Has the London Stock Exchange finally woken up to the fact its AIM Augean Stables is in dire need of a very late spring clean? Over recent months a few clues have started to emerge that the LSE is covertly trying to regain control of its growth market and repair its battered reputation. The latest hint that something is afoot came via this morning’s piece in the Financial Times, with news that the LSE is going to tighten up the rules concerning cash shells. If this is an indicator of a wider initiative to sort out AIM it is something to celebrate. However if the LSE genuinely wants to restore confidence in the “world’s most successful growth market” it is also going to have to take some actions publicly, no matter how difficult they might be.
On Friday, I revealed the Texas Community Bank’s legal action against New World Oil & Gas (NEW) CEO Bill Kelleher for his apparent default on a $550,000 debt. This was immediately before New World listed on AIM. Mr Kelleher had secured his unpaid loan on his private yacht, Neftegaz. In the original action the Texas Community Bank sought to take possession of Neftegaz, but by January 14th 2014 it seems that Mr Kelleher still owed $298,846.25 of the original debt. On this date the US District Court Southern District of Texas granted an Order for Turnover Relief against Mr Kelleher. It ordered him to “turn over for levy to the Harris County Constable… within ten days… all shares of stock in New World Oil and Gas, PLC, except those that he is restricted from transferring or selling under the terms of the agreement with his employer, cash and securities in bank and safety deposit accounts totalling $298,846.25”. Funnily enough, I can’t find any reference to this court order in an RNS.
This morning I noted the final notice that Sunkar Resources (SKR) has left AIM. This draws to an end one of the more sorry episodes for this market in recent years, but many questions remain about the state of AIM. How could a company like Sunkar have been allowed to behave as it did for so long, without anyone stepping in? The answer to this is simple.
On March 31st this year, Kibo Mining (KIBO) raised £750,000 at 2.5p. The price of this placement was horrific, at a 42% discount to the previous close’s 65 day Moving Average (65MA) closing price. On March 28th Kibo’s 65MA closing price was 4.28p. In percentage terms, this was one of the worst recent cases of placement value destruction I have come across and there was a very strong suggestion that Kibo, and its shareholders, had been victim of blatant (and sloppy) forward selling. Forward selling is the term used to describe a version of market abuse whereby certain parties, armed with confidential “inside” information, use this to profit, by going heavily short a stock, which they know is trying to raise money. We see possible cases of forward selling of placements regularly on AIM and there is an impression that that the regulator is doing little to nothing about it. Below I have drafted an open letter to the FCA to ask them to investigate this matter.
If Strategic Natural Resources (SNRP) is to survive as a listed company and come back from suspension with any sort of credibility, it has only one option open to it. CEO and Chairman, Alex MacDonald has to go. Now. After this morning’s appalling RNS, there really is no other option. The funny thing is he’s only been in the job for about seven weeks and we are already calling for his head. I don’t imagine we are alone. With the recent resignation of the company’s Nomad, Allenby Capital, and news this morning that three non-execs have also jumped ship, Mr MacDonald surely has staked a major claim on next year’s Cesspit Awards. We salute his effort, but in the meantime the plank beckons...
On April Fool’s Day, I wasn’t joking when I asked if someone could please shoot AIM zombie Strategic Natural Resources (SNRP) in the head. I just didn’t expect it would be the company’s Nomad and Joint Broker, Allenby Capital, which would respond to this call and deliver the final kill shot! Given that Allenby is Nomad to AIM Cesspit champion Sefton Resources (SER), one really has to wonder how bad the situation must be for these guys to have walked out on Strategic Natural with immediate effect. This doesn’t bode well for shareholders, as the company has until 0700 on July 24th to find a replacement or that is it; curtains.
It is an immediate red flag for any stock listed on AIM, which holds its Annual General Meeting thousands of miles away. Irrespective of the nature of dual listings, companies on the London Stock Exchange should be directly accountable to British investors. Where shareholder approval is required, British investors should be given the opportunity to vote for or against proposals concerning the running of their companies. For God’s sake, this is the age of the Internet, so why should investors be expected to traipse all the way to the other end of the world, so they can take part in a show of hands vote in Perth, Western Australian? Funnily enough, speaking of Perth, this is exactly where Tangiers Petroleum (TPET) has just held its AGM, at which the board gained approved for approval for the company’s new and ludicrously generous Share Plan...
This morning, Kefi Minerals (KEFI) announced a £2.125million placement to fund its final takeover of the Tulu Kapi gold project, from Nyota Minerals (NYO). The company then followed this with an update concerning director purchases of 4.8million shares, worth roughly £72,000. With a clearly defined plan for the rest of 2014, which incorporates Kefi’s existing cash balance of £2million, does this presenting a buying opportunity for resource speculators on AIM?
The timing of this piece probably could be better. However, after last week’s revelation, about the 100million Citation shares held as collateral against the Platinum Partners loans, it surely must now fall on the AIM Investigations Team to examine the conduct of Range Resources (RRL) and its former Nomad, RFC Ambrian, over this matter. Irrespective of how the share price has performed over the last week or so, it appears that a material breach of the AIM rules has occurred. Range appears to have admitted this, so how will the London Stock Exchange respond?
Sefton Resources (SER) issued an “Update on Refinancing” forty five minutes ago. In it, the company says “the Inter-creditor Agreement provides for the Funder to advance additional subordinated loans to the Group in two instalments which will fund up to two 30 day extensions of the existing borrowing facilities with the Bank”. The “Bank” in question is Bank of the West (not specified by Sefton in its announcement) and these “two 30 day extensions” scream loud and clear what a desperate situation this company is in.
I definitely don’t blame the directors of Bellzone Mining (BZM) for the blatant pump and dump of their stock over the last week or so. To their credit, this board has been entirely forthcoming with the market about their need for finance and timetable for securing it. Anyone who bought into the sudden and unexplained enthusiasm for Bellzone’s stock on May 27th and May 28th was probably asking for trouble, as it was clear a discounted placement was imminent. Even so, this is yet another example of why shares on AIM should be suspended as soon as the company concerned starts the process of raising money.
This morning, Range Resources (RRL) slipped out yet another crucial detail concerning the controversial Platinum Partners loans, which it had previously failed to inform shareholders adequately about. It turns out that as well as the 100million shares in Range held as collateral, Platinum also held the 100million of Range’s shares in Citation Resources, held in trust. Together, these blocks of shares are worth roughly £1.91million, based on last seen prices. It is anyone’s guess what else Range has failed to update the market properly about, but if you really believe this is a company experiencing a new dawn then dream on.
Peter Levine, Chairman of President Energy (PPC), has a lot riding on the company’s success. After Tuesday’s purchase of another 250,000 shares, he now holds 19.38% of President’s stock. This is the second purchase by Mr Levine, at just over 30p, since the company’s deeply discounted placement in February. There is little doubt this fundraising did a lot of damage to sentiment toward’s President stock, but as the end of May approaches, and the company is due to spud the first of three exploration wells in Paraguay, will speculators be tempted to follow Mr Levine’s lead?