Share price rises cap successful day for Aim debutantes

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The Independent Online

Trading in the shares of three small companies - City Lofts, Croma Group and Napier Brown - got off to a solid start yesterday, with all three registering a premium on their first day on the stock market.

Shares in Croma, a surveillance equipment maker which provides kit such as long-range lenses, closed at 6.25p, up 0.75p from its list price.

Napier Brown, a sugar distributor, closed at 118.5p, a premium of 8.5p, while shares in City Lofts, a loft developer, finished at 101.5p, up 1.5p.

Their performance adds further weight to the argument that the market for new issues is finally improving after several difficult years.

All three listed on the Alternative Investment Market, taking the number of companies listing on the junior market this year to 58. There were 60 floats on AIM last year.

The London Stock Exchange said, however, that this year's AIM listings had raised a total of £949m - double the amount raised last year.

City Lofts, Napier Brown and Croma raised a combined £19m, with City Lofts raising £7m, valuing it around £47m. Napier Brown raised £10m while Croma raised just £2m.

City Lofts said yesterday it was planning to use the cash to fund its current developments as well as the acquisition and development of sites up to 2007. The money will also go towards contract negotiation, and strengthen its balance sheet.

A spokesman said: "The company is a prime candidate to benefit from proposals in last week's pre-Budget report to give 100 per cent tax relief on the first year's expenses for converting commercial premises."

The exchange said listings on AIM and its main market accounted for 74 per cent of all west European floats this year. "AIM has built on its position as Europe's only successful growth market and has performed well in what remain difficult market conditions," it said.