Small Talk: Modern Water taps demand in Middle East

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The Independent Online

Water, in case anyone hasn't noticed, is becoming a rather scarce commodity.

So it is probably not just investors in Aim-listed Modern Water, the technology group that has commercialised what it calls "manipulated osmosis technology", that should be pleased the company is making progress.

The group last week said that it has produced the first water from its desalination plant in Oman, where the country's Ministry of Power and Water has agreed to buy up the water to supply to the Al-Khaluf region.

The company is hoping its plant in Oman will act as a showcase for the rest of the Middle East, a region that for obvious reasons may be among the first to suffer from water shortages, but a part of the world that also has the resources to pay for expensive desalination projects.

"The start-up of the Al-Khaluf plant is a major breakthrough for Modern Water," said the executive chairman, Neil McDougall. "Spending on desalination and other water-related technologies in the Middle East continues to increase and so we are delighted to have a commercial plant operating in the region that can also act as a showcase for potential clients."

There was yet more good news from the company when it disclosed separately last week that its Cymtox subsidiary, in which it has a 76 per cent stake, has achieved its first revenues. Cymtox is a company that produces equipment for measuring water toxicity levels and has already signed several contracts with a company in China, which will increasingly demand clean water supplies because of urbanisation, rising industrial output and pressure to reduce pollution.

President Kennedy was once quoted as saying: "If we could ever competitively, at a cheap rate, get fresh water from salt water, this would be in the long-range interests of humanity and would dwarf any other scientific accomplishment." Let's see if Modern Water can live up to the mantle.

Medical firm's move is a boost to AIM

Over the past year or so, just about everything has hit the fan in small-cap land.

As such, the two small-cap share indices, the Alternative Investment Market (Aim) and Plus, have been battling to convince companies that each is better placed in terms of costs, liquidity and profile to suit newcomers.

Plus has generally trumpeted new arrivals to its market, especially as a glut of groups have decided to leave Aim during the course of last year.

Last week however, Avia Health Informatics, an investor in what it describes as "clinical decision support systems", decided that it has got too big for Plus, and is moving to Aim. Avia's boss Barry Giddens, right, who is keen to buy up more companies after the reverse takeover last week of Plain Software, says investors are generally keener to see shares traded on Aim. It raised £1.18m last week on moving and following the acquisition of Plain.

Gardin is the brains behind Italy's £200m theme park

There are some pretty big companies on the Aim which have succeeded in achieving the object of the exchange: growth. And there are others at the opposite end of the scale that are hoping to emulate them. Brainspark, an Aim-listed investment vehicle, last week confirmed its intention to buy a 10.87 per cent stake in the land development group Mediapolis for just £426,000.

Mediapolis owns a 150-acre site in northern Italy and plans to build the country's largest theme park on it. Mediapolis reckons the attraction, which has been 10 years in the planning, will be ready within three years at a cost of £200m.

"This investment is the first of a series of investments that the new board is considering which have a particular focus in the entertainment and leisure sectors," said Francesco Gardin, chairman of Brainspark.

"Our strategy is to focus on companies which will increase shareholder value, while also taking advantage of the synergies between physical and digital entertainment.

"We expect to update shareholders on further investments in due course."