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US bid boosts Europe

A record start to the year in European equity capital markets has been helped by strong fund inflows from the US. The pipeline of potential deals is healthy, with government, private equity and corporate vendors all eager to sell.

EUROPEAN EQUITY CAPITAL market volumes are booming. The volume of equity issued year to date is the biggest ever and January 2005 was a record start to the year.

European equity issuance volume in January, a traditionally slow month, amounted to €22.5 billion, nearly double last January's total of €11.9 billion, according to Dealogic, an investment banking research company. Year to date, over €33.1 billion has been raised.

"It is unusual to find such a healthy market in January," says John St John, global head of ECM at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein. "You normally have to wait until March or April before you see such volume. But the market is strong and there is a very healthy level of appetite for secondaries. The secondary market is also enjoying positive sentiment. We ended last year in positive territory and there are plenty of companies that have been waiting to do trades on the back of an improving secondary market."

The pipeline of deals is strong. The French government alone intends to sell around €20 billion in equity this year. Finance minister Hervé Gaymard announced that the government plans to sell about 30% of state-owned energy groups Gaz de France, Electricité de France and nuclear energy group Areva in the third and fourth quarters this year.

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