Small Talk: Cawkwell goes for gold in Tajik mining venture

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The phrase poacher-turned-gamekeeper doesn't even come close. Simon Cawkwell, alias Evil Knievel, the most notorious short-seller to terrorise small company share prices, looks set to turn up as a director of a new goldmining company planning to float before the end of the year.

The phrase poacher-turned-gamekeeper doesn't even come close. Simon Cawkwell, alias Evil Knievel, the most notorious short-seller to terrorise small company share prices, looks set to turn up as a director of a new goldmining company planning to float before the end of the year.

But RAB Capital, the specialist hedge fund group which is backing the company, called Kryso, has put its foot down to stop Mr Cawkwell becoming chairman as initially planned, preferring instead the geologist Trevor Davenport. It argues Mr Cawkwell could be too controversial a figure to head the company, which is attempting to raise up to £2m for a feasibility study on a potential goldmine in the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan. Mr Cawkwell is hoping instead to be deputy chairman. There are meetings today to sign off the prospectus.

Mr Cawkwell is more usually associated with attacks on companies he believes are overvalued, but he has been impressed with the management of Kryso - the vital ingredient for a company operating in such a politically difficult part of the world. Mr Cawkwell says: "The finance director and general manager have both taken Tajik wives. As a result, they are taken very seriously by the Tajiks." They have also had the good sense to recruit as a third executive director Abuali Ismatov, who is an extremely successful Tajik businessman and who acts as an immediate entrée to navigating the morass that is Tajik administration.

Galleon sets sail

Galleon, the children's TV characters company, is on the verge of a fund raising that could swell its market value by two-thirds.

The loss-making company, which has a market value of £1.6m, needs cash to help develop ideas it has for cartoon series based on characters including PC Pepper (the socially responsible policeman) and the Oggies (odd looking fellows addicted to extreme sports). Galleon recently changed its financial advisers for the second time this year, ditching Durlacher in favour of Seymour Pierce, which has turned out to be a more adept practitioner of the dark arts of fund raising. The hope is that £1m is in the bag at a price of 15p, just a couple of pennies below Friday's closing price.

Delling in the frame

How's this for a modern marketing idea? Take a billboard or magazine advert saying "Take a picture of this ad", send a photo-message of said ad to a given number and get the chance to win loads of free stuff.

Picture recognition technology that could make this a reality has been developed by a Swedish firm called Briscan, which has called it iTAG. And today Delling, a UK marketing firm which floated on AIM last month, is to announce it has become the global distributor for iTAG and is hopeful it can attract some of the world's best-known brands to the technology.

Soho's tough sell

If you could just put Regent Inns out of your mind for a moment ... oh, and SFI ... and Po Na Na ... In fact, try to pretend that the litany of disasters in the pubs, bars and clubs sector over the past couple of years never happened. And then read on ...

Soho Clubs & Bars owns seven venues within walking distance of each other in London's West End. It is touring fund managers in the hope of raising up to £7m with a flotation that would value the company at up to £20m. Fund managers are probing the business, worried that the debt could prove a real burden if the West End market turns down. But the company is confident its new management team can boost profits by centralising product buying and admin, and boost sales by cross-marketing the venues.

It's a tough sell, and we will find out in the next week or two whether Jeremy Gordeno, the managing director, and Geoff Rose, the chairman (who also heads the AIM-listed Award International), have managed it.

High tide for floats

A flood of floats, in fact. Those tipping the hat at the moment include SovGem, which plans to invest in Chinese companies heading for international flotation, and which has a handy exclusive arrangement with Benchmark, a Chinese investment bank. Then there is African Copper, a rare copper exploration play, with sites in Botswana. And DAT, which has developed a suite of software products for the new generation of smart mobile phones, plans to raise £6m for expansion. The AIM market was at 905 members at the last count. How about a spread bet on when it will pass 1,000? Would you be a buyer or a seller at 30 March-5 April?

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