Bids total pounds 1.8bn at BR's rolling-stock auction

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The Independent Online
PETER RODGERS and DAVID HELLIER

Bids thought to total pounds 1.8bn were submitted yesterday for British Rail's three rolling-stock leasing companies, the most valuable part of the privatisation after Railtrack.

The offers include a management buyout for each of the companies, which have been named Angel, Eversholt and Porterbrook. These own all the British Rail passenger rolling stock and lease it to train operating companies, the first of which are to be let out shortly to the private sector as franchises. Among the outside bidders for the companies, known as Roscos, are thought to be GE Capital, the giant American finance company, Nomura, the Japanese securities firm, and a group involving National Westminster Bank. Citicorp is also rumoured to be interested.

The Roscos' business is similar to the leasing operations of many international finance companies and banks, although the new owners will have to involve themselves to a greater extent in the maintenance of the rolling stock than would be usual in a typical finance leasing company.

With only about pounds 50m raised so far from rail sales, a successful conclusion to the Rosco disposals would transform the look of the privatisation programme. City estimates are that even Railtrack is unlikely to fetch more than pounds 2.5bn.

Of the three Roscos, the management buyout team for Angel is backed by HSBC and Montagu Private Equity, Eversholt is backed by Candover and Deutsche Morgan Grenfell, and Porterbrook by Charterhouse and Bankers Trust.

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