Small Talk </h2> <h1> Shore Capital takes a hit from sickly Patientline

AIM float can help develop CV
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The Independent Online

It looks increasingly likely that stockbroker Shore Capital is going to take a bath over its investment in Patientline, the provider of telephone and internet services to hospital beds. Last week Patientline shares crashed to a fresh all-time low of just 4.92p, valuing the company at just £4.5m and Shore Capital's 20 per cent shareholding at a meagre £900,000.

Patientline has been hit by ward closures, empty beds and patients' unwillingness to use its terminals because of the bad publicity over the cost of calls. Although its revenues have risen fourfold in five years, the company remains heavily loss-making. And Patientline carries a £90m debt burden.

Shore Capital bought the bulk of its stake at around 20p and hoped to revive the company's fortunes. It was instrumental in ousting then chairman Derek Lewis in April. But there has been no turnaround. Shore Capital would do well to think again before its next foray into shareholder activism.

Coms calls the shots

Coms plc, a mini version of Skype listed on AIM, will today unveil its first move to consolidate the highly fragmented internet telephony sector. The group is buying Superline Telecommunications for £500,000 in cash in a deal that will give it a customer base of nearly 9,000 and the technology to transfer users of other networks, such as BT's, on to its own system.

Founded in 2000 by Jason Drummond, Coms offers low-cost telephone calls over the internet or VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) in industry speak. Its services can be combined with those offered by broadband internet suppliers. The tie-up with Superline will move the group closer to profitability.

Nasstar in the making

Keep an eye out for an acquisition from internet services group Nasstar. The group will herald the purchase of Virtual Email for £750,000 today - a tie-up which will greatly increase the number of clients the combined group can service.

The deal is to be part-financed by a placing of new shares at 28p which will raise £500,000. The bulk of the money being put up is from Nasstar directors, thereby underlining their confidence in the company. It is now in a position to offer a virtual office to customers in return for a fee. Its purpose-built data centre is able to host clients' e-mail, calendar and contacts book alongside any software package they wish. In effect, it allows subscribers to run their office from any computer in the world with an internet connection or via a BlackBerry.

The acquisition is expected to be fully integrated by the start of next month and will see Kevin Bird, the majority shareholder of Virtual Email, become sales director of Nasstar.

The company behind Snap Digital Imaging, Europe's second largest photo booth operator, is to list on the Alternative Investment Market this week. Consolidated Vending (CV), which is backed by 3i and Arc Fund Management, hopes to raise £1.4m of new money and is tipped to secure a market capitalisation of £6.5m.

Snap had sales of £7.8m last year and made a profit before tax of £500,000. Its customers include major supermarket groups Asda, William Morrison and Sainsbury's. Andrew Coll, the company's head (pictured), has also been made chief executive of CV. Alongside Snap, CV owns Bfresh, an operator of 500 machines which stock miniature toiletries. After its flotation, the group hopes to make further acquisitions. The logic of bringing the likes of Snap and Bfresh under one roof is that it helps to remove the key cost of having to run separate nationwide teams of engineers who service machines.