Small Talk: Patient investors rewarded at last by Griffin production

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The Independent Online

It has become a commonplace that mining is the new dot.com. Griffin Mining releases final results today that can boast of significant progress at its Chinese zinc project, and it can look back with a wry smile to five years ago when dot.coms were the new mining.

It has become a commonplace that mining is the new dot.com. Griffin Mining releases final results today that can boast of significant progress at its Chinese zinc project, and it can look back with a wry smile to five years ago when dot.coms were the new mining.

Griffin Mining enjoyed a flash of fame in 2000 when it dreamt up the wheeze of setting up a cash shell company, spinning it out on to the buoyant AIM market and cashing in on the mania for all things tech. Griff-Tech.com was the result, and its shares nigh on tripled on its first day's trading. Griffin didn't make any money out of it in the end, of course, but the start of production in China represents the reward for patient shareholders of the core business.

After a long, arduous and frantic seven years, the company stands ready to deliver on its promises with the completion of construction of the Caijiaying processing facilities and the development of the underground mine workings, the chairman, Mladen Ninkov, will say today.

Full production will be commenced within the next two months.

With $13m in the bank, the company is keen to reassure investors that it will not blow the cashflows from production in China on a new, high-risk exploration venture. And there will certainly be no more dot.commery. Griff-Tech was just something to keep the management occupied while awaiting news from the laborious work on the ground in China. Instead, the focus now will be on expanding production at Caijiaying, perhaps by 150 per cent next year.

And as for Griff-Tech? It was the vehicle for a reverse takeover by Future Internet Technology, a company which had come up with an internet enabling technology but which never took off. Now it is a cash shell, effectively dormant for more than three years but still officially scanning the market for acquisitions. There is a deadline now: AIM's new rules mean that so-called "dirty shells" (which have had their old operating business sold off or shut down) must do a deal by next March or face being delisted from the market.

IT companies to float

Watch out for a new float, Centrom, which is trying to raise £2m. The company is ambitious and is already lining up a couple of acquisitions worth about £14m, compared with its expected market capitalisation of £8m. The company offers a wide range of software and hardware and network solutions, including stuff that helps its customers to manage databases more effectively. Its focus is the National Health Service, police authorities and other public-sector bodies.

EG Solutions, a software company which provides back-office cost savings for the financial services industry, is also close to floating on the AIM market. The company's blue-chip clients include Norwich Union, Morgan Stanley and Zurich, and this year alone the company boasts that it has delivered £12m of cost savings for its customers.

The company's chairman is Rodney Baker Bates, the former chief executive of Prudential Financial Services and a former director of Finance and IT at the BBC. EG is planning to raise up to £3.5m before an expected AIM listing in June which will value the company at £12m-£15m.

IP Live fleshes out growth prospects

IP Live, the little investment company which puts up money in return for a share of the profits of live events and exhibitions, is hoping to replicate its success on the Wonders of the Human Body show with a new investment in the educational arena within the next few weeks.

The company cashed in its minority stake in the international tour of the preserved bodies show, which is just opening in Korea. It paid $350,000 for the stake last August and has just been given $580,000 for it, plus shares in the US buyer.

In this case, IP has not even had to wait for the gate receipts to generate a return on its investment. Shareholders will be keenly awaiting forecasts from the company, via its new broker Brewin Dolphin, which is understood to be preparing an investment note for circulation in the City. This should give some clues as to the performance of its other show, Diana: A Celebration, a collection of Princess of Wales memorabilia touring Florida at the moment, and set out its ambitions for Billy Elliot - the Musical in London and for IP's future investments.

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