Small Talk: WorldSpreads bets on popularity with online gamblers

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The Independent Online

It's 2am. You've been out and had rather too much to drink and you want to carry on into the small hours. There are of course a number of online options available, some of them you might not want to share, but increasingly, people that find themselves firing up the laptop and turning to international currency markets, and financial spreadbetting.

Aim-listed WorldSpreads says that people from every walk of life, from south London bus drivers to professional traders, are turning to spreadbetting – not least because betting duty is the only charge you pay on your winnings.

Conor Foley, the group's founder and chief executive, says that the market has served his group well: it has enabled it to pay back some long-standing investors, and the Aim's reporting requirements have imposed a discipline that might otherwise have been missing.

As well as catering for people who want to trade equity, currency and bond markets, WorldSpreads is providing the infrastructure for a number of online gambling groups.

According to Mr Foley, about 45 per cent of the group's work is spent providing this type of service. The group floated in August 2007 and gained a dual listing by joining the Irish stock exchange's IEX market the following May.

Last week, 188BET, an "in-running" football-betting service, penned a deal with WorldSpreads to be its financial spreadbetting partner. 188BET's chief executive, Andy Scott, said: "Financial spreadbetting is an obvious extension to our product offering and will be well received by 188BET customers. It's a logical progression for 188BET, and I'm delighted that we've found the ideal partner to offer these excellent products to our customers."

Range Resources

is Somalia-bound

Somalia is rarely out of the news, and usually for all the wrong reasons. But that has not stopped a number of Aim-listed companies from looking at the country as an investment opportunity.

Of course, there is no functioning national government and it is a society plagued by terrorism, so operating in Somalia has untold difficulties. But that has not discouraged Range Resources from investing significantly there.

The Aim-listed oil and gas-exploration group has a predilection for looking for natural resources in dangerous places. It is, along with its joint-venture partner, Africa Oil, set to announce a new drilling campaign in Puntland, the country's north-eastern region.

It also has assets in Georgia, which was at war with Russia a couple of years ago, so the group is nothing if not adventurous. It claims that Puntland is generally safer than the rest of the country, despite the region's ports being used to launch most of the pirate activity which attracts so much attention.

News of the drilling programme in Puntland could come as early as this week, after earlier this month Range raised A$10m (£5.8m) from an equity placing. Last week, the group also exercised a number of options to raise a further A$1.5m (£900,000) in funds.

A proportion of the cash will also be used to fund a drilling programme in Trinidad, where the group recently acquired an asset. It has also benefited from the revenues it makes from its producing assets in Texas.

Having secured and stabilised its financial support, Range Resources is proposing to target and spud its first well in the fourth quarter. This opens multi-billion barrel prospects which should add an estimated 8.3p to each share, according to the company's London broker, Old Park Lane Capital.

Barney Gray, head of research at Old Park Lane Capital, said: "The recent addition of Trinidad to its portfolio will strengthen Range Resources' production and reserve base and is likely to underpin the current share price further."

Horizonte Minerals returning to Aim

Shares in Horizonte Minerals will start trading on Aim again this morning after the group completes the takeover of Teck Cominco Brazil, which owns the Araguaia nickel project in the north of the South American country.

Horizonte was suspended by the exchange earlier this month when it confirmed reports that it was in talks with the Canadian major, Teck Resources, over the reverse takeover of its Brazilian subsidiary, and that it was planning a £5m placing at a premium of 10p a share to help to finance the deal. The group will be re-admitted to the exchange next month. The all-share deal will see Teck taking a major equity interest in Horizonte

The company claims the Araguaia project, combined with Horizonte's adjacent Lontra nickel project, demonstrates the potential for a 100 million-ton resource with grades comparable to other world-class projects in Brazil. The group points to similar deposits already being developed in the country, including FTSE 100-listed Xstrata's Serra da Tapa nickel resource, which contains an inferred resource of 60 million tons, with grading at 1.63 per cent.

Horizonte's chief executive, Jeremy Martin, said: "This is a transformational deal for Horizonte and takes the company to a new level in terms of value. We now have a major mining company as a key shareholder, a world-class nickel project with significant upside, and a fast track development plan, all underpinned by institutional shareholders who have invested £5.2m in the enlarged company."