Small Talk: Hightex header hits the target

Football fans have to remember to take an ever-expanding assortment of paraphernalia with them to matches these days: ticket and scarf, whistle, fog-horn, rattle and – as of recently – a beach ball.

One thing those travelling to Ukraine and Poland for the European Championships in three year's time can forget about, however, is an umbrella. And that is all thanks to one of the companies listed on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM), Hightex Group.

The company is a true AIM tiddler, with a market capitalisation of just £10.3m. That did not stop it winning the contract to supply a membrane roof and cable system to cover the Olympic stadium in Kiev. The ground is a supposed to be hosting the final of the tournament, if the Ukrainians can get their act together to sort out all the infrastructure and other problems.

The contract, at €18.9m (£16.9m), is Hightex's biggest-ever win, and follows a similar deal for the national stadium in Warsaw, which is competing with Kiev for the right to host the final of the tournament. Hightex's shares jumped more than 25 per cent last Thursday on the news from Kiev.

The group is well used to working on top sporting venues, having also helped with the new retractable roof over the Centre Court at Wimbledon and the FNB stadium in Johannesburg, which will be used to host next summer's football World Cup final.

The Kiev contract "has substantially increased the present visibility of 2010 revenues above the €10m contributed by the Warsaw contract win," said chairman Charles DesForges.



Meridian eyes improved arc

Meridian Petroleum, the AIM-listed oil and gas group that has a field in production in the US and exploration assets in Australia, issued a press release on Friday that wins our "stating the bleedin' obvious" award for last week.

The company, which has a market capitalisation of £8.5m, said it has the "target of becoming a mid-cap, independent exploration and production company with critical mass and a strategic presence in key areas of interest". Don't they all?

So what is so special about Meridian? As some may recall, the AIM authorities imposed a fine of £75,000 on the group last year for rather overstating the good news and forgetting to mention the bad news. On Friday, however, circumstances improved with the company attracting institutional investment, led by Levine Capital Management, which will take a 29.9 per cent in the company following a placing worth £6.9m, subject to the approval of an EGM scheduled for 30 November. Analysts at Oriel Securities said the move would "transform the company into an acquisition vehicle for E&P assets".

*Politicians will be appealing to small and medium-sized businesses when they address the AIM annual conference on Wednesday. Lord Drayson, the science minister, and John Penrose, the Tory business spokesman, will be looking to woo delegates.

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