AIM: Winners and losers (01/01-30/06/11)

by interactive investor |

The Alternative Investment Market (AIM) has endured a rocky ride in 2011, slipping from highs near 970 in February to lows of almost 830 at the end of June.

But within the index, the winners - and losers - have enjoyed (and endured) differing fortunes.

Having looked at the winners and losers on FTSE 250, here, we look at the five biggest climbers and five biggest fallers in the first half of the year...

* TOP FIVE WINNERS *

Sareum Holdings (385.71% rise in the six months)

Sareum Holdings became AIM's top performing stock in the first half of this year with a whopping 385.71% rise.

Leaving its fellow AIM-listed stocks its wake, the company watched its share price go from strength to strength as investors continued to flock to the cancer drug discovery specialist.

While the small cap drugs stock has been somewhat written off by investors in the past, this sector is undergoing a renaissance of sorts as investors cotton on to the fact that the big pharmaceuticals are stepping back from research to let the minnows take over.

And a burst of good news can do wonders for those in question, as Sareum Holdings knows all too well.

February proved a real turning point in the company's fortunes after it unveiled positive results from its pre-clinical in-vivo efficiency studies into adult leukaemia.

Formerly languishing around 0.3p per share, the Cambridge-headquartered company shot to in excess of 2.60p per share.

Following the positive results, Sareum raised £500,000 by way of placing 50 million new shares to accelerate the development of the Aurora+FLT3 Kinase leukaemia drug discovery programme.

In early March, Sareum and its collaborators announced positive in-vivo results from its CHK1 programme in a colon cancer study, renewing investor enthusiasm.

The company, which made its debut on AIM in October 2004, said its plan for the rest of this year was to progress its in-house cancer drug discovery pipeline in a bid to attract lucrative partnering deals with pharmaceutical companies.

"These positive studies in leukaemia and solid tumours have led to strong and sustained share price development which we expect will draw the attention of potential pharmaceutical partners," said Hybridan LLP, which has tagged the stock with a 'buy' recommendation.

Solo Oil (226.74%)

Solo Oil was flying the flag for the oil and gas juniors, with an impressive 202% jump over the last six months, making it the second best performing AIM stock over the first half.

The company, which has a strategy of acquiring companies and single assets in the Americas, Europe and Africa, saw its shares soar in April after an oil discovery was made at the Ausable #5 well in south western Ontario.

Music to investor's ears, the discovery of over 70 metres of net hydrocarbon pay prompted the company to say the well had a high probability of being productive. It began testing operations in mid-June.

Riding high, the company cashed in on its success with a £2.1 million equity placing to institutional investors in April.

A month later, it announced that it had entered into a binding heads of agreement with Reef Resources to earn a 38.1% direct working interest in the Ausable field and surrounding properties in South Western Ontario.

On a roll, the company recently announced plans for the drilling of an exploration well, Ntorya-1, in the Mtwara Block of the Ruvuma Basin in Tanzania along with Tullow Oil and Aminex.

In a further boost to investors, Solo's executive director Neil Ritson said that he feels confident that many more leads can be matured for drilling in the highly prospective and under-explored basin.

Fitbug Holdings (223.08%)

A provider of online coaching services, Fitbug Holdings has seen its shares rocket over 220% in the six months to 30 June.

Such an impressive performance perhaps doesn't initially tally with its latest results, as it reported losses of £871,000 for the year. But this figure represented a 64% reduction on the previous year's losses and the firm saw revenue increase by 30% to £1.13 million in the period.

So is Fitbug in fighting fit form and what is it that investors see in the company?

It was launched in 2005 and its aim is to help people "achieve their personal health and well-being goals without dramatically changing their lifestyle". In 2010, the business entered the US marketplace and released a new version of its software.

In April 2011, Fergus Kee was appointed as executive chairman, coming from 18 years with healthcare company Bupa.

In the Fitbug's latest results, Kee said: "The decision to join Fitbug and invest personally to take an 18.5% stake in the business was not one I took lightly or hurriedly. The business is now well placed to deliver future revenue and profit growth. The potential market opportunity is huge - obesity is now one of the biggest global health challenges. The market opportunity is most tangible in the US. The population is bigger and spend on healthcare much higher."

Since the period end, Fitbug has announced four new deals, suggesting its winning streak has continued.

Contracts have been signed with two major US corporations and two others with corporations based in Europe and the Middle East.

Service Power Technologies (207.69%)

Shares in ServicePower Technologies found favour with investors, climbing 207% over the past six months.

At the end of June, they surged to a three-year high after the software firm announced a contract win with a Tier 1 retailer worth up to £12.5 million.

Zoltav Resources (203.57%)

Zoltav Resources became the fifth best performing AIM stock of the year to date with a 203% rise in share price.

But the natural resources investment company has undergone a renaissance for the second half of the year with its name change on 1 July, having been formerly known as Crosby Asset Management.

 

* TOP FIVE LOSERS *

 

But where there are risers there are also fallers and inevitably, AIM-listed stocks suffered their fair share of declines this year.

Leed Petroleum (-99.47%)

Unlike some of its rivals, the first half of 2011 did not prove a winning period for Gulf of Mexico oil junior Leed Petroleum.

The US-headquartered oil and gas exploration and production group plunged 99.47%, making it the index's worst performing stock.

At the end of last year, Leed Petroleum revealed that it had called in Macquarie Tristone to undertake a strategic review, including the divestment of some or all of the company's oil and natural gas assets, secure a new bank credit facility and/or other potential transactions such as a merger with another company.

However, by March the company's story took a turn for the worse after it failed to reach a satisfactory deal in its discussions with UniCredit Bank, leaving its financial position uncertain and forcing it to suspend trading.

In a matter of days it had also suspended production, shutting in all wells and facilities in the Outer Continental Shelf.

But by May it announced it had found a buyer for all of its oil and gas assets - a private company which agreed to pay $16 million (£9.95 million), all of which will be used to satisfy debt owed to Unicredit Bank.

In turn, Leed said it would undergo a transformation to recapitalise the company as an investment vehicle, after it finally reached an agreement with UniCredit Bank to release it from the guarantee and security arrangements its had provided pursuant to its loan facilities.

But it was a move that failed to find favour with investors after the company admitted that it would need to reorganise its share capital, including the creation of new deferred shares and the consolidation of existing ordinary shares.

The group recommenced trading at the end of June, with 67,602,076 new consolidated ordinary shares of 0.1p but to a dismal reaction which saw its shares plummet nearly 90% in one day.

MBL Group (-90.83%)

MBL Group, a wholesaler of home entertainment products, became AIM's second-biggest casualty in the first half of the year - shedding over 90% as it battled tough trading conditions.

Back in January, the company admitted that the challenging trading environment seen in 2010 had continued to deteriorate, prompting it to announce that profit for the year ended 31 March would be substantially below expectations.

The board also confirmed to shareholders that it was not in any discussions with third parties that might lead to an offer.

But the trouble didn't end there for just six weeks later MBL Group announced that Morrisons Supermarket had terminated its two supply agreements with the company, effectively ending a 14-year relationship between the two. It was a huge blow for the company which said that in the financial year ended 31 March 2010, around 78% of its turnover related to sales to Morrisons.

The disappointing turn of events led MBL to significantly downsize its operations, including the axing of up to 50% of its employees.

In the wake of the termination, the company said its focus was on quickly securing a payment plan from Morrisons for the considerable stock it still held on its behalf. However, in June it told investors that it was disappointed that a conclusion had not yet been reached, sending its shares tumbling nearly 30% in one day to a 52-week low.

It also confirmed to shareholders that it was not in any discussions that might lead to an offer for the company.

Alexander David Investments (-89.52%)

Alexander David Investments became an investing company in February following the divestment of its trading subsidiary ReGen Therapeutics, but it wasn't enough to stave off an 89% drop in share price during the first half of the year.

WYG (-89.14%)

Since the start of the year design and engineering consultancy WYG has seen its shares plummet 89% to hover around 1.6p.

This poor performance has followed two years of lacklustre potential since the firm completed a "survival restructure" in 2009, which saw its banks take a 60.5% equity stake.

In the six months to 31 December 2010, WYG posted pre-tax losses of £2.6 million, compared to profit of £1.6 million in the same period a year earlier. But chief executive officer, Paul Hamer, said after two years of major restructuring the company now had an "appropriate operational and support structure".

Performance so far this year would suggest otherwise.

In a bid to move away from the tough economic conditions in Britain, WYG sold its UK engineering business Adams Kara for a cash consideration of £3.75 billion in April. It has also had to depend on its lenders accepting significant writedowns on the debts they are owed.

Near the end of June, Wyg held a share placing, which was oversubscribed by institutional investors and raised £30 million for it to use in paying down bank debt and building up cash reserves.

While senior executives in the company have patted themselves on the back for their achievements of the past two years, shareholder approval is still needed to finalise this latest restructuring. The company said it already has an 85% backing for its restructuring, but it's clear the remaining shareholders have given up hope, sold out and led to the firm's current depressed value.

Asset Co (-64.58%)

Asset Co took the undesirable moniker of AIM's fifth-worst performer over the past six months, with a 64.58% drop in share price.

After announcing towards the end of last year that it had concluded its asset disposal programme in a bid to restructure its balance sheet, by February it had hit a stumbling block after it announced that negotiations to restructure its financing had proved more laborious than expected and led to a significant strain on its cash resources.

As a result, the company was forced to go to investors cap in hand to raise £16 million after several creditors petitioned for the company to be wound up.

While it enjoyed a slight respite in March when it revealed it had received a preliminary approach from a third party, it proved a short-lived burst for AssetCo which admitted later than month that the £16 million fundraising was still not sufficient to meet its needs.

In a further blow to the company, chief executive John Shannon announced he would vote against the working capital resolutions, forcing it to suspend trading while it awaited an injunction requiring Shannon to vote in favour of all the resolutions.

Within a matter of days, Shannon was dismissed and became embroiled in a dispute with the new management team, calling for the company to be wound up.

In May, AssetCo said it had identified £7.9 million of "counterclaims" against him, stemming from alleged breaches of his "fiduciary duties".

Since then, suitors have been eagerly eyeing up the embattled company, with AssetCo confirming in mid-June that it was in talks with a number of parties. Names such as US marine and aviation services provider Seacor Holdings and Manchester-based Consilla have been bandied around.

Since period end, it has emerged that the company is in advanced talks with Bahraini investment group Arcapita over a rescue deal.