Small Talk: Betbrokers is a good bet to start trading on AIM next month

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Despite the dark clouds hanging over the online gaming industry, Betbrokers is still determined to make it on to the Alternative Investment Market. Today the group will formally unveil its float plans along with the appointment of Eddie Jordan, the former boss of the Jordan Formula One team, as a non-executive director.

Betbrokers, which operates only in the UK, provides clearing and intermediary services to the sports betting industry.

In simple terms, it acts as a one-stop-shop for punters looking to get the best prices for a bet. If you want to put £100 on a certain horse, all you have to do is call Betbrokers and leave them to do the rest. The company will shop around for the best odds, perhaps getting them through a number of other bookmakers.

For regular punters it means they no longer have to open accounts with scores of bookies to secure good prices. Betbrokers also offers its services to bookmakers, or what it calls wholesale clients. They are welcome to use the group as a way to hedge any bets they may have taken and thereby better manage the risk they carry.

The company clearly operates in a very big and growing market. According to the National Audit Office, the UK sports betting industry produced gross spending of £53bn in 2003-04, up from £27bn in 1999-2000.

The stockbroker Hanson Westhouse is handling the Betbrokers float. The group, which was founded in 2003, hopes to raise £5m of new money and expects to see its shares start trading on AIM next month, securing it a market value of around £45m.

Tycoon is one to follow

The Jersey-based tycoon David Kirch made his millions from property. But, judging by recent form, he also has something of the Midas touch when it comes to the stock market. It is he who helped engineer a boardroom coup at ML Laboratories (now Innovata) a few years ago after taking a 10 per cent stake in the biotech company. A subsequent purchase of a profitable private company sent its shares soaring.

More recently, the 69-year-old made about £2m from his dealings in UK Coal in less than two months. In mid-July, he bought a 3 per cent stake in the company at about 170p, via his Channel Hotels and Properties vehicle, and a few weeks later took this holding to 5 per cent, paying slightly higher prices. However, by the start of this month he had sold out of UK Coal entirely at well over 200p. The stock closed at 207p on Friday.

Mr Kirch's latest target looks to be Flying Brands, the home shopping specialist which is also based in Jersey. The tycoon has built up 3 per cent stake.

On Friday, its shares hit an eight-year high of 245p. Flying Brands' interim results earlier this summer revealed that business is booming - pre-tax profits rose 13 per cent to £3.2m. By the end of the year, they are expected to top the £6m mark, leaving the group's stock trading at 12 times forward earnings and boasting a dividend yield of around 4 per cent.

Given Mr Kirch's track record, Flying Brands looks well worth backing.

Film group Seven Arts has star quality

Look out for maiden annual results from Seven Arts Pictures today. The AIM-listed Hollywood film production and distribution group is set to unveil an awesome set of figures. Readers should expect pre-tax profits in the region of just under £1m on sales of £9m. This leaves its shares looking very cheap indeed. At Friday's closing price of 10p, the company is valued at just £1.3m in total.

Along with the financials, Seven Arts, chaired by Peter Hoffman, the producer of Basic Instinct and Rambo, will boast that it has finished production on a series of new films, including Deal, starring Burt Reynolds and Shannon Elizabeth. It is set against the world of high stakes poker - Burt Reynolds plays an ex-gambler returning to the poker scene after a 30-year absence to face his protégé in the finals of the World Series.

Probably more exciting for shareholders is an agreement between Seven Arts and Warren Zide, the producer of the American Pie trilogy, to make a new teen comedy. Given Mr Zide's success with American Pie (which grossed more than a billion dollars) his collaboration with Seven Arts, to be called Pool Boy, is also tipped to be a box office hit.

Over the years, the AIM-listed group has built up a significant film distribution library. It has recently added to this with the purchase of a series of completed films including Drunkboat, starring John Malkovich. The cash from these newly acquired titles will bolster Seven Arts' revenues in the coming year.

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