HSBC PLC (LON:HSBA) dipped 4% to 427.6p before close as the banking sector continued to be damaged by bond yields losing ground.

The bank was the largest faller in the FTSE 100 index after Investec downgraded it to ‘sell’.

An already bad day of trading wasn’t helped by an employee testing positive for COVID-19 in the Hong Kong office, so the group had to vacate an entire floor of its headquarters and ask staff to work from home unless necessary.

2.45pm: Rolls-Royce moves higher despite posting £4bn full-year loss

Rolls-Royce PLC (LON:RR.) moved 2% higher to 114.95p in the afternoon despite posting an underlying loss of nearly £4bn in 2020.

Investors were perhaps relieved to see that early action regarding durability issues on the Trent XWB announced in August did not result in any grounded aircraft, with no extra charge.

Operating profits for 2020 were in fact boosted by a £620mln provision write-back for the ongoing Trent 1000 repair programme due to Covid-19 in a rare bit of good news from the pandemic.

The engine maker added it expects a gradual market recovery in 2021, with a slow start to the year but accelerating in the second half as global vaccine rollouts progress and travel restrictions ease.

1pm: Blackbird surges after agreement with Australian edu-tech group Typsy

Blackbird PLC (LON:BIRD) surged 8% to 25.48p at lunchtime after establishing a three-year agreement with Typsy, an Australian educational technology group.

The AIM-quoted firm will provide its cloud-based video editing platform for e-learning content designed for the hospitality industry.

“From our perspective, e-learning and corporate communications video content are high growth verticals and ones for which Blackbird is a strong and effective solution,” commented Ian McDonough, Blackbird chief executive.

11.55am: Mining, Minerals & Metals lower after potential strategic investment falls through

Mining, Minerals & Metals PLC (LON:MMM) declined 12% to 7.5p at lunchtime after discussions with a potential strategic investor have ended.

The company, which was developed to acquire businesses involved in natural resources exploration, announced in December these talks may have resulted in the potential investor acquiring over 30% in the voting rights.

It added that it is reviewing a number of potential opportunities in the natural resources space and hopes to make progress on finding a suitable acquisition.

10.55am: Cannabis shares Cellular Goods and Kanabo see high demand

Cannabis shares Cellular Goods PLC (LON:CBX) and Kanabo Group PLC (LON:KNB) continued to show more than mere green shoots of growth for shareholders, rising more than 6% and 1.5% respectively in the late morning.

Fastforward Innovations Ltd (LON:FFWD), a backer in the fervent floats of both shares in recent weeks, this morning revealed quickfire returns on investment.

The investment group realised gains of 315% and 223% respectively as it sold its entire shareholdings – having previously been disappointed by smaller than hoped for holdings in both, as the IPO’s of each were significantly oversubscribed.

Following a stellar start to publicly traded life for both, FFWD’s share sales provide a £194,414 gross profit on funds committed in late February and early March.

It comes on the back of FFWD’s record £1.9mln investment profit, announced on Wednesday, as it agreed to sell out of another cannabis play under the influence of regulatory factors – created by looming acquisition of the investee by a North American group with interest that include recreational cannabis products.

10am: Clear Leisure drops after court hearing suffers COVID-19 delay

Clear Leisure PLC (LON:CLP) dropped 18% to 2.55p in mid-morning after the hearing due to be held on Wednesday was rescheduled to May 26 because of COVID-19 delays at the Court of Venice.

The investor said it remains confident of the outcome of the litigation against Sipiem’s previous management and internal audit committee.

“Given the advanced stage of the process, the remaining legal work will require very limited involvement of the company’s management, allowing the main focus of the company to be its new cryptocurrencies investment strategy,” executive chairman and chief executive Francesco Gardin commented.

Elsewhere, Smartspace Software PLC (LON:SMRT) slipped 11% to 124p after forecasting a 10% fall in revenues to £4.6mln for the year to January 31.

The software provider said its markets in Australia and New Zealand remain strong, the US has held up well while the UK is beginning to show signs of recovery.

It plans to focus sales efforts on higher value customers in the mid-market where there is potential for revenue expansion through cross-sell and multiple location sales.

8.40am: 7digital rises early on contract with Chinese social media giant Kuaishou

7digital Group PLC (LON:7DIG) was an early riser on Thursday, surging 35% to 1.725p after inking a two-year contract with Chinese social media giant Kuaishou.

The end-to-end digital music solutions firm will provide mobile apps with licensed music globally.

The AIM-listed company said the contract strengthens its revenue visibility as it includes a set-up fee, a monthly recurring access fee and a usage fee.

Talking about contracts with Asian behemoths, EQTEC PLC (LON:EQT) jumped 21% to 1.94p on the back of a three-year collaboration with Toyota Motor Manufacturing.

The gasification technology company has been called in to look at a waste-to-energy solution for Toyota’s engine manufacturing plant between Chester and Liverpool.

The Deeside RDF (Refuse Derived Fuel) project seeks to provide the local community, Toyota and other potential users with a decentralised energy source, with EQTEC acting as land developer and technology provider.

Proactive news headlines

BATM Advanced Communications (LON:BVC; TASE:BVC) has launched a new self-collected saliva-based coronavirus test that significantly improves the sample collection process and turnaround time while maintaining diagnostic accuracy.

Evgen Pharma PLC (LON:EVG) said there were no safety or data issues around its lead compound, which is being used treat people in acute respiratory distress, including those with severe coronavirus.

Kanabo Group PLC (LON:KNB) and Cellular Goods PLC (LON:CBX) proved to be fruitful investments for FastForward Innovations Ltd (LON: FFWD) which today confirmed the profitable exit from its shareholding in both companies.

EQTEC PLC (LON:EQT), the gasification technology company, has been called in to look at a waste-to-energy solution for Toyota’s engine manufacturing plant in Deeside. EQTEC is already working on a refuse-derived fuel project to be located next door to Toyota’s Deeside plant in Flintshire, Wales. 

Esken Limited (LON:ESKN), the aviation and energy infrastructure group, saw its shares rise in early deals after reporting an encouragingly low level of cash burn.  Thanks to strict financial division, cash burn – excluding the Stobart Air and Propius parts of the business – was just £9.4mln in the six months to the end of February.

Greatland Gold PLC (LON:GGP) said it has seen high grades of gold and copper from further drilling at the Havieron deposit in Western Australia. Work primarily focused on infill drilling of the South East Crescent and Breccia Zone and all 26 new drill holes intersected mineralisation.

Oriole Resources PLC (LON:ORR) was upbeat on the results of an air-core drilling programme at the northernmost Faré prospect of the Senala project in Senegal.

88 Energy Ltd (LON:88E) told investors that drilling has now begun for the Merlin-1 exploration well in the North Slope area of Alaska.

Panthera Resources PLC (LON:PAT) said eight high priority drill targets had been highlighted at the Kalaka gold project in Mali following the completion of an induced polarisation (IP) survey.

Emmerson PLC (LON:EML) said higher potash prices will increase its financing options as its moves to take the Khemisset potash project in Morocco into production. The company plans to start building the potash mine, Africa’s first, by the end of 2021 and to commence production in 2023.

Gfinity PLC (LON:GFIN) said it has signed a commercial agreement with IQONIQ, a fan engagement platform, to become its official esports and gaming partner for the next three years.

Blackbird PLC (LON:BIRD) shares traded higher in Thursday’s early deals as it was selected by Australia headquartered educational technology group Typsy, which will use the AIM-quoted firm’s cloud-based video editing platform via a three-year agreement.

Frontier IP Group PLC (LON:FIPP) said inSignals Neurotech, in which it holds a 33% stake, has received a €100,000 investment from Portugal Ventures, a leading Portuguese venture capital firm.

Open Orphan PLC (LON:ORPH) said two scientists from its hVIVO unit have had their article published in the Journal for Clinical Studies. Entitled ‘Hot Topics – Vaccine Solutions for Tropical Diseases’, it was written by Adrian Wildfire, hViVO’s director of scientific and business strategy and Bruno Speder, VP of regulatory affairs and consultancy services.

City Pub Group PLC (LON:CPC) has appointed Emma Fox as an independent non-executive director with immediate effect. Currently CEO of Berry Bros & Rudd, Fox has over 30 years of experience in the retail, leisure, and drinks sectors.

Tavistock Investments PLC (LON:TAVI) has moved its annual shareholder meeting to 11.30am on Wednesday, 7 April 2021. 

Faron Pharmaceuticals Oy (LON:FARN) chief executive Dr Markku Jalkanen will present at the virtual Oppenheimer 31st Annual Healthcare Conference on Thursday, March 18, 2021 at 10:40am ET (3.40pm GMT). An audio webcast of the presentation will be available in the Investors section on Faron’s website.

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