Small Talk: Indian energy group aims to raise $500m

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The Independent Online

The current problems of listing on AIM are well documented. Companies are struggling to attract investors; the number of groups floating without raising funds is soaring.

According to accountants Deloitte, fewer than 10 per cent of funds raised on AIM between January and March came via new IPOs. With that in mind, investors may be forgiven for turning a blind eye to announcements of new firms about to hit the market, especially if they want to raise $500m (£260m).

First thing this morning, KSK Emerging India Energy Fund Ltd will disclose plans to float with the intention of raising more money than any other group this year; an ambitious plan considering the dire state of the market.

But the group is not completely unknown. It is a spin-off from another AIM fund, KSK Power Ventur plc, a venture capital group, which invests in private power projects in India. The new fund, which will be listed on AIM and CISX in June, intends to develop secondary power projects. It has already put together a pipeline of 14 proposed investments, which include equipment suppliers, such as turbine and boiler manufacturers and power dev-elopers including hydroelectric, biomass and gas-fired technology.

And it is because of the homework already done, and the fact that the founders of the original fund will act as non-executive directors, that director Tanmay Das believes investors will be convinced that KSK Emerging India Energy Fund is not just another AIM also-ran.

Maybe investors will be further convinced by the astonishing projected power needs of India. The Indian Government has introduced a "Power-for-All" project to help increase capacity from 143,000MW today to 200,000MW by 2012, a rise that is expected to require a capital investment of at least $120bn over the next five years.

The whole $500m KSK Emerging India Energy Fund aims to raise is a tall order and Mr Das, while conceding that any business operating exclusively in India is subject to the risks associated with the country's emerging economy, says he would be satisfied with $300m. We will see in June.

Cantono

Last week, Cantono signed a 25-year lease on its first data centre, where comp-anies' computer and IT systems are managed and backed up. Today, the group will announce that it has already signed up three groups to use its centre near Southampton.

The move represents a dramatic change of fortune for the group, which has led a basket case existence since originally floating on AIM as Hamsard Group, a diversified and aimless organisation that investors avoided like the plague.

But the group, having had to change its name in the process, is emerging as a healthier proposition now that it has shed most of its less than desirable divisions to concentrate on its managed services business. That arm, led by Eamus Halpin, who is now chief executive, was the only one that made any money.

Before turning itself inside out, Cantono was a disaster. It hopes that by getting its first clients and attracting more institutional support – Gartmore now owns 11 per cent – the group is moving towards a brighter future.

Timestrip provides food for thought

Some ideas are so simple you wonder why they have not been thought of before. One such example is Timestrip, which makes single-use smart labels indicating how much longer perishable goods can be used before deteriorating.

Joint chief executive Reuben Isbitsky admits there was no Eureka moment. Instead, he says that consumers faced with best-before dates, use-by dates and consume-within-however-many-days labels, are often left confused. The idea of developing a clearer system developed over time.

Timestrip works by showing how long a product has been open and, even though the idea is simple, the technology is pretty clever. The group uses a vegetable oil that is released through a membrane at a consistent rate. The company can then plot the leaking oil over a scale that can be timed between 10 minutes or a year. The group's share price is uninspiring: the stock closed at 2.88p, a miserable performance given the group was floated at 4p a share in February 2005. Yet Mr Isbitsky says that Timestrip is starting to gain traction. It has already signed in the likes of Procter & Gamble and Nestlé, and while Mr Isbitsky complains that working with the big boys is a frustrating process – it can take a year to get a contract signed – once the first few contracts are in place it is easier to attract others. This will be good for the group's move into medical services. The company says it can adapt its technol-ogy to show when perishable goods that have to be shipped over long distances at certain temperatures have been exposed to too much heat. This, says Mr Isbitsky, can be used by both the medical and food transportation industries and should lead to a dramatic saving of waste.

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