Small Talk: Origo shows the way forward for private equity with focus on India and China

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The Independent Online

Bankers and politicians have traded places this year in the battle to be crowned public enemy number one.

It is not long ago that private equity tycoons held the title. Yet the collapse of the debt markets they so relied on has seen the buyout groups reduced to shadows of their former selves.

The buyout firms that hunt European companies, that is. Alternative Investment Market-listed Origo Sino-India is a private equity firm that targets the Chinese and Indian markets. True, it is not the first Aim-listed company to recognise the potential of growth in those regions, but after announcing an annual 200 per cent increase in revenues from investments in the likes of a Chinese internet security company and a biofuels plantation in India, Origo is bucking the trend of most private equity firms.

While it slipped to an overall net loss last year, after a profit in 2007, the firm declared itself content: "We achieved a creditable performance in 2008 despite the significant economic uncertainty" said chief executive Chris Rynning. "We have carefully reviewed the value of the group's investments in light of the worldwide deflation of asset values across a broad spectrum of asset classes. While we have taken significant write-downs on specific holdings, I am pleased to report that the value of our portfolio companies overall has largely been maintained."

Eckoh prepares to unveil maiden full-year profit

*As if to prove the point that not all Aim-listed companies are struggling, Eckoh, a group that makes speech recognition software, is expected to announce a maiden full-year adjusted profit this morning, after posting a loss of £1.6m last year. The company's pitch is that it can save clients money by providing what it describes as a virtual call centre, capable of handling more than 650,000 calls per hour.

The break into profit is the result of winning new contracts and cutting costs, said Eckoh's chief executive, Nik Philpot, at the time of the group's full-year trading statement in April.

"We have moved into profitable trading and the year has been a successful one for both winning significant new contracts and the retention of existing customers."

Vphase feels spark after EU backing

*One of the problems faced by many AIM-listed companies is that while they have good ideas, and until recently plenty of backing from investors, many do not produce anything to sell. Consequently, they do not generate any revenues to show investors that their money is being put to good use.

Good news then for investors in Vphase, an AIM company that develops energy-saving products for domestic and commercial use. Vphase will announce today that it has received a CE certificate – a standard set by the European Union for all electrical appliances. This will allow it to sell some of its products for the first time, enable it to carry out household field trials with its UK utility partners, Scottish & Southern Energy and British Gas, and to continue to develop its pipeline of potential sales contacts.

Lee Juby, Vphase's chief executive, said: "We are very pleased that we have now achieved CE Certification, which means that we can immediately instigate the push to commercial sales of our units. Our agreements with British Gas and Scottish and Southern Energy will, subject to satisfactory trials, allow access to up to 40 per cent of the UK housing market, and we are continuing to establish further opportunities through other routes."

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