Small Talk: Rockhopper joins the oil rush off the Falkland Islands

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The Independent Online

All eyes in the South Atlantic switched to the Aim-listed Rockhopper Exploration, which last week became the latest oil group to try its luck drilling for the black gold.

The group said on Friday that it had spudded its Sea Lion exploration well, drilling to a depth of around 2,700m. The augers have not been kind to Rockhopper and the other Aim-listed exploration groups that have been digging in the Falkland Islands' territorial waters.

Desire Petroleum, which is planning to dig three wells with Rockhopper later in the year, said two weeks ago that it had abandoned its first well after drawing a blank, sending its share price spiralling. Rockhopper's share price was hardly helped, and has fallen by more than 10 per cent in last week alone. There will undoubtedly be more falls to come if Rockhopper's results resemble those of Desire. Backers handed over £50m in November last year to fund the group's Falklands adventure. Of course, a find will put the group, and its investors, in clover.

Not only have the drilling programmes caused the companies a lot of nervousness, but the activity has caused a worsening in the already fragile relations between Britain and Argentina, which argues that the seas around the Falklands are its waters, and consequently, so is any oil that's found in them.

One advantage of the credit crunch is that neither has sufficient money to back the rhetoric with any military force.

Bright future for stadium firm Hightex

One Aim group that's guaranteed to get exposure this summer is Hightex, which fixes membranes and cable systems on the roofs of stadiums.

The group has already put its technology on the retractable roof on Wimbledon's centre court, and on the stadiums in Johannesburg and Cape Town that will host matches in the football World Cup.

Hightex issued better-than-expected full-year results last week saying that gross profits doubled in the past year to €4.2m (£3.7m), on a 23.5 per cent revenue hike to €20m (£17.7m). Clearly the market has been encouraged by the group's contract successes, with the share price jumping by 277 per cent in the last 12 months alone. The future is bright too, say the analysts at Finncap, especially with a pipeline of €100m (£89m) of potential projects, ranging from Heathrow airport's Terminal East, to the London 2012 Olympics and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Planet Payment in pole position for Aim company of the year

Everyone likes a bit of recognition and this evening, the great and the good of the Aim market will gather at the Grocers' Hall in the City of London for the annual shindig that is the Growth Company Awards.

Now in its tenth year, the market's Oscars night praises those on the Aim and Plus markets for their work during the past 12 months. Those prepared to sit through the 11 awards can expect a close-run race for the overall Aim company of the year.

Of all the nominees – Abcam, Brooks Macdonald, CareTech, CVS, Education Development International, H&T and Planet Payment – our money is on Planet Payment, a group that processes data for banks, including credit-card transactions in a multitude of currencies.

The awards are designed to reward growth, and none of the other nominees can come anywhere close to Planet Payment's jump of 262.5 per cent. Much like a Grand National favourite, the group will now probably fall at the first fence thanks to our backing, but Philip Beck, the group's chairman and chief executive, is nonetheless pleased to have been nominated: "We're delighted to have been shortlisted. The past year has been another hugely successful one for us, with revenues increasing 31 per cent, gross profit up 42 per cent and our first full year of adjusted Ebitda profit. We look forward to continuing our growth over the coming months and years."

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