Firecrest shares rocket 135% on Internet phone deal

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The Independent Online

Shares in Firecrest, the tiny marketing and promotions company, leapt 135 per cent yesterday, on news that it had signed an exclusive deal with a US group to provide cheap telephone calls over the Internet.

The company, launched on the AIM market this summer, took advantage of investor demand in mid-afternoon, issuing 450,000 new shares at 120p. The shares rose from 67p to as high as 162p before ending the day at 158p.

Roy Capper, the chief executive who led a management buyout of the company from the French communications giant Havas four years ago, saw his personal stake rise from about pounds .4.5m to just over pounds 9m in a single day's trading, adjusted for a 15 per cent dilution on the issue of new shares.

Analysts said the exclusive deal with Camelot, a Dallas-based software company, would provide an additional revenue stream for Firecrest, which has in the past concentrated on marketing and promotion, particularly of music. It had pre-tax profits of pounds 415,000 last year.

Camelot will receive 10 per cent of Firecrest in exchange for granting the exclusive licence.

But analysts warned against Internet hype, pointing out that more advanced software in the telephone market was already in development in the US.

The market is growing steadily in the US but is in its infancy in the UK. The software marketed by Camelot, under the name of Digiphone, allows users to make long-distance phone calls for the price of a local call. The software digitises the spoken conversation, and sends it over the Internet.

In New York, shares in Netscape, developers of software for the Internet, breached $100 after being floated recently at $28. Its prospective price/earnings ratio is 350.