Small Talk: Spyware company has its eye on a fund raiser

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It is not just Big Brother that is watching you. Some two million computers around the world have downloaded software created by the London-based 121Media - and most users probably don't even know it.

It is not just Big Brother that is watching you. Some two million computers around the world have downloaded software created by the London-based 121Media - and most users probably don't even know it.

The software is "spyware" which monitors your internet browsing habits, forms a view of your interests, and then sends you targeted advertising for the likes of British Airways, L'Oréal, O 2 and British Gas. This is called "contextual advertising" by people in the trade, or an invasion of privacy by most other people.

The US has outlawed spyware that is downloaded without computer users' consent and that can get access to important passwords. But 121Media - chaired by the former chairman of Microsoft UK, David Svendsen - operates within the law because it pays to have its product bundled with other downloadable software, or "freeware", such as file-sharing programmes. The presence of spyware is set out in the terms and conditions which, happily, few people read thoroughly.

In all, a lucrative business, and 121Media had revenues of $2m in the six months to June 2004, and ought to post substantial growth for the second half of the year. Now, the company is raising money, with a roadshow for City fund managers beginning today. Its broker, John East & Partners, is hoping to collect £3m, which will be used to pay the bundling fees to the freeware companies and allow it to speed up its growth. A flotation on AIM before Christmas should value the company at between £20m and £30m if fund managers are attracted.

Life and debt

For those spendthrift consumers whose debt becomes too much of a burden, there is an increasingly common halfway house before personal bankruptcy. Called an individual voluntary agreement, or IVA, it recognises the debtor's inability to fully repay and protects him or her during negotiations with creditors.

Debt Free Direct is a financial adviser whose main work is in processing IVAs and debt consolidations, business which might be expected to grow after the recent consumer credit binge. Indeed, this young company is ambitious and looking to expand, with more staff and a bigger advertising budget. Watch out for news.

Moore bites into Bank

Bank restaurants must be one of the stock market's tiniest companies, comprising just three upmarket eateries, but it counts the mighty restaurateur Jasper Conran as a 25 per cent shareholder. The word is that it has received a takeover bid from Emerging UK Investments, a recently floated cash shell run by Andrew Moore.

Mr Moore is a serial entrepreneur, with 76 directorships to his name over the years and, you will remember, is chairman of Zyzygy, which made an abortive bid for Ofex last month.

Although Emerging UK Investments was formed to take stakes mainly in close-to-flotation companies, it has left itself scope to be opportunistic. Bank might just be a tasty morsel from the stock market undercard, since trading was improving last time we heard from the company, but the unloved shares are at a record low.

Monkleigh addition

Monkleigh, which is trying to assemble a collection of events management and corporate hospitality businesses, is about to do its second deal since floating on AIM in July. John Saunders, whose company First Corporate Events has organised client wining and dining for several investment banks and also run the official hospitality at the Boat Race, is joining Monkleigh. He will bring his brand and clients across to Monkleigh, which decided against acquiring First Corporate outright since it would have entailed an expensive reverse takeover.

Bet on Global Gaming

Andrew Regan, the controversial financier, is dropping a new cash shell on to AIM today, with the launch of Global Gaming Corp, which has raised £600,000 at 4p per share. Mr Regan's Corvus Capital has 20 per cent.

We hear the plan is to inject a sports betting software company. Intriguingly, we also hear there is a widespread expectation that the deal, when it happens, will value Global Gaming shares at 12p. That would be a 200 per cent gain for everyone involved in just the next few weeks.

Another Corvus investee company, Lodore Resources, was floated at 5p this month and has soared to 12.5p. It is said to be close to making its first oil exploration and production acquisition.

ATI's Italian job

ATI Oil holds the distinction of being the first Ofex company to have been spun out of an AIM company. ATI, which starts trading today having raised £500,000 in a private placing, was created by Northern Petroleum to crystallise the value of its little discussed Italian interests. ATI will hold a 50 per cent interest in 16 drilling licences and applications, both onshore and offshore.

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