Small Talk: Welcome news from a South Wales miner

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The Independent Online

It was little more 25 years ago when Margaret Thatcher broke the iron grip of the mining unions. Or ruined the lives of the thousands that depended on coalmining for a living and way of life, depending on your point of view.

But while Mrs Thatcher may have beaten Arthur Scargill and his colleagues, she did not end coalmining in the UK. Energybuild, the Aim-listed group that mines in the Welsh valleys (just like the good old days) announced its full-year results on Friday, rather proving there is life left in the pits yet.

The company has turned a 132 per cent increase in operating profit, while production, often the important measurement of success for small-cap miners, was up an impressive 108 per cent to 239,000 tonnes of sellable coal. To cap it off nicely, the group has agreed a £2.5m loan facility with its 50.6 per cent shareholder.

Energybuild operates the Aberpergwm mine, while it also owns the Treforgan coal reserve in the Neath and Dulais valleys of South Wales. Between them, the two are believed to have 7.6 million tonnes of measured and indicated coal resources. Energybuild also operates the Nant y Mynydd and Forest Quarry opencast sites on the Aberpergwm estate, for which the group has a 25-year lease over 2,428 hectares.

"The group [has] continued with the development of the Aberpergwm drift mine with several milestones achieved during the year," said chairman Colin Cooke in a statement to the Stock Exchange on Friday. "Having completed the secondary air circuit in the 18ft seam in December, the team has now progressed to developing production panels in that seam and continuing the development of the new drift from the mine surface. Production from the underground mine increased 280 per cent to 114,000 tonnes for the year."

Golden prospects in Oslo

With a market capitalisation of a nudge over £150m, the gold producer Avocet Mining is one of Aim's bigger companies. It is likely to be one of the largest overall groups on the Oslo Stock Exchange (OSE) if its plan to dual list on the Norwegian exchange goes ahead.

The decision comes after Avocet bought Wega Mining in April this year, which itself was listed on the Oslo bourse. The deal meant that about 35 per cent of Avocet shares are now held by former Wega shareholders, who are mainly Norwegian investors. Following the acquisition, a number have increased their holdings in Avocet, making the move to Oslo a natural one.

"Avocet has seen continued interest from Nordic investors following the Wega transaction, and our board believes that providing the opportunity to develop their investment locally through an OSE listing will help us grow our investor base in the best interests of all shareholders," said Jonathan Henry, Avocet's chief executive.

Sino-Indian firm adds to firepower

Whoever said bigger is not always better?

Origo Sino-India, the AIM-listed private equity group that targets investments predominantly in China and India, announced on Friday that it has agreed to merge with its separately listed natural resources fund, Origo Resource Partners, in a move to trim costs and broaden its shareholder base.

Niklas Ponnert, Origo's finance director, said the move was designed to increase the size of the group and give a boost to its lagging net asset value; a change that he conceded could take some time before leading to material increases in the group's value.

Nonetheless, the merger does provide the combined group with more firepower, with an investment portfolio of 15 companies and an aggregate value of £53.8m, based on valuations earlier this year.

In June, Origo Sino-India announced an annual 200 per cent increase in revenues from investments in the likes of a Chinese internet security company and a biofuel plantation in India.

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