MARKET REPORT: Biotech minnows help junior market Aim high


The stock market turbulence triggered by Covid may have battered the FTSE 100 last year – but new figures show London’s junior market managed to thrive.

The AIM All-Share index rose 21 per cent in 2020, ending the year at 1157.04, up from 958.26 at the end of 2019. The blue-chip index, in contrast, fell by 14.3 per cent.

Even though AIM lost more than a third of its value when the pandemic took hold of markets in February and March, Covid was also key to its recovery. 

On the rise: The AIM all-share index rose by 21 per cent in 2020, ending the year at 1157.04, up from 958.26 at the end of 2019

On the rise: The AIM all-share index rose by 21 per cent in 2020, ending the year at 1157.04, up from 958.26 at the end of 2019

The rise was in part fuelled by biotechnology tiddlers that mobilised rapidly to become some of the key firms in the pandemic response.

Novacyt (up 5.4 per cent, or 46p, to 898p) rocketed in value by 6523 per cent after developing tests for the virus – and at one point climbed higher than 9000 per cent.

Fellow testing groups Avacta (up 11.5 per cent, or 14p, to 136p) and Omega Diagnostics (up 0.8 per cent, or 0,5p, to 61p) rose by 561 per cent and 354 per cent respectively, while Covid treatment developer Synairgen (down by 4.9 per cent, or 8p, to 154p) raced 2504 per cent higher.

The green revolution was also in full swing, according to accountancy group BDO, as alternative energy firms made huge gains –such as Eqtec (down 8 per cent, or 0.22p, to 2.54p), which ballooned in value by 2152 per cent. 

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Stock Watch – Getech Group 

Getech Group was among the top risers on AIM after inking a £563,000 deal.

It secured the multi-year licensing agreement, with an unnamed company, for one of its software products which helps energy firms find resources by providing data about how the earth’s geology has changed over millions of years. 

They can then estimate where oil or natural gas reserves might be.

Shares in the group, which is worth around £6million, rose 1.7 per cent, or 0.25p, to 14.75p.

The number of trades made on AIM also mushroomed, rising 69 per cent to 17m, as amateur traders scrambled to make money on see-sawing markets.

This was backed up by figures from spread better Plus500, which yesterday said it had notched up a record performance in 2020. 

Use of its stockbroking platform has surged and the group, whose shares fell 0.1 per cent, or 1p, to 1420p, forecast revenues to morethan double to around £610million.

The AIM All-Share rose by 0.4 per cent, or 4.33 points, to 1161.37, and the London Stock Exchange’s two premier indexes also advanced.

The Footsie rose 0.61 per cent, or 40.37 points, to 6612.25, while the FTSE 250 climbed 087 per cent, or 179.48 points, to finish at 20,717.37. The upbeat mood was echoed worldwide, with Wall Street making gains after a US sell-off on Monday.

The S&P 500, the Nasdaq and the Dow Jones all climbed at least 0.3 per cent yesterday afternoon. In China stocks closed at their highest level since 2008.

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Broker notes were behind some London gains. Software giant Aveva rose 7.1 per cent, or 231p, to 3506p after UBS upgraded it from ‘neutral’, citing the quality of a business, Osisoft, it is buying. 

Royal Mail rose 4.3 per cent, or 14.5p, to 356p, after Berenberg analysts upgraded it to ‘neutral’ from ‘sell’. 

They noted it had held up fairly well during Covid, especially as parcel posting has surged. IT group Softcat was in the good books after it said it was trading better than expected in the first half. It rose 8.1 per cent, or 114p, to 1514p.

It was a mixed bag for airlines as Wizz Air and Ryanair both said passenger numbers were down more than 80 per cent in December compared with the year before.

Easyjet and British Airways-owner IAG both said they would take another look at their flying schedules as UK ministers mull plans to halt international flights.

Wizz shares fell 0.6 per cent, or 26p, to 4488p, Ryanair by 2.2 per cent, or 0.34 cents, to €15.04, Easyjet slid 1.4 per cent, or 11p, to 753.8p, but IAG rose 0.3 per cent, or 0.4p, to 149.45p.

Oil prices shot 5 per cent higher after the Opec Plus cartel agreed to curb supply over the next two months, to boost prices as countries go back into lockdown, slashing the amount of oil used in public transport and by airlines.

Brent crude was $53.60 following the pact – one of its highest prices since last February. BP rose 7.1 per cent, or 18p, to 272.5p while Shell rose 6.3 per cent, or 79p, to 1337.6p.

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