MARKET REPORT: Metals miner Fresnillo hit by delays and gold dip

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Precious metals miner Fresnillo was underground after a new milling plant at one of its projects was hit by delays.

Shares in the FTSE 100 digger sank 2.4 per cent, or 21p, to 872p following news the plant at the Juanicipio gold and silver mine in Mexico, in which it owns a 56 per cent stake, had not yet received permission to be connected to the national power grid.

The country’s state-owned electricity operator said the hold up was due to a shortage of workers caused by Covid-19.

Slump: Shares in Fresnillo sank 2.4% following news the plant at the Juanicipio gold and silver mine in Mexico, in which it owns a 56% stake. Pictured is the firm's Minera Saucito site

Slump: Shares in Fresnillo sank 2.4% following news the plant at the Juanicipio gold and silver mine in Mexico, in which it owns a 56% stake. Pictured is the firm’s Minera Saucito site

As a result, the timeline for the plant has been pushed back by six months. To mitigate the damage caused by the delay, the company is planning to use any spare capacity at its Minera Fresnillo and Minera Saucito projects to process any material mined from Juanicipio, which will be used to supplement its cash flow until the plant is up and running.

‘While frustrating for all concerned, we recognise this situation is beyond the control of all parties’, said Fresnillo boss Octavio Alvidrez.

Fresnillo’s shares were also weighed down by a dip in gold prices, which fell nearly 0.9 per cent as fading concerns over the Omicron variant dampened demand for safer assets. Silver prices also dropped by 1.5 per cent.

Stock Watch – James Fisher & Sons 

Shares in James Fisher & Sons bobbed higher after it settled a dispute over funds from a suspended gas project in Mozambique.

The group, which provides marine engineering services, has received all outstanding cash owed to it from the project, which will be used to cut down on debts.

The settlement will also cover some of its costs into next year should the project not restart in the short term.

Shares surged 28.7 per cent, or 87.25p, to 391.75p.  

The FTSE 100 was up 0.7 per cent, or 48.59 points, to 7420.69 – the highest since the pandemic struck – while the FTSE 250 bounced 1.1 per cent, or 246.84 points, to 23,517.27.

Optimism has been boosted over the festive season by a steady stream of reports that Omicron may result in lower numbers of patients ending up in hospital. 

Boris Johnson’s plans not to introduce any new restrictions before New Year’s Eve also raised hopes that there will be no harsh lockdown in January.

The optimism lifted retailers, with Next up 2.1 per cent, or 166p, to 8110p, Primark owner AB Foods climbed 1.3 per cent, or 24p, to 2014p, and home furnishings seller Dunelm jumped 2 per cent, or 27p, to 1399p. 

Pubs and bar stocks also got a boost. JD Wetherspoon added 0.4 per cent, or 3.5p, to reach 933p, while Revolution Bars flowed 3.4 per cent, or 0.75p, higher to 23p.

Some in the sector were less fortunate, with Wagamama owner The Restaurant Group falling 1.7 per cent, or 1.6p, to 92.9p after data emerged that sales at pubs, bars and restaurants on Christmas Day were 60 per cent lower than in 2019.

Lockdown measures and travel restrictions in other countries also held back some travel stocks, with British Airways owner IAG down 2.2 per cent, or 3.18p, at 143.46p while easyJet fell 2.3 per cent, or 12.8p, to 550.2p and package holiday outfit TUI descended 6.2 per cent, or 15.2p, to 232.3p. 

The slump followed data that showed international flights to and from the UK plunged by 71 per cent in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Cruise ship outfit Carnival was also underwater, plunging 4.6 per cent, or 67p, to 1395.4p as it warned that one of its vessels, the Queen Mary 2, will skip a scheduled stop in New York due to concerns over the Omicron variant.

Meanwhile, pharma giant AstraZeneca was looking healthy, rising 0.6 per cent, or 45p, to 8656p, after it closed a multi-million-pound deal with Californian biotech firm Ionis Pharmaceuticals.

The companies will jointly develop and sell eplontersen, a drug designed to treat TTR amyloidosis, a rare disease that stops organs from working effectively.

Mid-cap oil rig owner Diversified Energy also added 2.7 per cent, or 2.8p, to reach 106.4p after it sold a section of undeveloped land in Texas, netting around £26.7million in cash.

The funds will be used to reduce the company’s borrowing.

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