Turbulent times ahead for Sinclair Pharma

Small Companies Notebook

Sinclair Pharma, the skincare drugs group that listed on AIMlast December, is embroiled in a dispute with Numis, the broking and research house, which has accused the company of inaccuracies and omissions in its prospectus. Sinclair has passed the matter to lawyers and denied misleading investors at the time of its flotation.

The company buys in advanced but defective new drugs, aiming to improve them and get them on the market quickly. It has a couple of drugs already on sale, but the dispute with Numis centres on Atopiclair, a cream for dermatitis, which is in the last stages of seeking regulatory approval. Robin Gilbert, an analyst, wrote last week that the main ingredient of Atopiclair is different from the one listed in the prospectus and on the company's website. He also warned investors that Sinclair has yet to gain crucial patents covering Atopiclair's ingredients, and there are a number of potentially competing patents in this area that should have been discussed in the prospectus. He has a "sell" recommendation on the shares.

Sinclair raised £9m at its flotation, which marked a return to the market for its chief executive, Michael Flynn. He agreed to resign from the board of Cortecs (now Provalis) in 1998 after admitting that two of its leading drug projects were not as far advanced as previously indicated. Sinclair says its lawyers will be contacting Mr Gilbert. A spokeswoman said: "The company refutes the suggestion that any comment in the prospectus or the company website concerning Atopiclair is incorrect. The company has six issued patents and has received no information that would lead it to believe that either of the patent agents' reports provided in the prospectus are in any way incorrect."

Daniel Stewart

Daniel Stewart Securities, the Ofex-listed corporate finance house, is having a busy time, it seems, and has picked up a string of new corporate clients. In just the past seven days has been appointed joint broker to Retail Decisions, a fully-listed IT services group, and adviser to Essentially Sport - which provides commercial advice to sports stars. Lucrative corporate finance work is also flooding into Daniel Stewart, and the company is working on 18 transactions and 10 AIM flotations, we hear. Is one of the AIM floats going to be Essentially Sport?

Minmet

Minmet, the little mining group, is expected to update investors today on its strategy of spinning out its far-flung exploration projects, alongside financial results that will underline its dramatic recovery. Minmet has already listed Lapp Plats, its Scandinavian platinum operations, on Ofex and sold Swedish gold assets to Ovoca Resources. Now the Dominican Republic assets are to be spun off and listed as GoldQuest Mining Corporation. Investors are expecting pre-tax profits of $550,000 (£300,000) for 2003 after 2002's ghastly $18.7m loss.

Sopheon

Another important feather in the cap of Sopheon, the Anglo-Dutch software house that fell on hard times after the the dot.com bubble burst: its Accolade software is to be used by Airbus, the world's largest manufacturer of aircraft. Accolade is part of a new software system sold to Airbus by Siemens that will ensuredesigners across the group, and its contractors, can be kept up to date with national and international safety and technical standards. Accolade is the make-or-break product on which Sopheon has alighted after several years of traumatic restructuring.

Dyson

Dyson - not the vacuum cleaners company, but the advanced materials developer - has been attracting renewed interest. IBM, Seagate and Maxtor, the world's three largest makers of hard disks, are testing the little Sheffield company's new Carolite material in disk drives because, Dyson claims, it allows disks to be spun that much quicker without increasing vibrations.

The hope is that Dyson will have commercialised the technology by the end of the year and it could be contributing significantly to profits by 2006. A new broker has started to put out research on Dyson - Evolution Beeson Gregory has a "buy" recommendation - which ought to help liquidity in the stock, too.

Oakdene Homes

Oakdene Homes, the Ofex-listed house builder, starts its roadshow in the City this week in an effort to raise £5m and move up to AIM with a £20m valuation. Brokers report that fundraising has become noticeably more difficult in the past month or so, and Oakdene will be rueing all the publicity given last week to the veteran fund manager Tony Dye's prediction that London house prices are on the point of a 30 per cent collapse.

Oakdene is focused heavily on the South-east, but reckons shortage of supply will keep house prices buoyant for a while yet. As well as its new building work, Oakdene will be talking up the easy profits to be made from refurbishing its portfolio of rundown investment properties along the south coast.

Adwalker's spin doctor phones from Piccadilly Circus to ask if we want them to take us a photo of their model in this fetching modern version of the end-of-the-pier sandwich board. The adviser also suggests a caption. "Adwalker provides a brand new form of advertising. Adwalkers wear ergonomically designed suits with 8-inch LCD screens displaying advertising, games, ticketing, ringtones and interactive messaging. Adwalkers are set to be part of everyday life and be seen at pop concerts, conferences and on the high street alongside traditional billboards." We'll see. Shares in the company, the 500th to use the lightly regulated Ofex market, start trading today.

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