Small Companies Notebook: Eden's peace broken by ex-partner's outburst

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The Independent Online

Eden Research, the embattled Ofex-listed pesticides group, has called a truce in its war of words with an internet tipsheet, but there is one man who refuses to quieten down - the company's former research partner, Reed Smith.

Eden Research, the embattled Ofex-listed pesticides group, has called a truce in its war of words with an internet tipsheet, but there is one man who refuses to quieten down - the company's former research partner, Reed Smith.

The pesticides expert stormed out as chief executive of Arista Biologics - the California company he set up with Eden last year to develop treatments for diseased vines, almond trees and other crops - in June. Now he has told the Financial Services Authority, the UK's financial watchdog, that Eden has been making false claims for its products in communications to shareholders.

He also alleges that other Arista employees, under Eden's control, have violated Californian laws on pesticide research and marketing and, in a detailed e-mail seen by The Independent, has asked the Napa County Agriculture Commissioner to investigate.

Eden denies Mr Smith's allegations, characterising him as a "very disgruntled man" who has "fallen out with a lot of people inside the company".

Last week, Eden and Unquoted-Analyst (UQA), the online tipsheet, issued a joint statement in which Eden says it disagrees with UQA's "sell" advice on its shares, but "recognises the generally high quality of research" on the site. UQA says the bulk of the questions it has raised have now been answered to its satisfaction, and there may be some potential in Eden's products.

Mr Smith says he does not believe that Eden's treatment for the damaging vine disease Pierce's will work, that trials are not as far advanced as Eden has suggested, and that Arista is yet to invent a way of commercially applying its more promising soil treatment to kill nematodes, parasitic worms. He is still furious over the rows that forced him to leave Arista.

"What was it I was doing or not doing, that caused them to need to force me out? Operate legally? Operate ethically? Protect my 31-year reputation by telling the truth to potential customers, potential distributors or potential investors?"

Eden says field trials have been positive on several of its products, which are made from natural materials and so do not fall within the Napa County commissioner's remit. Eden plans to list on AIM and says it is confident of making enough sales to break even in 2006.

Essential reading

Peter Mandelson's arrival in Brussels in the autumn, as he takes up his post as a European Commissioner, will no doubt attract a frenzy of interest, but none more so than among the lobbyist community. It needs to know where Mr Mandelson and his fellow Commissioners stand on a whole range of issues - and with what entertainments and leisure pursuits they might be best persuaded to hear the lobbyists' arguments.

So the magazine publisher Huveaux's recent acquisition, Public Affairs Newsletter, aimed at lobbyists, looks set to sell well in the coming months. It is just one of the titles in the Huveaux library to have attracted attention in last week's bullish results and outlook statement. The company, which combines political magazines with revision guides and training manuals, plans to use its highly-rated shares to build a significant media player.

Flying to Jersey

The Independent reported on Saturday that Flying Brands, the mail order flowers and books group, is back on the acquisition trail, six years after its last attempt to expand ended disastrously. There have been rumours for some time that it is hoping to snap up an entertainment retailer. Word is the business is, a Jersey-based DVD and video games retailer which takes advantage of the island's low taxes to offer free UK delivery. Watch this space.

Treble win for Matrix

A bit of a coup for Matrix Communications, the IT networks consultancy. The company announces three (yes, three!) more acquisitions today and that, as a result, its board now boasts the former UK managing directors of Cisco Systems, Foundry Networks and Extreme Networks, three of the world's biggest network equipment businesses. There's also news today that Betfair, the notorious betting exchange, has become a Matrix customer. Matrix will supply local area network equipment to Betfair and then technical support, business worth £1.5m over the next two years.

Hansard mystery

Frenzied speculation in the world of financial public relations over which outfit might be in talks with Hansard, the quoted PR group which has just had an injection of cash from Terry Ramsden, the charismatic investor, racehorse owner and convicted fraudster.

Hansard has promised an acquisition soon, perhaps this week, but which of this industry's colourful characters might come to join the Hansard founder Adam Reynolds? Not I, says Peter Binns, who is rumoured to be seeking outside investors and considering an Ofex flotation. Not likely, say the new kids on the block at St Brides Media. Which leaves the veteran brothers David and John Bick of Holborn PR as the current favourites. Not long to wait to find out.