Market Report: Court ruling gives Pathfinder a boost

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The Independent Online

Shares in Pathfinder Minerals shot up like a rocket yesterday, more than doubling after the Aim-listed miner won a landmark, High Court ruling in a dispute with a former African director over who owns its key asset.

The company's shares jumped 1p to 1.87p, after Judge Richard Field ruled it had legally acquired the two titanium licences in Mozambique which represent the company's sole asset.

The judge rebutted claims by General Jacinto Soares Veloso, the former African director who remains a major shareholder in Pathfinder, that he and associates in fact own the licences, through Pathfinder Mocambique, a similar-sounding company that he set up.

But the General, whom the judge also blocked from interfering with Pathfinder Minerals, wasn't having any of it.

In a statement which will cause some discomfort to Pathfinder's shareholders, General Veloso's spokesman said he and his group "are confident that while it is likely to last several years for this case to be finally resolved, they will be successful in defending their rights of ownership under Mozambique law".

Pathfinder dismissed the General's comments, pointing to Judge Field's assertion in his judgement that "expert evidence" has persuaded him that the judgement is "likely to be recognised and enforced in Mozambique".

Still, the General's continued opposition may help explain why, even after yesterday's court ruling-inspired leap, Pathfinders' shares were still only trading at about half their level at the end of last year, before the ownership dispute came bursting into the open.

While Pathfinder's shares may have staged the mother of rallies yesterday, the FTSE 100 was subdued overall – in stark contrast to 25 years earlier to the day, when Black Monday wiped billions of pounds off its value. The FTSE 100 dipped by 20.9 points, or 0.3 per cent, to close at 5,896.15 points yesterday, as declines among banks and mining stocks tipped the index into negative territory.

Rio Tinto fell 59.5p to 3,200.5p and Xstrata lost 13.8p to end the day at 990.7p as continuing concerns about the Chinese economy fuelled fears that the world's biggest consumer of metals may lower the country's demand for their wares.

Meanwhile, Barclays fell by 6.85p to 233.85p and Lloyds Banking Group declined by 1.38p to 40.49p, amid uncertainty about the eurozone crisis.

BP dipped slightly, losing 1.65p to end the day at 450.4p, as the market eagerly anticipated an announcement on the future of the TNK-BP joint venture. The group is thought to have received a $28bn (£17bn) cash and shares offer for its half of the Russian joint venture from Rosneft which BP is expected to agree to and announce next week.

Elsewhere, housebuilder Redrow was among the biggest fallers, tumbling by 6.1p, or 3.75 per cent, to 156.4p after founder, chairman and 40 per cent shareholder Steve Morgan abandoned his mooted 165p-a-share offer for the rest of the company after the Takeover Panel deadline – twice extended – ran out with no agreement.

Mr Morgan was forced to throw in the towel amid concerns from investors such as Fidelity, the company's third-biggest shareholder with a 10 per cent stake, that his bid – made as part of a consortium which controlled more than 57 per cent of Redrow's shares – would be unfair to smaller shareholders.

Fidelity pointed out that the smaller shareholders would have little power to oppose the deal, which only needs 75 per cent acceptance to be voted through and argued that the price was too low.

The fallout from the strikes that have paralysed the South African mining industry continued yesterday with Shaft Sinkers, the mineshaft specialist, warning that disruptions would hit its bottom line. Its shares fell by xp to xp.

Shares in Spectris jumped by 185.0p, or 11.6 per cent, to 1,779.0p as the testing equipment maker reported a 12 per cent increase in third-quarter sales and said it was on track to deliver its expectations for the year.

The news was all the more cheering because it contrasted with recent profits warnings from Cookson, the materials technology group, and GKN, the car and plane parts maker, as tough markets in Europe and China took their toll on engineers.

Rank Group, the leisure group, reported an encouraging, 4 per cent increase in sales for the 15 weeks to 14 October, but its shares still dipped, by 1.2p to 151.2p, as the company said that the outlook remained challenging.