Ofex looks to China and Israel for new business

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The Independent Online

Simon Brickles, the new chief executive of London's fringe market Ofex, will target regional UK and overseas firms in an effort to turn around the struggling company, using a similar strategy as at AIM, which he headed previously.

Simon Brickles, the new chief executive of London's fringe market Ofex, will target regional UK and overseas firms in an effort to turn around the struggling company, using a similar strategy as at AIM, which he headed previously.

Yesterday, Espro Information Technologies became the first Israeli company to list on Ofex. Mr Brickles said he was "very keen" on Israel, Canada and Australia, adding: "We've got people with a proven track record of getting companies from overseas."

He also wants to boost Ofex's share of companies outside London and the South-east, currently at 30 per cent while its bigger rival AIM has 40 per cent of that market.

Jonathan Jenkins, the former managing director of Ofex who resigned from the board yesterday alongside his sister Emma, said: "I'm very supportive of Simon - he is the person who's made AIM what it is."

Mr Brickles is credited with making AIM more liquid and turning it into a successful junior share market. Both markets came into being in 1995 when the London Stock Exchange abandoned the old matched-bargains facility to cater for companies that could not, or would not, join the main market.

Ofex has been fighting for survival, having suffered a dearth of new listings and 15 defections to AIM this year. This year Ofex, with 136 listed clients including Arsenal, has attracted just 15 new companies while AIM has attracted 271, bringing its total to 958. Ofex's losses widened to £533,000 in the first half from £273,000 in the same period last year.

But Ofex's luck may be about to change, with a new management team in place and £3.15m in the bank from Monday's share placing.

The placing diluted the stake of the Jenkins family, which created and ran Ofex until now, from 52 per cent to 12 per cent. Major shareholders include Winterflood, the market-maker, with a stake of about 17 per cent, and the investment group London Asia Capital with a 5.9 per cent holding. London Asia said the low cost of listing on Ofex could attract Chinese firms.

The rescue package put together by its broker Numis saved Ofex from running out of money this month.

Its problems attracted bid interest from the investment company Zyzygy, which ended talks last week, and Shield Investments, whose offer was rejected and formally lapsed yesterday.

With two more companies expected to join Ofex within a week, Mr Brickles was optimistic, saying "the pipelines are better than they have been". The company which runs the Ofex market changed its name yesterday to Plus Markets Group.

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