City & Business: 3i warms up again

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It must be spring again, or nearly. The first cuckoo has sung, the crocuses are out, the daffodils are pushing their way through the frozen soil, the bird is on the wing - and 3i has announced its intention to float on the stock market once more. 3i has been about to become a publicly listed company for as long as anyone can remember, but for one reason or another it has never quite happened.

Two years ago, it nearly became a reality but then at the last minute the float was cancelled because the group's shareholders, the Bank of England and big clearing banks, could not agree on what it was worth.

This time round it looks more hopeful still; only force majeure will stop it, sponsors insist. It is just 3i's luck, however, that force majeure looks more likely to intervene just at the moment than at any time in the last six years. Severe stock market turbulence is already causing securities houses to wonder whether some of the legion of stock market floats they have planned over the next few months ought to be delayed. A crash would finish off 3i's chances entirely.