Market Report: Sirius takes a big crash on its potash

A visit by inspectors from North York Moors national park caused jitters in the City yesterday for potash miner Sirius Minerals.

The group is planning a £1bn potash mine on the north Yorkshire coast but it has to please planners before it can start work.

Yesterday it said that members of the park authority have decided to pay a visit to the site before the determination date for planning on 2 July.

Sirius insisted this was good news and managing director and chief executive Chris Fraser said: "We welcome the fact the determination process is in full swing as this remains an extremely compelling application and project for both the local area and the UK as a whole."

But investors disagreed and after the announcement yesterday, the shares crashed more than 9 per cent – or 2.75p - to 25.25p.

AIM-listed Sirius hopes to get the go-ahead to build the development to mine lucrative potash, used in fertiliser. Global demand for fertiliser has pushed the potash price beyond $450 a tonne.

The valuable commodity lies beneath farmland in Yorkshire and Sirius has spent two years negotiating with up to 400 farmers to access the minerals below. If Sirius does get the OK, the deal will make many of the landowners wealthy thanks to a royalty payment scheme that could pay out £1bn over 50 years.

The City may not have reacted well yesterday but Sirius had better news on Tuesday when it upgraded the estimated mineral resource at the project.

Traders said the FTSE 100 "took a pause for breath", after five days of gains, but despite just a small gain yesterday the table managed to record a new five-and-a-half-year high. It powered on another 9.26 points to 6592.74 – the highest it has been since October 2007.

Experian, the world's largest credit data company, reported a 7 per cent rise in profit and it took the top spot, up 75p to 1,247p.

BG Group, which was spun out of the former British Gas group in 1997, last year said production for 2013 would flatline and revealed a series of delays to projects from the North Sea to Brazil. But yesterday a note from analysts at Deutsche Bank claimed BG was at a "turning point for business momentum".

They think it is a good time for punters to pile in to the oil giant ahead of its strategy day next Tuesday when new chief executive Chris Finlayson will set out his stall.

They argue that the shares look cheap compared with European peers and say "it is hard not to believe that the execution risks are now firmly in the price". Deutsche rates the oil and gas group a buy, up from hold, with a 1,400p price target for shares that were 17.5p better at 1,202p.

Diageo's investor webcast on brand innovation helped it toast a 6.5p gain to 1,993.5p. Earlier this week chief executive Paul Walsh announced he was stepping down but the share price barely moved and yesterday the group, which uses actress Christina Hendricks as the face of its Johnnie Walker ads, said brand innovations were driving sales including the launch of Smirnoff Iced Cake and Kissed Caramel in the US and the Johnnie Walker Explorer's Club Collection. But the owner of Brent Cross, Hammerson, disappointed when it revealed the occupancy of its shopping centres has dropped and the shares lost 4p to 540p.

Kazakh miner ENRC lost 11.9p to 291.5p when it emerged brokers Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank had resigned from the miner that is facing a Serious Fraud Office investigation.

BSkyB took the wooden spoon and declined 53p to 809p when BT announced plans for free sports channels for broadband customers. Rival broadband provider Talk Talk took the same position on the mid-tier table, down 30.9p to 221.6p.

Supermarkets group Morrisons reported a fall in underlying sales and checked out 8p down to 288.4p. Its potential distribution deal with online grocery specialist Ocado has not yet been completed and its shareholders were disappointed that a deal was not ready to be announced. Ocado edged back 1.4p to 208.6p on the mid cap index.

Over on Aim, Roxi Petroleum revealed its first test results at the South Yelemes project and it jetted 0.5p to 3.62p.

Organics recycler TEG Group said it has recycled more than 1 million tonnes of waste at its composting facilities since it started operations in 2006 – the waste could fill Wembley stadium – and its shares produced a 0.12p gain to 6.5p.

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