City Talk: Telecoms firm finds a fitting sweetheart

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The Independent Online
FUTURE Integrated Telephony, the AIM-quoted telecoms business, is attracting more interest after the company was recommended as a buy in the small companies column two Sundays ago.

Last week, an Amin Hemani bought 358,700 shares at 70p each. That took his interest in FIT to 3.2 per cent. Although the Stock Exchange announcement made no mention of it, Mr Hemani is a founder and majority owner of the privately held Westcoast, a Reading-based personal computer distributor.

Westcoast had a turnover of pounds 139.6m in 1996, and sales growth of 30 per cent or more means it could have risen to pounds 170m in 1997. Mr Hemani also owns a large stake in Freecom, a distributor for Ericsson, the Swedish mobile phone handset manufacturer and telecoms company.

Putting two and two together, it looks as if FIT has found itself a suitor. Given that the two founding directors own about 60 per cent of the company, it would have to be an agreed deal. It would also seem unlikely that an offer could be made much below the 115p at which the company was floated a year ago. The shares currently languish at 63p.

Monsoon is the latest retailer to take the plunge and seek a public quotation for its shares. Pricing for the shares in the women's clothing concern takes place on Thursday, and the company is widely expected to meet the target of a pounds 350m tag for the business. Its interims showed pre- tax profits had climbed to almost pounds 15m on sales of pounds 61m. Historical growth has been as high as 30 per cent, and it looks as if the company could maintain a 20 per cent rate of increase for a while yet.

Datrontech, the PC components distributor, has got off to a good start in the new year. A strong trading statement has been followed up by the company's first deal of the year, a joint venture with Memory Corporation. Memory has a somewhat tainted past, but there are reports that it is on the mend. In the meantime, Datrontech shares have responded strongly, reaching 140p, before trickling back to 131.5p.

Shares in Rio Tinto, the former RTZ, have taken a hammering, primarily over worries about Asia and a slowdown in China. However, with the shares now yielding a juicy 4.3 per cent, this situation is unlikely to continue for long. Metal prices are down, but Rio Tinto will remain the lowest- cost copper producer in the world.

Railtrack's shares have been rising, on the prospect of it taking over the Channel rail link from the failed consortium backing London & Continental Railways. On current forecasts there will be a funding gap of about pounds 1.2bn for the project, which smacks to me of a substantial government guarantee.