Count down to electrical shares disaster

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The Independent Online
Thursday 23 February: Bookbuilding for the share offer begins.

Monday 27 February: Offer tells DTI it may review electricity distribution prices for Northern Electric or, possibly, all 12 regional firms. Discussions held between DTI and Treasury officials on any possible relevance to the share sale.

Tuesday 28 February: Lawyers Slaughter & May say information about the possible announcement does not need to be included in the generators prospectus.

Wednesday 1 March: Treasury Ministers told that Professor Littlechild may review prices.

Thursday 2 March: Tim Eggar, minister for industry and energy, meets Professor Littlechild. Mr Eggar says any decision on prices is for the regulator to make.

Friday 3 March: Offer tells the Treasury no decision has been taken that would change the regulatory section of the generators' prospectus.

Professor Littlechild tells his officials that his inclination is to review the regional companies' prices - but that he wants to think about it further over the weekend. Offer tells DTI that Professor Littlechild is inclined to review prices.

All advisers take the view that any statement on prices, if made, would cause no more than a "slight and temporary effect" on the generators' share price.

Sunday 5 March: Professor Littlechild telephoned Michael Heseltine (then President of the Board of Trade) indicating that he was not minded to change the price controls but was still not finally decided.

Monday 6 March: trading in the generators' shares began at 7.30 am. Later that morning, Professor Littlechild reviews the situation with officials; Offer subsequently tells DTI that a statement will, after all, be made on Tuesday.