Small Talk: Troubled EasyScreen ready for takeover talks - Business Analysis & Features - Business - The Independent

Small Talk: Troubled EasyScreen ready for takeover talks

Shellwallah venture - Antisoma campaign - Stream surges - Clarity's sushi order - Matrix acquisition

Easyscreen, the derivatives trading software company which went to the brink of bankruptcy in September, is ready to make management changes and enter takeover talks that could boost the company's beleaguered share price.

Royalblue, the share trading software company that is looking to expand into derivatives, is considering making an approach, with initial contact coming as early as this week, according to those who know EasyScreen well.

It is also believed that Philip Docker, the former London International Financial Futures Exchange trader who founded EasyScreen in 1998, is ready to split the roles of chairman and chief executive to placate investors. They have watched as the company repeatedly missed its financial targets and was forced to admit it would run out of money at the end of September. In the end, it raised £3.5m in a placing announced on 28 September.

Since then, Easyscreen has announced a big new customer in the shape of Man Financial, a division of the FTSE 100 hedge fund manager Man Group.

Shellwallah venture

Haresh Kanabar, self-styled "shellwallah", is at it again with the creation of a shell company to invest in Indian call centres and other firms on the subcontinent which provide outsourcing services to multinationals. Indian Outsourcing Services, which is raising £500,000, is the latest of several ventures this year with his partner Nigel Robertson, the founder of Scoot.com and now a Monaco-based serial investor. One shell company created by Mr Kanabar alone, Hightower Construction, suggests he is worth backing. Last week, Hightower bought its first business, Greenfield, which does groundworks - roads and foundations - for housebuilders. The share price is now 12.5p compared with 5p at flotation and it looks to have got a bargain paying £1.8m for Greenfield, a business with £500,000 of pre-tax profit. And there ought to be more acquisitions to come, with the ambition of creating a nationwide groundworks company providing services to housebuilders and utilities.

Antisoma campaign

More buyers than sellers, is the flip way to explain share price rises, but it is also the only one which can be absolutely true. Which is why management sometimes embark on City charm offensives, collaring investors to insist on the merits of their company and its shares in the hope of persuading people to buy a few. Glyn Edwards, chief executive of Antisoma, was conducting his own "get out the vote" campaign either side of the American election, with the result that the biotech company's shares are up by a third in recent weeks. There might be just a hint of takeover speculation in there too: Antisoma's own broker has tipped it as a potential target for the acquisitive Vernalis, while industry executives think a bid from the US is possible if the shares continue to languish. The company is valued at £45m, compared with cash resources of about £35m.

Stream surges

The launch of the mighty Vodafone's third generation 3G mobile phones ought to mean the coming of age of interactive phone services. Already little Stream Group, which provides content including ringtones, wallpapers and video clips, has seen surging profits as more people get more advanced phones. These phones are likely to be a big-selling Christmas gift, and Stream is working on new gambling services such as phone poker in association with one of the internet's big poker sites. Stream shares could be just as lucrative an investment next year as this.

Clarity's sushi order

Clarity Commerce, whose software helps chains of restaurants, hotels and cinemas to operate more efficiently by combining information from different sites, has won a new customer, the 19-strong Yo! Sushi chain. So far, so ordinary. But Yo! Sushi's financial director, Zoe Tindall, has come out with an unusually gushing tribute to Clarity. In a highly competitive market for this sort of software, such tributes matter. She writes: "After a long search for a partner who could adapt to some of our unique operations, we found Clarity to be the only company who could offer the working partnership that Yo! Sushi required. Clarity is able to adapt off-the-shelf products to our needs and still retain the ease of use for the staff while giving head office the reporting to make timely decisions about the business."

Matrix acquisition

Matrix Communications is about to make its biggest acquisition to date as it tries to turn itself into a rival to Vanco, providing companies with services that help to manage their computer and telephone networks. It is paying £12m for Network Partners, a company established in 1999 and one of the big re-sellers of BT services.

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