The Week In Review: The Crazy Frog leads the ring tone revolution

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The Crazy Frog looks set to be number one in the pop charts for the third week. The world has not gone mad, though. The ringtone-turned-pop-song is the logical next step in the convergence of the entertainment and the telecoms industries, and the gradual morphing of your mobile into your MP3 player.

The Crazy Frog looks set to be number one in the pop charts for the third week. The world has not gone mad, though. The ringtone-turned-pop-song is the logical next step in the convergence of the entertainment and the telecoms industries, and the gradual morphing of your mobile into your MP3 player.

Monstermob is benefiting from this revolution. The company is, in effect, a retailer, selling its wares - ringtones, wallpapers, games and, increasingly, pop songs in full - over the phone network for downloading to your phone. It has grown into a company worth £175m, and (if you look at the valuation applied to its rival iTouch when it agreed a takeover by a Japanese firm in April) is undervalued still.

The risks are that the subscriber model will break down, and there are already complaints about children being sucked into paying regularly for new content without fully understanding the terms.

Margins, too, should fall since Monstermob is selling the Crazy Frog's single for £4.50 when it is available for 79p on iTunes. For now, though, the phenomenal growth is the main story. Buy.

NORTHUMBRIAN WATER

After having the lowest dividend in the water sector, Northumbrian Water has made a bold promise: a dividend increase of at least 3 per cent on top of inflation each year for the next five.

That should take its yield up to the average. It also speaks volumes about the management's confidence in the business and its finances. Buy.

FKI

FKI has done a good job at slimming down its portfolio of diverse engineering businesses and focusing them, where possible, on specialist niches where it can demonstrate a superior product and charge higher prices.

The trouble is, there are still a large number of mundane products within the business, even now, and prospects for the group as a whole are mixed. The shares are not exciting enough to buy.

IFX

IFX, which owns the spread betting firm Finspreads, has been a disappointment, most recently because it lost a load of money to its foreign exchange clients when the dollar took a tumble last year.

The company promises it has tightened up its internal risk management procedures, and now would seem an opportune moment to take a punt on IFX shares.

WINCANTON

A dividend yield of 4.5 per cent ought to underpin Wincanton, the warehousing and haulage business, as its core UK market enters a more difficult economic patch.

The company believes that because a good half of its business is moving stuff around for supermarkets and food producers, it ought to be insulated from any slowdown in consumer spending on more expensive luxuries. Hold.

QUINTAIN ESTATES & DEVELOPMENT

Quintain's shares are trading above their net asset value, a feat that is unusual in this sector and reflects the property company's energetic investment in regenerating its assets.

They look toppy, though, and much of the immediate benefits from projects in Wembley and Greenwich have been priced in. Until new projects are brought on, there will be little to really drive the shares. Take profits.

PROTHERICS

It is crunch time for a long-awaited licensing deal for CytoFab, Protherics' experimental treatment for severe infection.

The project will be canned within a year if a deal is not forthcoming. But Andrew Heath, chief executive, predicts it will be signed by the end of 2005. It is a crucial event for the share price, and buying Protherics now is a bet on a good deal being done. Watch, rather than buy.

FILTRONA

Filtrona is a decent manufacturing business specialising in cigarette filters and the little plastic tie that you use to unwrap a packet of cigarettes.

It is chasing new business in Asia, particularly in the market for the ink-filled sponges used in pens and printer cartridges, and it is looking for niches in medical tests. But with a dividend yield at less than 3 per cent, the shares are not quite tempting enough for the new investor.

BELHAVEN

Belhaven, the Scottish pubs group, has done well over a tough few years.

The pubs game has been fiercely competitive, with supermarkets offering rock-bottom prices on booze, while the rising minimum wage and utility bills have burdened the business with extra costs.

An even bigger test is the forthcoming smoking ban, due to start in Scotland in April 2006. Hold.

The above is a selection of recommendations form the daily Investment Column

Hammerson hits the heights - but the party may not last

Go the Hammers! Guess who won promotion to the stock market Premiership this week. It was Hammerson, the property company behind shopping centres including the Bull Ring, in Birmingham, and the redevelopment of the old London Stock Exchange tower.

It has been a fantastic few seasons for property companies. Just three or four years ago, their shares were valued at typically two-thirds of the value of their assets. Now, the discount is much less or the shares are even trading higher.

In recent years, institutional investors have chosen to put money into property, with its strong yield from rents, as an attractive alternative to shares or bonds. This has chased the value of property companies' assets higher, at the same time as stock market investors have been willing to pay higher prices for property company shares.

But Hammerson's entry to the FTSE 100 may mark a high point rather than a new era.

Property investment is less attractive at these high valuations, although equities and bonds are arguably still poor alternatives. More worryingly, a prolonged consumer downturn could put pressure on the rental value of Hammerson's retail sites.

At the risk of spoiling the party, we would recommend shareholders take this opportunity to lock in profits from the recent share price surge.

s.foley@independent.co.uk

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