Small Talk: Chariot under a Weather eye

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The Independent Online

The small-cap world has been awash with rumours that The Weather Lottery, a relative newcomer to AIM, is mulling a bid for fellow lottery organiser Chariot.

Chariot has been up for sale for some time, having failed to make its Monday online lottery profitable. It had hopes of rivalling the National Lottery when it launched this year, but ticket sales never really took off.

Although Weather is thought to be interested in certain Chariot assets, it is unlikely to table an offer for the whole group. Despite stake-building by a mysterious company called Astinway, Chariot looks to be heading towards administration. Its management has admitted as much. Once in the hands of the receivers, Weather could bid for parts of Chariot without having to take on all its liabilities.

It is Chariot's database of players that Weather is most interested in. Securing a proportion of these players for itself would significantly boost its financial performance. Weather runs lotteries for charities, sports clubs and other organisations. Its game is based on the last digit of daily Fahrenheit temperatures in six European locations, with a top prize of £10,000 for matching all six numbers.

Of every £1 raised, 35p goes to the client organisation, 45p on prizes and 20p to Weather.

Old-timer delisted

European Colour shares will be delisted today at 8am bringing to an end the company's 50 year history on the London Stock Exchange. Steve Smith, the chairman of the pigments and colours manufacturer, is behind the move to take EC private. He wants to merge it with Magruder Color, a US firm he controls, and believes it is the only way to secure a future for EC and its 200 staff.

A month ago, there was some doubt whether he would succeed. Minority shareholders opposed the move, believing it served the interests only of Mr Smith. Back then, he controlled 58 per cent of the company. He has since managed to raise his stake to 78 per cent and the success of his plan is now guaranteed.

The Stockport-based company, founded in 1900, has been in sharp decline in recent years, thanks to competition from China.Six years ago, EC had a market value of £40m; at Friday's close, it was a mere £1.4m.

Tanker broker sets course for AIM

One of the world's top tanker brokers will today unveil its plans to sail on to the Alternative Investment Market.

Established in 1982, ACM Shipping Group brokers the transportation of oil around the world. It has grown from just four brokers to more than 60 based in London, Singapore and New York.

The company has been profitable every year since inception, and in the year to March 2006 registered turnover of £13.6m and an operating profit of £9.3m - a near 70 per cent profit margin. In future it plans to pay out half its profits in bonuses to senior brokers and the rest largely to shareholders in the form of a dividend.

ACM is looking to raise up to £8m from its float. Of that, about £7m will go to its founders and key staff. ACM decided to list to allow the next generation of senior management a stake in the company. It expects to have a market value of £27m on admission.

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