Market Report: African Minerals falls as mine falters

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The Independent Online

It is usually retailers that blame the weather for bad business but it was the turn of Frank Timis's African Minerals to blame wet weather for a cut in production targets at its Sierra Leone flagship mine.

AIM's largest company by market cap became one of its largest fallers after it lowered targets at its Tonkolili iron ore project in Sierra Leone. The slash in production forecasts is African Minerals' second this year. Its shares sank 16.6 per cent, down 49.75p to 250p.

Mr Timis, the Romanian-born executive chairman, is well-known in the City for his colourful, if controversial career. The resources investor rose to prominence again three years ago for his association with Regal Petroleum, which was handed the largest ever AIM fine for misleading announcements during his tenure. At his newest venture, African Minerals, Mr Timis last month oversaw the sale of a 25 per cent stake in the mine in a $1.5bn deal with China's state-owned Shandong Iron & Steel Group.

Jefferies' analyst Seth Rosenfeld said: "While these moves are clearly a negative, we believe that current targets are now significantly more attainable." He cut the mineral exploration group's price tag to 550p from 800p.

Analysts at Merchant Securities argued that the company "has achieved a lot during the last 18 months in bringing the Tonkolili mine on-stream, and the potential of new management should not be overlooked as the company ramps up production."

Those traders still at their desks after lunch were woken up with a jolt when Marks & Spencer's share price shot up again on renewed reports that a private equity bid could be in the offing. The shares, having climbed around 11 per cent over the past month, rallied again and finished up 15.2p to 371.7p after a Bloomberg report revealed that the private equity firm CVC Capital Partners had previously taken a look at the retailer. City spinners played down the rumours, but the chat was enough to leave the high-street bellwether as the biggest riser on the FTSE 100.

It might have been a pretty quiet week in the run-up to the August bank holiday, but David Lenigas has been keeping busy. Mr Lenigas, a serial entrepreneur with a busy schedule (he has scores of directorships as well as the chairmanship of Africa-focused Lonrho), still found the time to hire lawyers over a dispute on the sale of oil wells near the sleepy island of Malta.

Mr Lenigas is one of the larger-than-life characters in the penny share world. His Leni Gas & Oil is seeking legal advice following a sale of a stake in oil wells off the coast of Malta.

Leni Gas said it is "surprised" by Mediterranean Oil & Gas's deal with Genel in Malta and said it "is seeking immediate advice" from its litigation lawyers, Mishcon de Reya.

The source of the dispute is thought to be Leni Gas's sale last week of its 10 per cent interest, for a nominal $1, in wells near Malta to a subsidiary of Mediterranean. Just over a week later and Mediterranean agreed a multimillion-pound deal to sell a 75 per cent stake in these wells to Genel.

Leni Gas and Mediterranean, both advised by the PR firm Pelham Bell Pottinger, refused to comment any further on the quarrel, leaving AIM watchers to speculate for themselves.

Mediterranean's shares fell slightly, 0.5p to 13.6p. Leni Gas ended static at 0.68p. Developing, as they say ...

Another AIM-listed oil and gas company, Faroe Petroleum, plummeted 8.8 per cent, down 14p to 145.25, on disappointing results from the Cooper well in the Norwegian sea.

In the wider markets, uncertainty was still swirling as eurozone bigwigs continued to negotiate. The FTSE 100, down most of the day, ended flat at 5776.6, helped by the boost in activity at Marks & Spencer.

The heavyweight miners dragged down the index, with the copper miner Kazakhmys sinking again. It lost 20p to 660.5p. Kazakhmys confirmed on Thursday that an outright sale of its 26 per cent stake in rival Kazakh copper miner Eurasian Natural Resources has become less likely, given uncertain equity markets. Eurasian dipped further yesterday, down 12.6p to 338.9p. Analysts at ING said Eurasian may need to consider selling some assets or raise capital via new equity due to its climbing debts.