Small Talk: How 'i' came before 'e' in Energizer – and everything else

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The Independent Online

The prefix 'i' is now ubiquitous. Whether you are listening to your iPod, watching something on the iPlayer, or searching iGoogle, the 'i' is difficult to avoid.

And it is spreading to the Alternative Investment Market (Aim). For no particular reason at all, the prefix has been added to, iEnergizer, which last week announced that it is intending to list on the small cap market. The group says that it is hoping to raise £37m when it comes to market on 14 September, and that it will have a market capitalisation of £174m, making it one of Aim's bigger fish.

iEnergizer is the holding company for a group of outsourcing businesses that largely serve the back-office needs of banks and credit card companies, from its base in India. For potential investors, the management team says that it hopes for, "a progressive dividend policy following admission". Last year, the company's revenues were "approximately" $34m (£22m).

The group's chief executive and founder, Anil Aggarwal (not the head of Indian mining giant Vedanta Resources) reckons that the Indian business outsourcing market will grow by as much as 38 per cent in the next two years, giving it an overall value of about $6bn.

He said: "iEnergizer provides integrated business process outsourcing solutions throughout the world in a wide range of sectors.

"We have a strong management team which has already developed deep relationships with a diversified customer base to provide business critical services. The IPO will help to raise the company's profile internationally and help diversify its shareholder base as well as providing a liquid market for the ordinary shares. In addition it will help us to further incentivise our staff who are key to our continued success."


All change, it seems (finally), at Astaire, the small-cap brokerage, which is itself listed on Aim.

The firm said last week that talks with a potential investors, which would have effectively led to a change of control, had collapsed or as the company put it, "did not reach a mutually acceptable conclusion".

Nonetheless, it is not all bad news. In the announcement to the stock exchange, Astaire, which was formerly known as Blue Oar Securities, confirmed that it was locked in talks with two other potential investors over the sale of its securities business, known as Astaire Securities and Rowan Dartington, its private client arm.

At one time Astaire was the second-biggest broker on Aim, before the financial crisis, a weight of competition and one or two other problems hit the group. The last 12 months have been nothing if not tough for the company, which has faced a minority shareholder revolt over three of its proposed resolutions. Earlier in the year Rowan Dartington was forced to write off about £1m after the Financial Services Authority issued the Bristol-based firm with a £511,000 fine for failing to protect and properly segregate client accounts.

The fine was all the more upsetting to Astaire, which had to put an end to its plan to buy Rowan Dartington's rival Hoodless Brennan. The fine also led to the departure of chief executive, Ed Vandyk.

Last week's announcement came with the usual caveats that the discussions may, or indeed may not, lead to a deal. It is understood that a sale of Astaire Securities is likely to happen before the private client brokerage is offloaded with the eventual plan seemingly that the resulting cash will be returned to shareholders who have endured a share price collapse of almost 90 per cent in the last 12 months.

That would at least rescue some value for investors, who may be less enthralled by the prospect of plan B, which is to run the group as going concern if potential sales fall through.

Aim awards

Iron the dress shirts, straighten the dicky bow and roll out the red carpet because it is that time of year again. Yes, that's it, the annual Aim shindig, for which nominations were announced last week.

While, in the past, the evening has been an opportunity to do some mutual backslapping after yet another 12 months of massive fundraising and share-price successes, in more recent times the event has been more of a wake, where those that have survived the financial crisis can gather to remember those that did not make it.

With something of a recovery on the way, this year should be brighter, however, especially after research from Deloitte two weeks ago showed that the number of companies leaving the market may eventually be outstripped by those listing by the New Year.

"The quality of the companies and individuals nominated for these awards clearly demonstrates the resilience of Aim at a time when all capital markets are under pressure, and also reflects the nominees' extraordinary achievements during the year," said David Snell, the Aim leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers, which is jointly organising the bash in October with Ford Sinclair.

"It is also a testament to the success of an exchange which since its inception has attracted more than 3,000 companies from across the world to float on London's growth market."

But what is interesting is the sectors that feature among the nominees. Winners in the last couple of years have come from the defensive sectors (to the extent to which they exist on Aim), to where investors flocked during the recession.

This year's picks, by contrast, come from racy worlds of mining, technology and green tech among others, indicating that for now at least, a degree of risk appetite has returned. Our personal favourite is Easydate, which is on the slate to win the Best Newcomer gong.