Nomura poised to bid for Tube bid

GUY HANDS the chief executive of Nomura International, the acquisitive arm of the Japanese investment bank is gearing up for further acquisitions, including possible bids for the London Underground and the National Air Traffic Service.

The bids could come if the Government decides to involve private finance in the ownership and management of the businesses rather than privatise them by way of a public share offer.

No final decision has been taken, but Nomura has already taken up the Government's request for consultations with potential bidders both for the Underground and NATS.

Today Nomura is expected to announce the share price range for the proposed flotation of the William Hill betting shop chain, which it bought in 1997. By last Friday the float had attracted 78,000 inquiries from private investors, comfortably more than anticipated. It is expected to raise around pounds 900m, giving Nomura a profit of pounds 150m.

Nomura has also set up a pounds 1bn joint fund with Serco Group, the international project management business, to take over and run public-private partnerships (PPPs) in the UK and similar ventures abroad. The fund will combine Nomura's financial muscle and Serco's operating expertise, and complement the existing activities of both companies, a joint statement claimed yesterday.

Nomura has already financed the acquisition of over 6,000 pubs from a number of UK brewers, as well as the William Hill betting shops; Thorn, one of the two leading UK consumer goods rental businesses; Angel Trains, the largest of the UK rolling stock companies created when British Rail was sold off; and the privatisation of the 57,000 married quarters owned by the Ministry of Defence.

Serco employs 20,000 staff operating in 30 countries with an annual turnover of pounds 500m. Andrew White and Richard Williams, both formerly from Serco will be the joint executive directors of the new venture.

Apart from the UK, several other countries in the Asia-Pacific region are planning to develop public-private partnership projects, Richard White the chief executive of Serco, said.

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