WSmall Talk: estleigh sees the light and buys 3.62 million shares in lamp recycling specialist
Tuesday 01 June 2010
So to the idyllic English summer; snatched glimpses of sunlight, burnt faces in the office and, of course, the sound of leather on willow. The first Test match at Lord's is always an event, and this year's started on Thursday as England took on Bangladesh. There is nothing Small Talk likes more than whiling away an afternoon amid the egg and bacon ties in the pavilion. But it was Giles Clarke, the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), who caught the eye last week before a ball had been bowled.
Mr Clarke is also chairman of Westleigh Investments, which targets small companies from the Boston Tea Party chain of coffee shops, and CCI International, the UK's largest manufacturer of equipment for clay pigeon shooting. Mr Clarke is also deputy chairman of Swansea-based Pure Wafer, Europe's only silicon chip test wafer reclamation specialist. On Wednesday, Westleigh also moved into recycling by buying a 10.6 per cent stake in the AIM-quoted Mercury Recycling, which recycles fluorescent lighting tubes and sodium street lamps at its base in Trafford Park, Manchester.
Westleigh paid 7.5p for each of the 3.62 million shares, despite the share price being above 10p, and the stock rose to value the group at £3.7m. The company is profitable despite sales dropping in the recession. The chairman, Lord Barrett, was bullish, saying: "We look forward to the future with confidence. This is a growing sector, driven by legislation and we are well positioned to take advantage of the recovery."
Could this be the latest in a series of canny moves by Mr Clarke? He started in the City as an investment banker with Credit Suisse, and he certainly has experience building a business. In 1981, he bought out of receivership the assets of what would become Majestic Wine Warehouse. It grew into a national chain under his chairmanship and nine years after the deal, he sold it for £15m. A year later he launched Pet City, which became a national brand before he sold it for £150m in 1996. He also co-founded the self-storage company Safestore, which was later bought by Bridgepoint Capital.
The nightclub owner Luminar, whose brands include Luminar and Liquid, has hardly had its investors dancing of late, although the share price was given a little reprieve last week. The company reported a full-year loss of £123m at the beginning of May as sales tumbled. It suffered a series of profits warnings and there were concerns that it would breach its banking covenants.
The state of the business led its founder, Stephen Thomas, to step aside in February followed shortly afterwards by Robert McDonald, the finance director, who had been in the job for little more than a year. He was replaced by Philip Bowcock, ex-financial controller at Barrett Developments.
Yet, one departure from Luminar did have shareholders tapping their toes. On Thursday, Alan Jackson said he would quit after four years as chairman, to be replaced on 13 July by John Leach. The news lifted Luminar's share price by 5.36 per cent to 14.75p and it went up again the following day.
Mr Jackson said: "My plan at Luminar was to appoint a new executive team, to recruit my successor and then to hand over. John Leach has strong turnaround expertise and is well placed to guide the team to reignite growth in the business. The timing will allow them to do so as a strong and united team."
Luminar owns 87 nightclubs and is struggling with volatility in the market (sales in March were up while those in April fell back), especially with rising unemployment among its core market of 18 to 24-year-olds.
The company's new chief executive, Simon Douglas, has embarked on a complete review of the business and it looks as if his team is already considering a variety of new strategies as it looks to attract an older clientele, ranging from special offers on Fridays to a new range of drinks and more live music.
Pinnacle Telecom Group
The penny stock Pinnacle, an Edinburgh-based telecoms company, enjoyed a hefty 11 per cent rise in its share price on Friday after it revealed that it provided a temporary voice and data network for the BBC's general election coverage on 6 and 7 May.
Pinnacle had, not surprisingly, been itching to tell the world about the contract but for reasons of confidentiality had to wait until last week. It provided 550 voice and data circuits, including some at BBC Television Centre in west London and the Oxford Road studios in Manchester, as well as at outside broadcasts and the main party headquarters. Pinnacle circuits were used to report the first declaration, from Houghton and Sunderland South.
The BBC deal is the latest step in a recovery plan that started at Pinnacle two years ago. The company, which changed its name from Glen Group in February - restructured at the end of 2007 to focus on recurring revenue streams. In February, it posted a loss for the year to 30 September, but it has said the five months since then were profitable.
The chief executive, Alan Bonner, said Pinnacle was making good progress and the BBC contract was a "great success" which had been followed by services for Chris Moyles's Radio 1 show and the Radio 1 Big Weekend outside broadcasts.
Pinnacle's new strategy has been to diversify from traditional telephony and it has won high-profile contracts including Glastonbury, T4 On The Beach and the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. It has also been providing its services at the Chelsea Flower Show – apt for a company whose future is smelling of roses.
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