Small Talk: Transense tyre monitor hits the road with Michelin

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The Independent Online

A little bird tells Small Talk that good news is on the way for Transense Technologies. Michelin, long a licensee of the AIM group's technology, is tipped to announce at its annual press day this week that Transense's battery-less tyre pressure monitoring sensor will be used in the next generation of its truck tyres. Production of the tyres with the Transense gadget incorporated in them could start as early as next year. There is also a suggestion among industry insiders that Michelin may go further and announce the use of the AIM group's system in car tyres as well.

Honeywell and Texas Instruments alongside Michelin all have licenses to use the group's technology. However, this would be the first time that a major corporation has put it into volume production. If the technology ends up in every Michelin tyre it will transform the company, which at Friday's close or 69.25p was valued at just under £40m.

Transense shareholders have had to be patient. The company was founded 16 years ago. It joined Ofex in the mid-1990s and moved up to AIM in 1999. Since then, the shares have been very volatile. They peaked at more than 700p during the boom, but have languished since because of delays in getting the company's gadget into mass production.

EC prepares to de-list

Small Talk last week highlighted the dispute at European Colour (EC), the manufacturer of pigments and colours used to make inks, paints and plastics. There has been a new development. EC has admitted to having received an offer for its US operations from Lansco, an American rival and its second-biggest shareholder.

However, EC says the £2m offer is not enough to get the company out of its present financial troubles and it is going to press ahead with its plans to de-list its shares.

Steve Smith, EC's chairman and 58 per cent shareholder, is pitted against a group of minority shareholders including Lansco, Swedish value investor Peter Gyllenhammar and Michael Armitage, EC's former chief executive. Mr Smith believes the only way he can save the company and its 200-strong workforce is to de-list the shares and push through a merger with a US business in the same field that he controls. Minority shareholders oppose the move arguing that Mr Smith's prime motivation is to consolidate further his grip on EC.

Unless Lansco, or another party, comes back with a better offer it looks almost certain that Mr Smith will get his way and EC shares will be de-listed on 13 November.

Bernstein turns a profit

Richard Bernstein's Eurovestech is on a roll. The former Schroders equity analyst, who heads up the AIM-listed technology investment company, is already showing a 42 per cent profit on the 7 per cent holding he bought in Pixology a month ago. Eurovestech paid 29p a share for the stake. On Friday the software maker, chaired by the former Tory minister Lord Young of Graffham, saw its stock close at 38.5p, after admitting that it received a takeover approach earlier in the week.

Brickles celebrates

This week sees Simon Brickles and his team celebrate two years since they took over the running of Ofex, London's third share trading market. They certainly have quite a lot to celebrate. Since taking the helm of Ofex, Mr Brickles has pushed through a major rescue refinancing of the exchange which guaranteed its future. Changing the group's name to Plus Markets, his team set up a new trading platform which has not only seen the migration of all Ofex companies on to it but has also attracted 650 FTSE Small Cap and AIM companies who have all opted to have their shares on Plus alongside a London Stock Exchange quote.

Today, there are 47 stock broking firms who are members of Plus and seven market makers. These include Brewin Dolphin, Cenkos Securities, WH Ireland, KBC Peel Hunt and Seymour Pierce. In total, 820 stocks are now traded on the exchange, giving it a market value of £145bn.

Also, as the average AIM float has grown in size, Plus has had great success attracting small companies looking to raise more modest amounts of money. Since November 2004, it has seen 100 successful IPOs. Given that back then the market's future looked to be in serious doubt, that is pretty good going.

Golden Prospects builds fund

In recent years Golden Prospect, an AIM-listed resources investment company, has increasingly focused its attention on building up Ambrian Partners, its stockbroking business. This process will be completed next month when the group changes its name to Ambrian Capital.

As part of the restructuring, Golden Prospect will hive off its remaining stakes in various mining ventures into a new fund to be called Golden Prospect Precious Metals Limited.

The group plans to secure a separate quote on London's junior market for the fund, which it claims will be the first of its kind solely dedicated to precious metals.

Malcolm Burne, who founded Golden Prospect in 1999 and is currently its chairman, is presently busy marketing the new fund.

Mr Burne hopes to raise up to £40m and launch it some time before the end of the year.