Broker puts pounds 1.5bn tag on 3i

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THE UK'S largest investment capital firm, 3i, is likely to be valued at between pounds 1.5bn and pounds 1.7bn when it comes to the stock market in the middle of this year, say the lead brokers Barclays de Zoete Wedd. Such a value would catapult the group, now owned by the UK's biggest banks, straight into the FT-SE index of 100 leading shares or else leave iton the fringes.

'Our view of 3i is of a company of immense strength, proven performance record and very low-risk characteristics, which we believe to be compelling investment attractions,' BZW says in a new document.

BZW ousted Cazenove as lead broker in February, when 3i's owners, led by Barclays, gave the green light for a float in 1994, ending three years of uncertainty.