Small Companies Notebook: Amerindo managers seek 11th-hour reprieve

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The Independent Online

The managers of the Amerindo internet fund fly into the UK this week in their latest attempt to prevent the dot.com era investment trust being wound up.

Amerindo narrowly fought off one such attempt in April by a hedge fund which has snapped up 29 per cent of the shares, but its future is again in the balance as it gives investors the opportunity to cash out of the fund. The managers are hoping to persuade enough people to stay on that the trust can continue as a viable vehicle.

Millennium Partners, the aggressive New York hedge fund, launched its revolt after Amerindo shares collapsed from their April 2000 float price of 100p, hitting a low of 7.75p. They have recovered to 16.75p, their best level in two years, after the stock market rebound for technology shares lifted the value of its quoted investments.

Alberto Vilar, the multimillionaire Royal Opera House donor, and Mike Sandifer, launching their charm offensive this week, are set now to talk up the prospects for Amerindo's diverse portfolio of unquoted technology investments. Everypath, a software company enabling more computer applications to be used on handheld devices, and Force 10 Networks, a telecoms switches business, top the list of exciting US investments which could float this year.

Mr Sandifer said: "The real anomaly is that the publics have done so very well, up maybe 200 per cent since the bottom of the market, but valuations for funding rounds on the private side do not yet reflect that uplift."

If valuations in the private sector follow the historical pattern of catching up with the public markets, and if the imminent Google flotation enables a flurry of further tech sector flotations, then Amerindo looks set to recover a lot of lost ground.

But first its managers need to ensure that there are not so many investors wanting to cash out that it has to sell more than ­ but they would consider taking it over. London Asia said no thanks.

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