A new hero in the battle against superbugs

Small Companies Notebook
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The Independent Online

Hot stock of the moment has to be Bioquell, a little biotech group which has developed a vicious spray to kill the hospital superbug MRSA. Its shares are up 70 per cent in a month. But shouldn't Healthcare Enterprises be generating the same sort of excitement?

Whereas Bioquell's product is a powerful spray that is pumped into a sealed-off room, Healthcare has a stake in (and option to buy the rest of) Ebiox, a new cleaning fluid that it says is also effective against the killer bacteria. The product was developed at Porton Down as a spin-off from the war on bioterrorism.

Ebiox is sold to 20 hospitals at present as a cleaner for surgical instruments and surfaces, and it is winning new contracts all the time. The company hopes to get contracts soon for the product as a handwash as well, with this new product being marketed for the first time within the next month.

Healthcare Enterprises has a boring, cash-generating business supplying first aid kits and health and safety training to corporations in the UK such as British Airways and Marks & Spencer, which it is using to fund its racier new products.

Tellings revs up

All aboard Tellings Golden Miller. The London bus company's shares have travelled a long way since their flotation last July - they have almost doubled, in fact - and word is there could be a further positive update on current trading at the first annual shareholder meeting as a listed company.

That happens this Friday, when Tellings is also expected to say the integration of its most recent acquisitions is progressing without a hitch. In March it bought Wings Buses, which runs three routes in Middlesex (the E6, U7 and H50, for any interested local residents) and a private hire coach business, too.

So what shape is this ambitious little group in now? It runs 21 London bus routes, seven more than at flotation, after some wins from Transport for London as well as the acquisitions. It is one of the beneficiaries of the extra cash that has been pumped into the capital's bus network by the mayor, Ken Livingstone.

Hope for Amerindo

Might there be a last-minute reprieve for Amerindo, the internet investment trust whose shares collapsed with the dot.com bubble and which looked likely to be wound up this week?

The trust's managers had their fingers and toes crossed after a couple of institutional investors signalled over the weekend that they would not be supporting a motion to liquidate the fund. A charm offensive by Alberto Vilar, the founder of Amerindo Investment Advisers, the fund manager, is paying off, and there are more last-ditch meetings today.

The winding-up motion has been put forward by Millennium Partners, a New York hedge fund which has built a stake of almost 30 per cent. It will be quids in, since it bought in at the bottom, but will the army of retail investors (some 10,000 of them, making up 40 per cent of the votes) be enthused enough about a possible tech sector recovery to block them?

Millennium needs 75 per cent of the votes cast and it was too close to call yesterday.

Matrix buys again

Matrix Communications, the telecoms group formerly known as Offshore Telecom, is close to making another acquisition. The company is assembling a suite of products to turn itself into a useful provider of telecoms and IT network help to its blue-chip clients, and is said to be paying £2.3m for Decorum Networks, a specialist in voice over IP, a key telecoms technology. Decorum's customers are a fine list, too, including the City of London Police and Swiss Life.

Right fit for Cosalt

Network Rail's decision to take all of the UK's rail maintenance work in-house is a huge undertaking, obviously, and it hasn't worked through all the financial details of the handover yet. But it is making progress on the important issue of what its new maintenance employees will be wearing, trackside, this season and next. It is talking to Cosalt, a little company which supplies the fluorescent jackets that engineers wear while out working, and word is a big new contract could be heading Cosalt's way as a result.

That would come just at the right moment, since the company has been having trouble in its workwear division, and replaced the managing director there last autumn.

Floats ahoy

Heads up for you on a couple of interesting flotations.

ITM Power reckons it has "the keys to unlock the commercial potential of the hydrogen economy", having developed a low-cost method of producing fuel cells, the clean power generators of the future. It reckons it can cut the cost of a fuel cell by 97 per cent. Backed so far by government grants and directors' money, the company is raising £15m with a listing on AIM. And coming today is Block Shield, which has some technology to reduce the electromagnetic interference which can mess up electronic products. Its shares start trading at 72p, giving a market capitalisation of £18m.

While Michael Edelson, the creator of the ill-fated Knutsford, still revels in his nickname "the shellmeister", Haresh Kanabar - pictured above - is styling himself "the shellwallah".

The urbane accountant is already a director at a number of AIM-listed shells, including Gaming Insight, the former greyhound racing broadcaster which has been emptied of its operating businesses. And by the end of next month he could have added two more to his name. Aurum Mining, which is joining the rush for Russian gold mining assets, will list next week. More interesting is Hightower Construction. It is not often you find a shell company in such an unsexy area as the laying of foundations, but this is the area where Hightower will be looking for acquisitions.

The company aims to float by the end of next month, raising less than £1m to pay for the search for a construction industry contractor.

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