Small Talk: Passport to the Asian property market revoked

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The Independent Online

Expect Lots of fun and games this week at JSM Indochina, an Aim-listed property fund, which has done plenty to upset a major shareholder, it seems.

Passport Capital, which holds 13 per cent of the company's stock, has called for an extraordinary general meeting after getting thoroughly brassed off, it says, with the company's board, its Nomad, Numis (which put a representative on a conference call with JSM last week to ensure that the bank's good name was not tarnished), and the performance of JSM's shares.

Specifically, Passport alleges that JSM has failed to deliver on its IPO promise to invest within a year the full $220m raised when it first listed on Aim in 2007. Craig Jones, JSM's boss and "just a guy in a pub", says that the Asian property market has flagged in recent years, and surely Passport's interests and those of other investors are best served by a conservative approach. And anyway, he adds, only $40m of the IPO money has yet to find its way into investments.

Passport refutes Mr Jones's claim that it wants to take over the group, but does admit that its proposals include removing three directors and nominating three of its own. If handing out whatever cash is left on the balance sheet to shareholders is the best way forward, then so be it.

The general issue is one of transparency and openness, says Passport, which is a little odd since it spent most of last week trying to duck an interview on the subject, but the group did eventually speak to The Independent on Friday.

As part of its argument, Passport will try to persuade other JSM investors (presumably avoiding Mr Jones, who owns 14.5 per cent of the shares) to ask why the group is trading at a 43 per cent discount to net asset value. Not a bad performance, reckons Mr Jones, judging by some of JSM's competitors.

There are also personal complaints about Mr Jones himself, but he says that none of them stick.

No doubt there will other rounds to come in what is likely to be a rather personal and bitter battle.

A textbook success story

More good news from another Aim-listed company that concentrates its efforts in China. Sinosoft, which provides Chinese local and regional government with IT systems, has bagged a $700,000 deal with Jiangsu province to supply an electronic system for China's third-biggest library, in Nanjing.

Under the deal, Sinosoft will provide a new archiving, cataloguing and book-borrowing system. Xin Yingmei, chief executive of Sinosoft, said: "This is a breakthrough deal for Sinosoft and a positive indication of increasing confidence in the Chinese IT sector.

"The board will now look to maximise the opportunity that has arisen to combine the new technology developed for this project with our existing software and IT solutions."

Dragon of a stock enters AIM market

China Private Equity Holdings had a stellar first day as a listed company on the Alternative Investment Market last Monday, when its shares jumped by 32 per cent and it managed to raise $5m. Of course, the huge leap shows the stock was under-priced in the first place, not that investors had any great faith in the group. But the increase, and the fact that CPE was able to come market at all, suggests there is at least a scintilla of confidence returning to the Aim.

CPE, like a growing number of firms coming to London markets, focuses on investments in China, with a particular interest in the telecoms, media and technology sectors. "We believe there are significant opportunities to invest in high-growth TMT businesses in China and secure a significant return for shareholders on exit," said chief executive Duncan Chui, pictured.

"China is undoubtedly the powerhouse of future economic growth in the region and beyond, with a GDP growing at approximately 10 per cent per annum."