Old targets and new ways to raise money

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The Independent Online
WHAT will happen in the next year? Here are 14 deals that could stir the City:

Tarmac - A rights issue to raise pounds 250m. That could let a predator in by the back door, in the same way Hongkong Land successfully stalked Trafalgar House. Who might a Tarmac predator be? Minorco or RMC are rumoured, but neither is likely to move unless it is an agreed bid.

Fisons and Zeneca - A promising drugs group recovering from a series of setbacks meets a newly demerged drugs group just getting used to freedom. A marriage made in heaven?

Thorn EMI - A leopard dying to change its spots. As it cannot sell its defence side, why not demerge it, with a possible demerger of the TV rental side further down the line? As for acquisitions, expect a move into the publishing area.

BP - David Simons, the chief executive, says there is no present intention of a rights issue. The market says: 'Mr Simons, you need one.' Expect something clever, such as a Euro-convertible issue.

NatWest - Like BP's, its chairman protests too much. NatWest could get away without a rights issue if the economy does not recover too quickly, but it might be frightened of being caught short of capital in a boom.

Anglian Water: Expect some excitement around the utilities as the Government's 'golden shares' run out. Anglian, with Lyonnais des Eaux as a 9 per cent shareholder, looks particularly vulnerable.

Ladbroke - Needs to do something about its borrowings. A rights issue is possible, but it could try something inventive such as floating its property arm or selling Texas, its DIY operation.

Lucas - Joint holder of the record as the City's longest- serving bid target. Could this be the time? Possible bidders? Don't rule out BTR. Or GEC.

Pilkington - The other record-holder, but perhaps this time you can rule out BTR (once bitten). Latest rumoured bidder, Pittsburgh Plate Glass.

GUS - The shock of enfranchising its non-voting shares seems almost too much. But reality is that its parts are worth 25 per cent more than the whole. Expect a demerger of the property arm, the sale of Burberry's and a possible cash repayment to shareholders.

Wimpey - Construction and housebuilding are still pretty awful, so it is time to expand its minerals side. Expect a rights issue to pay for this.

Pearson - Has already signalled its intention to float off Royal Doulton china and its oil services. But what is the future of its publishing side? Could there be a multi-media merger with PolyGram, the Dutch- owned music group run by a French man from London?

Sears - Another long-standing bid target, and Next is a rumoured aggressor. Sears could reduce its attractiveness by finally getting rid of Selfridges. Possible sale price, pounds 400m; possible buyer, someone Japanese.

Trafalgar House - Not again] We've just given you pounds 205m. Sad but true, the begging bowl might be coming out once more. But the revamped Trafalgar House had better have a good excuse for another rights issue, or Hongkong Land will have to stump up the money.

(Photograph omitted)

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