Ofex move away from parent heralds expansion

Small Companies Notebook
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The Independent Online

There are big changes afoot at Ofex, the lightly regulated stock exchange for small companies, which over the weekend was making a symbolic move out of the offices of its former parent company, JP Jenkins.

Fresh from its initiative to encourage new companies from overseas to take a listing, the exchange is also looking to set up "clusters" in the regions, where a selection of brokers and institutional investors will be available to encourage local companies to join Ofex.

It is part of the ambitious expansion strategy being masterminded by Simon Brickles, the former head of the AIM market. Chief among the changes is the move to bring in competing market makers, which will give investors a choice of prices at which to deal. That should address the credibility problem suffered by the exchange at present, where only JP Jenkins sets prices. Ofex is stress-testing the software with three new market makers including Winterfloods, and while the official start date is still only vaguely "summer", word is that it will be early summer rather than later. There could also be an announcement soon on a fifth market maker.

Parallel's new pitch

"Think of the company as a new company," says David Ciclitira, chairman of Parallel Media, the company which owns the commercial rights to 27 golf events. This will be the pitch of an equity fundraising to be promised this morning and marketed to investors after Easter in a bid to put the company back on the up after a string of disasters and big losses. Parallel has finally settled the acrimonious divorce from its old merger partner, World Sport, whose 50 per cent interest in the Asia PGA Tour it bought out last month. Directors including Mr Ciclitira lent the company $2.5m (£1.37m) to get the deal done so some of the proceeds of the share sale will be used to pay them back. Parallel also needs cash to promote its new Asian Series, an eight-event addition to the European Tour. Hoodless Brennan is being brought on board to run the fundraising.

3C spies AIM spot

Fancy investing in the KGB's secret telephone network? The old Soviet spymasters' satellite phone system is now part of an Ofex-listed telecoms group, which is plotting a move to AIM later in the year. Consolidated Communications Corporation - 3C to its friends - wants the higher-profile listing in order to buy up other regional telecoms networks in Russia, where the oligarchs who picked up these assets on the dirt-cheap may be tempted to sell by the prospect of owning liquid UK shares. In the run-up to the flotation, 3C is lining up a new chairman, a former chief operating officer from a well-known telecoms group. But it also faces some big hurdles, not least trying to finalise its results for last year by the deadline of end-June. The company must marry the wildly different accounting policies of subsidiaries in Russia, Eastern Europe, the UK and the US.

Ransom war chest

William Ransom & Son can soothe nappy rash, ease muscle aches and possibly make investors a lot of money. It is the UK's oldest independent pharmaceutical company, with a history dating back to 1846, but it is the sale of its historic factory site in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, which is giving this company a new lease of life. The sale netted £8.6m, and although the costs of moving to less glamorous surroundings in Essex will depress results for a year or so, the deal provides a war chest for further acquisitions. Ransom's portfolio of products already includes plant extracts, Radion B for sports injuries and Metanium for babies' bums, and it wants to buy in more from the pharmaceuticals giants, who are increasingly focusing on global rather than national brands. Ransom appointed Numis as its new broker at the start of the year and word is the management are aiming to quaduple the size of the company over the next few years.

OneClickHR rescue

OneClickHR, the disaster-stricken software company, is in the throes of a rescue refinancing, which involves placing new shares worth about 82 per cent of the existing company. Brokers are hopeful the deal will get the support of shareholders, giving the company sufficient working capital to launch its new HR.net system and move the group's focus away from low-margin software for small business and into larger enterprise-wide systems. Gossips hear that if it can reassure potential customers on its finances, OneClickHR will be on the verge of signing up a large hotel chain with a contract worth more than £70,000.

Buzz about plastics

There is a growing buzz around 3DM Worldwide, the AIM-listed inventor of a revolutionary new manufacturing technology, a plastics moulding process it calls powder impression moulding. The process uses recycled material and is energy efficient, and the resultant product can be made as strong as steel. 3DM is not a manufacturer, but rather licenses the technology to others, and in just the past week PIM has been signed up for use in yachts, door windows and fence panelling. The company is expected to make its first profit this year as royalties start to come through.