Small Talk: AMZ quick to place its bets on Taiwan casino development

All bets are on in Taiwan, apparently. The island's authorities passed legislation on 12 January, which for the first time allowed for casinos to be opened. Before the ink was dry, the Alternative Investment Market-listed AMZ Holdings, which already owns 27 acres of land in the Penghu Islands region of Taiwan, announced plans to build the country's first Macau-style hotel and casino complex.

Furthermore, the group claims that any pretender to its crown will now have to negotiate directly with them as the Penghu Islands, AMZ contends, is the only place the government will allow casinos to go up. The alternative, they say, is to deal directly with the Taiwanese administration, and it took AMZ eight years to secure the land it now occupies.

Ever dutifully, analysts at the group's broker Evolution rushed out a helpful note predicting that the group's share price would soon be scaling the dizzy heights of 235p, after closing at 97.5p on Friday evening:

"AMZ's value is underpinned by freehold ownership with all necessary approvals for resort development. We believe the value of this is materiallyhigher than the acquisition cost of the original multiple plots of agricultural land. With gaming now lawful in the offshore islands, we believe the land has a much higher potential value."

AMZ's chief executive, Michael Treanor, who is based in the United States, will be hoping that his present employer has a brighter future than one of the other companies on his CV. Mr Treanor will no doubt have gained valuable experience, however, when he was a real estate investment banker at Lehman Brothers.

Nomads face threat of being sued by investors, City law firm warns

A law firm that may be finding the lack of deals on AIM a little stifling has happened on a rather clever idea of trying to mitigate the loss from the dwindling number of AIM listings by issuing a press release warning Nomads that they face the possibility of being sued as the downturn hits.

"The economic crisis is putting a huge amount of strain on Nominated Advisers to monitor the progress of the (AIM) listed companies that they sponsor," says Wedlake Bell, a City law firm. "Nomads have an obligation to advise sponsored companies on communicating to their shareholders, and in particular to ensure that these companies communicate price-sensitive information in a timely manner. Wedlake Bell explains that the economic slowdown and collapse in commodity prices means that AIM-listed companies are likely to have more price-sensitive information to disclose – which in turn means that Nomads will have a lot more work to do in order to fulfil their continuous monitoring obligations."

No doubt the firm is absolutely right. Equity funds are almost guaranteed to have lost substantial amounts of money in the last few months and no doubt they will be looking for any opportunity to claw back some of the losses, using any means available, including suing those that encourage them to buy shares in the smallest of public companies.

The group's representatives insist the release is all about raising the firm's profile and to promote a forthcoming conference. The suggestion that the press release might sow the seeds of suing a broker in a struggling investor's mind is far too cynical, they cry, although "potentially" it could happen.

Lawyers aim to please with website

Good news for those private companies thinking that now is the time to take the plunge and go for a public listing on AIM. Lawyers at Pinsent Masons have come up with the ingenious notion of launching a website, makingaimeasier.com, which, they say, will also contain information "about continuing obligations affecting companies already listed on AIM, as well as information for brokers and other intermediaries active in the AIM market."

All this is great, except for one problem. There cannot be more than a handful of small-cap companies in the UK that are even countenancing the prospect of a public listing in today's market. And even if they were, the chances of any investors putting their hands in their pockets to fund such a move are about nil.

a.dawber@independent.co.uk

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