Small Talk: Takeover fun as African Minerals calls ENRC's bluff

Aim-listed African Minerals caused much excitement last Thursday when it announced to the market that it was in discussions with a plethora of much bigger mining groups about a takeover of its Tonkolili site, an estimated 5.1bn tonne iron ore asset in Sierra Leone.

The apparently interested groups include the FTSE 100-listed Kazakh digger Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC), "a Chinese consortium" and "a Brazilian organisation".

The problem for Frank Timis, African Minerals' colourful executive chairman, is that despite the statement telling investors that ENRC had been trawling through the books for three months, with a view to signing a joint venture agreement (cue: share price rise of 14 per cent), ENRC was nearly as quick out of the blocks to dampen the story. The group said it was indeed looking at a range of opportunities, but its focus was on a deal to buy Camec, another AIM-listed miner, a takeover that was concluded last Friday.

True, at no point on Thursday did ENRC actually say what had been put out by Mr Timis was porkies, but the company's annoyance at African Minerals' announcement was palpable. A spokesman for African Minerals insisted on Friday that talks with ENRC were at an "advanced" stage, despite the claims getting no support from the bigger company.

The fact is that African Minerals is unable to fund the exploration of Tonkolili alone, and needs a partner to pay for the lion's share of the work needed to get the project off the ground: "The move appears to be a blatant attempt to ramp the company's share price on the back of another deal. Again, investors should be wary of the promoters behind the stock in our view," said analysts at Fairfax.

Mr Timis, 45, is certainly no stranger to controversy. On his own website, he admits to having three convictions for possession of heroin as a teenager. That was years ago, and Mr Timis says he "deeply regrets" the peccadillo.

More recently, in 2005, Mr Timis stepped down as chief executive of Regal Petroleum, another Aim-listed group, after allegations of overstating of the company's Greek oil assets. Mr Timis says that independent analysts had told him that the site contained plenty of the black stuff. However, the estimates turned out to be excessive with much less oil actually being discovered.

ENRC said on Friday that it "does not comment on rumour and speculation", which while very noble does rather ignore the fact that African Minerals has made a statement to the Stock Exchange.

Vale, the Brazilian group that the market seems to assume is one of the other interested parties, will not even return calls on the matter.

However, while it is true that an MBA student would hardy be advised to run a takeover in the way that this has been approached, the fact that ENRC have not actually said that anything in African Minerals' statement in untrue suggests the deal might actually have legs.

BIS in a spin on small business HR practices

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS), through the Employment Relations minister Lord Young, has released what appears to be a very encouraging report this morning, noting that 40 per cent of small firms in the UK have developed "creative solutions to strengthen their business during the downturn".

The research, which focuses on HR and leadership, involved asking 500 small business owners what they have done to offset the worst of the recession.

And of course, the results are impressive, at first glance. Of the 500 companies questioned "over three-quarters ... who have made changes [to employment practices], believe their business is stronger as a result." Changes include recruiting new staff, which 15 per cent of businesses have done, while 19 per cent have "adjusted staff roles".

One question that the Government did not consider important when asking about employment practices, however, was whether or not they had made any staff redundant (in a recession? Of course not), which means that the 26 per cent of companies that said they had "adjusted staff working hours" may not having been giving quite the upbeat reply as BIS are trying to suggest.

While innovation is no doubt a good way of avoiding job losses, not to ask how many jobs a company has cut in an employment practices survey, somewhat misses the point. Spin is one thing, but we thought the Government was now sanctioned to talk about cuts.

LSE boss backs small caps

Good new for those that depend on the small-cap equity markets this week.

The new chief executive of the London Stock Exchange Group, Xavier Rolet, told the Quoted Companies Alliance's annual dinner that the exchange was committed to the small-cap sector. "We firmly believe the solution to the debt-fuelled binge of recent years is equity. Small and medium-sized enterprises are a central part of our strategy, and essential to the UK," he said.

That will be no doubt welcomed by a raft of groups in sectors such as mining and biotechnology that are desperate for investors to start putting money back into speculative companies.

As ever with the small-cap sector, it was two steps forward and one back, however. Hours before Mr Rolet took to the floor the markets were awash with rumours that Deutsche Bourse, the LSE's rival, was again mulling a bid for the group. Quite what any eventual deal would mean for small cap stocks is, of course, unknown.

News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
sport
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Life and Style
news

As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”

Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Service Desk Analyst- Desktop Support, Helpdesk, ITIL

£20000 - £27000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Service Desk Analyst - (Active Directory, Support, London)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst - (Active Di...

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, VBA)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition