Small Talk: Accsys talks tough on trees

Despite not being able to spell, Accsys (pronounced Access) Technologies is a company on the march.

The Aim-listed company has developed a very clever technique, sold under the trade name Accoya, that toughens softwood enabling it to be used as a substitute for hardwood.

So what? Well, hardwood takes much longer to grow, is more expensive and much rarer than the soft varieties. So Accoya not only gives Accsys's clients a cheaper alternative to an expensive commodity but also gives the environment a breather too.

Accsys has developed various tests showing that its treated soft wood can survive for several years submerged in water. In the Netherlands, where the company has its factory, a road bridge has been built using only Accoya, which it has guaranteed for 90 years.

Back in June, Accsys said process improvements at the plant operated by its Titan Wood subsidiary have boosted capacity by more than 33 per cent. Titan Wood's commercial-scale Accoya wood modification facility was originally designed with an annual capacity of 30,000 cubic metres. Through various process improvements, the Arnhem facility now has an interim design capacity of more than 40,000 cubic metres annually.

The company is expected to post tomorrow full-year results that are in line with its previous upbeat trading statements. The company, and more importantly shareholders, will be hoping that the numbers give the share a kick; it has dropped by 72 per cent in last 12 months.

Tanzanian prospects catch African Eagle's eye

One of the hardest-hit sectors on the Aim market in recent months has been the speculative mining explorers.

In fairness to investors, why would they be tempted, especially at the moment, to put their money into a company that while full of good intentions, is in many cases little more than a punt?

The evidence, judging by share prices of many small Aim-listed miners in the past six months, is that generally the investors are not tempted.

That is why the news from nickel hunter African Eagle Resources last week will be greeted with cautious optimism by investors. The group announced the results of a "proof of concept" scoping study on its Dutwa nickel laterite project in Tanzania.

After rather positive findings, African Eagle's chairman John Park said: "This study clearly demonstrates that the Dutwa project can be economically viable. The company will now begin work on further feasibility studies." According to the company, initial financial analysis indicates that the base case post-tax net present value of the best option is $109m (£66m) and its internal rate of return is 14.5 per cent, based on a discount rate of 10 per cent, a nickel price of $7 per pound and transport costs of $100 per tonne. Not there yet – the group still has to get at the nickel, which is no easy feat – but not bad progress.

Expanding Skywest seeks Sydney listing

Listening to reports of what' is going on at the increasingly beleaguered British Airways and the other major airlines and you would be forgiven for thinking the whole industry is suffering.

Falling passenger numbers, fewer executives travelling in business class and volatile fuel prices are all responsible for what industry bodies expect will be a woeful year for the industry.

But Skywest Airways, which is listed on the Alternative Investment Market and operates in Western Australia, is trying to buck the trend.

While BA and others have spent the year churning out disappointing passenger numbers, Skywest's May figures show that passenger numbers on its charter flights jumped 41.25 per cent year-on-year. The group has the advantage of operating in an area that is rich in natural resources and, for all intents and purposes, in the middle of nowhere.

But Skywest, which carries Rio Tinto's miners and executives across Australia, has its problems. Its shares, while taking off in line with its passenger numbers, are illiquid, a problem that the company thinks is holding it back and which it hopes will be remedied when it get permission for a dual listing in Sydney.

Its brokers at WH Ireland say the group is "aggressively" competing for charter work in Western Australia: "The resources industry, in particular the gas sector, is continuing to expand, and will provide further opportunities for scheduled charter services."

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