Small Talk: Football deals put First Artists on winning streak

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The Independent Online

The sports and entertainment agency First Artists had its best January ever after completing a record number of football transfer deals, a trading statement will confirm today.

Last month First Artists completed a series of football deals during the January transfer window, inc-luding the move of Nigel Quashie from Southampton to West Brom, Dean Kiely from Portsmouth to Charlton and John Mensah from Chievo Verona to Stade Rennais. Meanwhile, the company's event management division staged some 40 events - double the number for January last year - while its celebrity division placed the actress Rula Lenska in the Celebrity Big Brother house.

Energy Assets on AIM

Having worked in the gas metering business since the age of 16, Alan McKeating should know the industry. Today he brings to AIM a company that provides gas and electricity meter reading and maintenance services to large businesses.

Mr McKeating will reverse his Energy Assets Ltd company into Ricmore, an AIM-listed cash shell chaired by Stephen Barclay, former head of the stockbroker Seymour Pierce. The combined group will raise £1.25m of new money for working capital.

Energy Assets (EA) was created after regulatory changes in the gas and electricity industry opened the meter market to competition. It has positioned itself to win business from energy suppliers, many of whom are keen to outsource the job of installing, running and maintaining the gas and electricity meters of large companies. So far, two suppliers, out of 60 in the UK, have signed 10-year agreements with EA.

Invu sales soaring

Small Talk expects a bullish trading update from the software company Invu today. Analysts estimate that it is experiencing sales growth of about 80 per cent a year, and thanks to its fixed cost base the bulk of this goes straight to the bottom line. Profit margins at Invu are said to be running at more than 40 per cent.

Invu's software, which is used by the likes of American Express and the housebuilder Taylor Woodrow, allows users to hold vast numbers of documents in digital form, that can be sorted and searched. The only hardware needed is a basic computer and scanner.

Invu shares floated at 8p in 2004 and closed at a near all-time high of 27.25p on Friday.

PNC views acquisition

In December, PNC Telecom put plans to buy Sim4Travel on ice. PNC had been working on the takeover of the group, which provides international travellers with cheap pay-as-you-go SIM cards for mobile phones, for some months. Word has it that PNC has abandoned the deal altogether having found a more exciting acquisition. A statement is likely this week.

Meanwhile, Formal Property Management Services, a Jersey-registered company, has been building a stake in PNC, which now stands at 7.7 per cent. Its only other London listed investment is in the soft furnishings retailer HomeStyle.

Medical House tie-up

Finally, readers can expect a solid performance by Medical House shares over the next few days. The biotech is due to do a roadshow of City institutions this week and it has a lot to boast about. Medical House recently won a contract to supply its AutoSafety needle-free syringe to Cardinal Healthcare, a $75bn (£43bn) US pharmaceuticals firm.

Some in the City believe the contract could be a company-making deal. It will generate revenues of £3m over the next five years for Medical House, but crucially it puts the group's product - among the most effective of its type - firmly on the radar. It can be a only matter of time before Medical House secures another big pharma player as a client.

AdEPT listing to aid acquisition strategy

AdEPT Telecom, one of the UK's fastest-growing fixed-line operators, will float on Wednesday. The group, which buys call time from the likes of BT and Cable & Wireless at discounted prices and resells it to businesses and residential customers, has raised £7m and will enjoy a market value of about £30m.

It is led by Roger Wilson, above, a former managing director of Telewest's UK consumer division.

Since inception three years ago AdEPT has completed 11 acquisitions, and hopes to continue doing deals at a rate of three to four a year.

A stock market listing is perfect for this purpose as it gives AdEPT a currency - its shares - with which it can fund purchases. And the market within which it operates is ripe for consolidation. There are more than 600 firms in the same line of business as AdEPT and it is one of the sector's bigger players. At the last count it boasted annual sales of £8.7m and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of £1m.

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