Small Talk: Galleon gets animated and ships in big hitters

NETeller on winner; MED develops well; Zenith to clean up; Changes on cards?; Taking AIM
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The Independent Online

Galleon, the little animation company trying to come up with a kids' TV hit, has hired two big guns from Chorion to run the company and develop new shows.

Galleon, the little animation company trying to come up with a kids' TV hit, has hired two big guns from Chorion to run the company and develop new shows.

Stephen Green and Len Dunne were, until recently, brand directors at the company behind the revival of Noddy and Miss Marple. They set up on their own with the idea of creating a sports-themed children's cartoon series, and have been bought out by Galleon in a deal worth £1.5m.

Mr Green is to become chief executive of Galleon, with Mr Dunne as managing director. The pair, both in their late thirties, have worked together for years, initially at Hasbro, the ubiquitous toy company.

Jim Driscoll, Galleon's chairman, said the new cartoon ideas were being kept hush-hush for now, but trailers could be ready to take to broadcasting festivals by March. Galleon has already developed cartoon characters called the Oggies, who are into extreme sports, and Malcolm (subtitle: "he's a bit of a cult") for the adult market).

Shares in Galleon continue to trade below the level of its 15p rescue fundraising last November, while results today show widening operating losses and yet more write-offs from earlier acquisitions. However, Mr Driscoll says the arrival of Messrs Green and Dunne - after the acquisition of a Hollywood animation studio last year - takes Galleon into an exciting new era with the expertise to invent, produce and market new entertainment brands.

NETeller on winner

Don't think the rise in the share price of NETeller is over. The company operates an e-wallet which funnels money from online gamblers to betting and casino sites. The company takes over the risky and expensive business of verifying users' identities and checking for credit card fraud - so the gambling sites are happy to accept cash from NETeller accounts, and pay a percentage fee to do so.

The stock has soared from its 200p placing price to 338.5p on Friday, in large part thanks to getting the Financial Services Authority stamp of approval to operate in the UK and expand in Europe. Its next step is into Asia, where it must sign a tie-up with a local bank, probably initially in China. Because the cost of the business is so low, it can simply sit back and cream off cash from an ever-increasing number of customers, and is forecast to double earnings this year, even without an Asian deal.

MED develops well

Progress as planned at MicroEmissive Displays, an Edinburgh-based company which floated in November. It has developed a tiny screen for use in consumer gadgets, made from plastics which glow, giving a high-quality picture but using very low power.

Bill Campbell, the chief executive, is just back from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas - the annual industry jamboree where new products are showcased to wholesalers and the product buyers from retail giants - where NHJ, the Far Eastern luxury consumer electronics manufacturer, was showing a miniature camera using MED's technology. As a result of feedback from the show, the first launch looks likely to be in Europe or the US within the next few months.

Zenith to clean up

There's nothing like the threat of a health and safety inspection to ensure that the nation's restaurant kitchens stay clean. Zenith Hygiene is a chemicals company making and supplying industrial-strength cleaning products to the likes of the celebrity hang-out The Ivy and chains including Pizza Express and Café Rouge. Other big customers include the NHS and Cambridge University, and fund managers investing in its forthcoming AIM flotation are hoping to clean up. It is selling £4m of new shares, valuing the company at about £16m and giving the opportunity to buy up some of its rivals.

Changes on cards?

What might the recent acquisition of the cards and gifts chain Birthdays by Clinton Cards mean for Thorntons, the chocolate retailer? The reason Small Talk asks is that there are 55 Thorntons concessions inside Birthdays stores across the country, and rumours swirling in the industry suggest that the new owners are considering whether to phase them out. The Birthdays concessions account for about one in 10 of Thorntons' outlets.

The loss-making Birthdays agreed a takeover by its bigger rival for £145m last November. On the question of the Thorntons concessions, Clinton Cards says it has only owned the Birthdays business for six weeks and so does not want to comment. Thorntons says there are robust commercial agreements supporting the concessions and relations with Clinton Cards are good.

Clinton Cards issues a trading statement this week. Thorntons follows with a Christmas trading update a week tomorrow.

Taking AIM

The great attraction of the junior AIM market is the low-regulation approach it takes to mergers and acquisitions, and a new survey shows that M&A activity is likely to hot up. According to Business XL magazine and KPMG, almost 10 per cent of AIM companies have publicly stated their intention to make acquisitions.

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