Small Talk: Hard news on soft wood is welcomed

In the week that the world throws a whole lot of carbon in the air travelling to Copenhagen for the international climate change conference, one of the Alternative Investment Market (Aim) sustainable leaders announced that it has tapped the improved sentiment among small-cap investors.

Accsys Technologies has developed a clever technique, sold under the trade name Accoya, that toughens softwood, enabling it to be used as a hardwood. Hardwood takes much longer to grow, is more expensive and much rarer than the soft varieties. So, the group claims, Accoya not only gives Accsys's clients a cheaper alternative to an expensive commodity but also gives the environment a breather too.

The group last week said that it is aiming to raise €17m through an equity placing. Among other uses, the net proceeds will help support production of Accoya wood out of the company's plant in Arnhem, increasing the production of panel products using other technology to a commercial scale and providing working capital.

"The strengthening of our financial position through this fundraising is a significant step," said Paul Clegg, Accsys' chief executive. "We have made great strides over the past few months in expanding our global network of distributors, building the Accoya wood brand and raising awareness within the industry that our product has the high performance of a hard wood whilst being fully sustainable. We strongly believe this will fuel greater licensing opportunities." Accsys claims its treated soft wood can survive for several years submerged in water. In the Netherlands, a road bridge guaranteed for 90 years has been built using only Accoya.

Firestone adds hint of sparkle

The proof of the pudding with any announcement made by an Aim-listed company is how the market reacts to the news. Firestone Diamonds, the Aim-listed and Botswana-based group was up 14.7 per cent on Thursday morning after announcing that it intends to commence development of commercial operations at its kimberlite project in Botswana. The shares closed the week up 9.38 per cent.

The group hopes to start production in the second quarter next year, and says that the remaining development costs can be funded from existing cash reserves.

Firestone's numbers look good too, with estimated revenue of $16 per tonne and operating costs of $6.50 per tonne. The group expects to produce annual revenues of approximately $24m at operating margins of 60 per cent.

Giving with one hand, taking with the other

The pre-Budget report was a mixed bag for small businesses: the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, deferred the introduction of a one per cent increase in corporation tax, leaving the rate for SMEs at 21 per cent next year. The move will help 850,000 small companies. Other measures will also help, such as the extension of the Enterprise Finance Guarantee and the Time to Pay scheme.

The EFG, under which the Government guarantees 75 per cent of loans for companies with a turnover of less than £25m, was extended for 12 months and will secure up to £500m worth of loans. The Time to Pay initiative is also being prolonged, allowing 160,000 businesses to spread the cost of tax payments over longer periods. Separately, the Growth Capital Fund, which helps start-up businesses for five years has been handed a further £500m.

What the Chancellor gave with one hand, he took away with the other, with the Federation of Small Businesses claiming that the 0.5 per cent jump in National Insurance would lead to a 57,000 small-cap job losses. There has been a lot of ink spilt already on the PBR, and some argue that the smaller companies should also be engaged in a bit of self help.

UK VAT-registered SMEs are missing out on a quarter of potential VAT reclaims due to sloppy expense practices, shows research commissioned by fuelGenie, the business fuel-card produced for use at supermarket forecourts. Sarah Keane at fuelGenie said: "Petrol is the most common expense claimed by UK SME employees [making up about 60.5 per cent of all claims] yet one in four fuel expenses are submitted without a receipt.

"SME owners need to clamp down on lax attitudes to expenses, or risk losing much-needed cash at a time when profits are under extreme pressure. Ensuring corporate expense policies are followed is something that can have a big effect on a company's bottom line."

News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
News
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Customer Service Executive / Inbound Customer Service Agent

£18 - 23k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Customer Service Executiv...

ASP.NET Web Developer / .NET Developer

£60 - 65k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a ASP.NET Web Developer / ....

Operational Risk Manager - Asset Management

£60,000 - £80,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is an leading Asset Manager based...

Project Coordinator - 12 month contract

£27000 - £32000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our large charity ...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album