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Mobile phone float for Japan's `Sids'

THE WORLD'S biggest share offer kicked off yesterday as Japanese retail investors were invited to take part in the pounds 36bn flotation of the mobile telephone company DoCoMo.

Each share in the company, part of the giant telecoms group NTT, will cost a staggering pounds 18,000. But advisers to the offer are confident that Japan's "Takeshis" - the equivalent of Britain's Sids - will lap up the offer.

Of the 545,000 shares being sold, 45 per cent have been set aside for small Japanese investors, who have been starved of new equity offers as the Tokyo market has continued to dive.

The shares are being sold at a massive discount to tempt investors to take money out of their bank accounts and subscribe.

According to some estimates, they should rise from their indicative price range of Y3.3m to Y4.3m to between Y5m and Y6m once trading starts next month. This compares with current bank interest rates of between 0.2 and 0.3 per cent.

Shares in DoCoMo - the name stands for Do Communicate by Mobile - are being priced at less than half those in other cellular companies such as Vodafone to ensure strong demand.

NTT is selling a third of its shareholding and the offer will raise an estimated $15bn compared with the $13.3bn raised through the Deutsche Telecom float. UK and European investors are being offered 18 per cent of the shares and US investors 12 per cent.

Advisers are confident that investors will not be deterred by the parlous state of the Japanese markets or the whiff of scandal surrounding the flotation. It has emerged that the Japanese Prime Minister's brother in law holds shares in DoMoCo.