Small Talk: Cashbox spreads net to take in Wi-Fi ATMs

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The Independent Online

It is Friday night. It is raining. The taxi is waiting outside the pub to take you home. And you don't have enough money to pay for it.

You always know you should not, but the cash machine in the corner of the bar, which will charge £2.50 just to get at your own money, is your only option. While most people baulk at the idea of having to pay to get their own money, it is undoubtedly useful on occasions to have cash machines in places that banks would never put them: pubs, convenience shops and on streets in the middle of nowhere.

One such group is Alternative Investment Market (Aim)-listed Cashbox, which generally places its cash-cows in pubs up and down the country. One thing that might soften the blow for customers paying the charge is its announcement today that it has signed a deal with BT Openzone internet, which will effectively turn the group's estate of cash machines into Wi-Fi hotspots.

The five-year deal between Cashbox and BT, will initially be available at 10 of Cashbox's locations, of which there are more than 2,500 across the UK, in places like the Tiger Tiger bars in London, Manchester, Glasgow and Cardiff, and the Abacus nightclub in London.

Ciaran Morton, the chief executive of Cashbox, said: "As a customer-focussed business, we are continually looking for ways to extend our service offering, and with exciting initiatives such as this we are providing our customers with additional opportunities to utilise the ATM machines. May was an all-time record month for transaction levels, as people are finding cash preferable to credit in the current economic climate."

Midas touches on anger at Rox's Gemfields offer

*Even though the number is falling every day, there are, give or take, about 1500 companies listed on Aim and so it might surprise readers to read another piece on the oft-mentioned Gemfields, the diamond and gemstones miner.

The ups and downs of the group are difficult to ignore, however, and it may be recalled that the company recently lost out in its bid to buy Tanzanite One, another gemstone miner, after a row about whether Gemfield's bid was fair value.

And now another almighty row is brewing over a bid for Gemfields by its biggest shareholder, Rox. The bid, for 8p a share, is being spearheaded by Sean Gilberston, a former chief executive of Gemfields, and while the offer is a premium to last Friday's closing price of 6.6p, a group of shareholders are starting to ask if the offer truly reflects Gemfield's value.

"We have spoken to approximately 15 per cent of shareholders and we believe that they, like us, reckon this offer is derisory, opportunistic and substantially undervalues the company," said Tony Smith, of Midas Investment Management.

Those close to Gemfields argue it is all sour grapes on Midas's part and that the bid still reflects a premium for shareholders. No doubt this is another Gemfields saga that will run and run.

Armor find recession protection

*Bulls might point to Armor Designs to show that things are getting better for Aim-listed companies. The group makes armour plating that can be used by police forces and armies on the battlefield to guard against bullets, and to help vehicles guard against the now infamous improvised explosive device.

It announced last week that it has raised $2.5m (£1.5m) from shareholders, which Armor has said will be used for general working capital needs. Several companies have managed to raise money in recent months, despite the downturn, but most do so with a particular purpose in mind.

Fun and games come to an end in Jolly Ranch Nighthawk deal

*A couple of weeks ago we trumpeted what looked a cracking deal for Aim-listed Nighthawk Energy.

Having agreed to sell a 20 per cent stake in its Jolly Ranch project in Colorado to the Swiss-based investment company San Severina Holdings in a £25m deal, we gushed that the group was woefully undervalued. The sale valued Jolly Ranch at 47p a share, which made something of a mockery of Nighthawk's closing price of 44.5p at the end of the week the sale was agreed.

Well, we were a bit quick out of the blocks. The deal collapsed last week with Nighthawk issuing a statement: "Since the beginning of April 2009, by which time due diligence was complete and the agreement was in final form, a number of extensions were requested by San Severina until the agreement was signed on 31 May 2009. Since April the oil price has risen very strongly and this factor, together with San Severina's failure to complete the transaction as agreed, resulted in both Nighthawk concluding that it was in [its] interests to terminate the agreement."

As old housewives would say, don't count your chickens until the eggs have hatched. The group's share price closed at 33p on Friday.