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Ziggybonds to Major Tom

Rock star David Bowie has thought of an ideal birthday present for himself. The singer, who went by the name of Ziggy Stardust in the 1970s, turns 50 this month and is considering a $50 million bond issue.

The sole manager for the proposed deal is Gruntal & Co, a US broking firm which specializes in issues of $25 million to $100 million, and the vast majority of investors are said to be pension funds, in the US and Europe.

The official line from William Zysblat, Bowie's business manager at RZO Entertainments in New York, is that the issue "is one of the many possibilities we are looking at". But the general feeling is that the deal is done: "As far as we can tell all, the paper has been placed already ­ they're just waiting for the final go-ahead from the Starman himself," says one banker.

In fact there was never likely to be a shortage of potential investors. Gruntal & Co received over 50 calls by 9.30am on the morning the story first broke.

In an innovative deal, the paper is to be backed by the future royalties and commission which Bowie will earn as sole owner of the copyright to his work. Some might think Bowie a Lad Insane for entrusting $50 million to the vagaries of the music industry, but he has been one of the most consistent earners of the past three decades. "Most recording artists get 95% of their income from a record in the first six months," says one industry analyst. "But Bowie has sold an average of one million units a year since 1970, so his bonds should be relatively risk-free."

As a result, the issue is expected to get an investment-grade rating, probably single-A, and will be a private placement over 15 years ­ not Five Years, as some aficionados might have expected. Antony Currie

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