Small Talk: Falkland Oil and Gas to drill in disputed South Atlantic waters

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The Independent Online

Falkland Oil and Gas is expected to announce later this week that it has signed a deal for the use of a rig that will allow it to start drilling for oil and gas in the seas around the islands from which it takes its name.

The news from this Alternative Investment Market-listed company should be warmly welcomed by investors, and if it happens upon some of the black stuff, all the better.

Except for one point.

An uptick in activity around the Falklands has irked the Argentinians, who regard Las Islas Malvinas as their own territory. Last week Buenos Aires detained a ship, the Thor Leader, on the grounds that it was carrying steel pipes believed to be destined for exploration work in the islands' territorial waters – an activity Argentina considers illegal.

Indeed, the move follows an increase in Argentinian sabre- rattling in recent months, as other Aim-listed groups have started exploration work. Desire Petroleum has contracted the same rig for exploration work, and has already signed a deal to lease it to Rock- hopper Exploration. Falkland Oil and Gas is hoping to employ the rig in April after testing a different seismic area. Investors have shown a keen interest in the Falklands activity, with all three groups successfully raising money in chunky fund-raising.

Desire cashed £42m in September, before Rockhopper raised £50m – the same amount as Falkland Oil and Gas. Another outfit, Borders & Southern, is planning its own drilling campaign and last November raised a whopping £113.1m to fund a three-well programme. Desire had planned to start drilling earlier this month, but the rig is understood to have been delayed by bad weather.

It is expected to arrive at its first drill location, the company's Liz prospect on its Tranche C acreage, by the middle of next week. It will thankfully not, we understand, be accompanied by battleships.

Motive runs against the tide with relisting on Aim

Much ink has been spilled, not least in this column, on the number of groups deciding for one reason or another that the Alternative Investment Market is no longer fit for their purpose.

The lawyers at Trowers & Hamlins, said recently that the number of companies delisting from Aim increased in the fourth quarter to 73, from 63 between June and September. All bad news, no doubt.

But of course, every cloud and all that. Last Friday, the inspiringly named Motive Television relisted on Aim after a six week cessation. Under Aim rules, all companies must have a Nomad – Motive didn't after Hoodless Brennan was bought up for £3.6m by Astaire Securities and according to Motive's chief executive, Mick Pilsworth, above, there wasn't much interest from the new brokerage. The group is back now on Aim however, and without too much disruption to shareholders, Mr Pilsworth claims.

As well as changing its broker, the group is also changing its focus. After starting life as a spin-off from Irish pay per view sports channel Setanta, Motive was a holding company for independent television production companies.

After deciding that the risks in that market were no longer worth the returns, Motive has completely changed tack and now has the global distribution rights for a digital television provider. Spanish group Adeq has developed software that allows on-demand films to be watched without first downloading them through the internet, with Motive penning a potentially lucrative deal to distribute the technology across the globe.

New PLUS chief faces up to AIM

PLUS, the main rival to Aim and a specialist at attracting even smaller companies to the public markets, has a new chairman.

Giles Vardey has been appointed to "capitalise on [PLUS's] position as a fully competitive stock exchange based in London," the group's spokesman says.

He will do this by "leveraging its ability to offer primary market services by diversifying its product portfolio and extending its geographical reach, while developing its secondary market services through moving into electronic execution," so the spokesman says .

No doubt. But the exchange still has lots to do to catch up with Aim. Despite a rotten year for the London Stock Exchange's small cap index, Aim is still the exchange of choice for small caps coming to the market, and still more liquid. But PLUS is certainly making inroads. Since September, it has traded all Aim-listed stocks, and has captured as much as 25 to 30 per cent of the market, it claims. In Mr Vardey, a City behemoth, it reckons it has got a tried and tested chairman. Next stop, profitability.