Banks to raise pounds 200m in WPP placing

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WPP, the advertising group run by Martin Sorrell, said yesterday that a syndicate of 20 banks plans to sell 93 per cent of its holding in a pounds 200m placing this autumn, writes Russell Hotten.

The placing, which should make the banks pounds 100m profit, is expected after the syndicate converts its WPP preference shares into ordinary shares in September.

The placing will be carried out by Bankers Trust, JP Morgan and SG Warburg. They plan presentations to British and international institutions after WPP's interim results on 10 August, which are expected to show a profits increase from pounds 24m to about pounds 36m.

About 169.5 million preference shares are being converted, of 181.6 million in issue, and will convert into about 190 million ordinary shares. The remaining preference shares are convertible at any time, with 30 days' notice to WPP, into 13.6 million ordinary shares.

The price is expected to be fixed at a big discount to WPP's market price. The banks were granted the conversion rights at about 60p a share compared with WPP's closing price last night of 112p.

The banks received the shares as part of a pounds 143m debt-for-equity swap two years ago, when WPP had financial problems.