Fledgling prepares for testing game of chance

City Diary

AIM floats may be looking a bit frothy, and software companies with their first product still under development more frothy than most. That has not stopped 3i from lifting its existing stake in Glasgow-based Digital Animations, an "interactive entertainment software developer" which comes to market at the end of the month valued at pounds 10.4m.

The company's first product launch next spring will be "Steel Legions", a futuristic real-time game in 3D in which you will be able to zap robots programmed with a variable range of human characteristics, including fear, recklessness and skill.

3i will subscribe for an additional 3.3 per cent of the shares, lifting its holding to nearly 20 per cent. Let's hope they've been programmed with financial foresight.

Dan Wagner's Maid, the on-line information provider, is listed in New York as well as London - where tech stocks have been badly hit by the current stock market sell-off.

One of our intrepid reporters was receiving a presentation by Mr Wagner yesterday, and wondering if Maid had been badly hit, asked him: "Are you wearing your hard hat?" The ebullient 32-year- old tycoon replied: "Oh no, I don't worry about anything like that. We're not looking to raise any money at the moment."

This did not stop Mr Wagner from remarking 10 minutes later that Maid's share price had fallen by 10 per cent that morning - meaning he had personally lost around pounds 5m in a couple of hours.

Mr Wagner bought his girlfriend Suzy some Maid shares the other day. She should have insisted on diamonds.

The high-profile launch of the Crest automated share settlement system on Monday has left the London Stock Exchange feeling sore. It wasn't invited. As the Chancellor Ken Clarke and big-wigs from the Treasury, the Bank of England and SIB swigged champagne, the Exchange was notable for its absence.

It was, of course, the Exchange which developed the Taurus automated settlement system which had to be scrapped four years ago at vast expense because there was no sign of it working.

The Treasury handed development of a new system to the Bank. The Bank in turn has been smug about the successful launch of Crest this week. Pen Kent, the Bank's director originally in charge of the project, observed on Monday that "the funniest press coverage of the launch I've seen has been the headline 'Stock Exchange launches news settlement system'. '' Meow.

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