Small Talk: David and Goliath court battle may end in European rematch

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The David versus Goliath type legal battle between a private investor and the London Stock Exchange highlighted by Small Talk last week has come to a close. The result was the direct opposite of that in the Bible tale.

Nigel Smith, a 46-year-old former Navy officer, accuses the LSE of rigging the value of shares in Azure Holdings (formerly Room Service) and of market abuse. He has spent the last three years in a battle with the exchange and last week he finally got the chance to present his arguments to Mr Justice Mackie in the High Court. However, after a short hearing, Mr Smith's claim was struck out by the judge, who ruled that the exchange had no case to answer.

He awarded the LSE costs of £10,000. That is substantially below the amount the bourse had asked for, but is enough to bankrupt the private investor. Nevertheless, Mr Smith, who represented himself, has decided to fight on and is now in the process of tabling an appeal in the Court of Appeal. He says that if he fails there he is willing to go all the way to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Mr Smith is certainly brave to take on a Goliath like the Stock Exchange, but whether he is wise to continue doing so having lost last week's court case is not so certain.

Moscow warms to Zirax

How much would you say the contract to supply the chemicals used to de-ice Moscow's roads is worth? Well, word has it the contract is worth $12.5m a year and has been secured by an Aim company called Zirax. Gossips say the news could be made public as soon as today.

Under the terms of the deal with Zirax, Moscow city council will acquire tens of thousands of metric tonnes of the group's IceMelt product and its calcium chloride pellets. The company's products give off heat as they dissolve, helping them to melt more ice faster at temperatures as low as minus 35 degrees Celsius. Zirax claims that they are many times more effective, economical and environmentally friendly than the traditional mixture of rock salt and sand.

Zirax, which floated in London last year, has a production plant in the southern city of Volgograd. It is also in the process of developing another facility in Rosignano, Italy, which should significantly increase its capacity.

As well as supplying de-icing products, the Russian company supplies oilfields with chemicals.

Photo firm in the frame to join Aim

A photographic company that owns the rights to pictures of Hollywood stars such as Faye Dunaway, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kirk Douglas will soon be making its way to London's junior stock market. International Images is expected to signal its intention to list on the Alternative Investment Market (Aim) and raise £3.2m of new money this week. Brokers reckon the company is likely to be valued at over £6m on admission.

International Images pulled off something of a coup when it gained access to MGM's library of unpublished images from various films produced by the Hollywood studio. The group has also signed a similar deal with Playboy.

Its aim is to build up a large portfolio which it can then commercialise by selling limited edition boxed sets of prints to collections which can sell for tens of thousands of pounds.

The company also owns the publishing rights to celebrity photographer Frank Worth and others including John Stoddard, Daniel Furon and Michael Childers. Although International Images is in its infancy (and will be loss making in 2006) Daniel Stewart, the company's broker, expects it to become profitable very quickly, possibly as early as next year. The image publications market the group is targeting is worth £6bn per year.