had been buying more significant amounts alongside Chief Executive Officer Tim Davies last month and Non-Executive Director Ian Wood also bought 10,000 shares at 116.09p each on 30 April, taking his holding to 30,000.  We continue to rate the shares as a BUY.

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