Small Talk: Imaginatik is inspired by big ideas

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The Independent Online

If there is one thing the Aim market should be doing it is allowing small-cap companies with a good idea to grow and take advantage of all the benefits – not least funding opportunities – that come with having a public listing. And while things are pretty dire for a large number of these groups that sought investors' money in the good times, some are showing that it is not all woe.

Imaginatik, a software company, says its programme allows large organisations to collect and analyse cost-saving ideas from employees, ideas that have led to groups like Wal-Mart making $170m in annualised savings, claims chief executive Mark Turrell.

You might be forgiven for thinking that it is a cute idea that has limited appeal. You would be wrong. As even the biggest global brands look for ways of saving money, Imaginatik has managed to sign up the likes of Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical and Xerox as clients. When the group publishes its full year results in June, it will report a maiden pre-tax profit. So impressed is pharmaceutical group Pfizer that it has taken a 6.1 per cent stake in the company.

Mr Turrell says he wants Imaginatik to become a leading, and independent, technology group. The fact that he holds nearly 60 per cent of the stock himself, means, at the very least, that he will achieve the independence part of his ambition for the company.

Lawyers' bun fight

Lawyers, of course, are known for their disputes, but usually they do involve a third party to argue about. Last week, however, two Aim-centric firms locked horns over the decision of Hammonds to offer a £5,000 one stop shop for struggling Aim companies to de-list. Given the flood of groups opting to come off the market every week, it would seem that the Hammonds move would be welcomed by a host of groups.

Not so the competition, it would seem. Representatives of Cobbetts, another firm that specialises in corporate financing for Aim-listed companies, are adamant that their client's objection to Hammonds' move is not professional jealously. Not a case of, "I wish we'd thought of that," they say. Instead, they point to comments made last week by Cobbetts' head of public markets Andrew Wright, who said: "The challenges that Aim is facing at present are a result of difficulties in the economy rather than the market itself. Aim is simply a structure enabling shares to be traded between buyers and sellers. Leaving the market purely on account of temporary economic or market conditions, or on account of perceived short-term cost savings, could be seen as short-termist, rather than taking account what is in the long-term best interests of a company and its shareholders."

All true, no doubt, but most of the companies leaving the Aim market do so because they go into administration or because they consider the exchange no longer fit for purpose. Many fewer investors are now prepared to buy into what are perceived to be riskier small-cap companies, and in lots of cases liquidity has dried up.

Hammonds, for their part, say they are innocent of the charge. They market the service at nominated advisers who can then advise clients should they think it necessary, said a spokeswoman, who says it is then up to the advisers to pick out clients of the service.

Real Office Group

Despite highlighting a number of struggling companies, and a rather poorly Aim market in recent weeks, this column is not the harbinger of bad news for the Aim market. We welcome new entries to the list. There was an Aim market green shoot last week when, phoenix-like, Real Office Group re-listed. Or sort of. The group, a specialist investment vehicle targeting office re-fitting companies, has been listed on Aim since September 2007, but as a cash shell. Real Office announced a deal to buy three office re-fitters, after which the shares will effectively get their re-listing.