Small Talk: We're all at sea, says marine radio chief

Click to follow
The Independent Online

One truism of this recession is that everyone is blaming everyone else for the utter mess we are in. The ordinary Joes blame the spivs and bankers, the bankers blame the markets and regulators (and, rather oddly, the consumers who are now paying their salaries) and the Government tends to blame a different group each day, making sure it stresses constantly that it is not just a British problem.

As the whole sorry muddle carries on, more and more people are jumping on the bandwagon. The latest is Simon Tucker, pictured, the chief executive of Software Radio Technology, the marine radio group listed on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM).

Mr Tucker's beef is that all of the above have not got the faintest idea what they are talking about. He says that the backbone of the British economy, SMEs, are being overlooked in this crisis: "Most politicians have never started and built a business, nor have most directors of large companies," he says. "Instead, they have floated to the top of established companies. This explains why most of the so-called solutions being prescribed today will not work.

"In order to create real jobs, we need to get real business going, which will create the employment which will give the man or woman in the street the confidence to spend. Instead, we are wasting huge amounts of valuable taxpayer capital."

The answer to the problem, says Mr Tucker, is to offer retrospective tax rebates to people running small businesses, so long as that money is substantially reinvested in a trading business. "The banks have never been lenders against risk," he says. "They lend against assets, and with asset prices falling, the so-called solution is not working. Bankers are unsurprisingly acting as bankers, not business people."

Mr Tucker's own business has been through the mill a bit in the last year, with the share price falling a whopping 93 per cent, 77 per cent in the last three months alone. His thoughts, however, are intended to start a debate, he says.

China crisis forces ADSL to delist from AIM

Asia Distribution Solutions Limited, the ingloriously named group that distributes branded drinks in China, quietly delisted from AIM last Thursday as part of its decision to accept a takeover offer from the US-listed Australian wine group Yarraman Inc. The delisting did not come too soon for executive chairman Michael Kingshott, who has become somewhat frustrated with AIM recently.

"The offer from Yarraman was too good to miss," said a source close to the company, who confirmed that Mr Kingshott was finding the company's AIM listing "infuriating". Small-cap share prices have been plagued by investor nervousness and illiquidity.

Mr Kingshott himself eventually decided not to comment on the delisting for fear that his comments might upset the compliance department at ADSL's new owners. His thoughts, however, are known to be shared by other small-cap company executives. As the economic crisis continues, expect other groups to follow Mr Kingshott's lead.

Tanzanite man's move to Gemfields prompts fresh takeover talk

There are many acquisition plans that have been thwarted by the recession. One that these pages covered towards the end of last year was the precious stone miner Gemfields Resources' ultimately abortive attempt to get its hands on rival Tanzanite One, which caused no end of consternation.

Gemfields has put the takeover on the backburner for the time being. The markets are not right for a big acquisition, it says, but no one should assume that all bets are off.

Enter Ian Harebottle, until last February the chief executive of Tanzanite One and, as of the end of last week, the new chief executive of Gemfields. Mr Harebottle says that the market for precious stones, such as emeralds, particularly in India, is exciting and that his immediate priorities are operational.

Investors should not expect a radical departure from recent strategy, however. Mr Harebottle was appointed by interim chief executive, and now executive director, Sean Gilbertson, whose father, the former chief executive of BHP Billiton Brian Gilbertson, founded the company.

Mr Gilbertson Junior has been leading the attack on Tanzanite One and it should be seen as no surprise that a former insider at the target company assumes the top job. Mr Harebottle refused to rule out a future revised offer for Tanzanite One last week, adding that improved markets would allow a "better shot later on".

Incidentally, the market was not enthused by Mr Harebottle's appointment, with the stock closing down 13.3 per cent on Thursday, the day of his appointment.