For the third year in a row, 3i Group (III/LN) will be returning substantial cash to shareholders. The amount is 800 million pounds, or approximately US$1.6 billion -- an amount greater than in 2005 or 2006:
"This is larger than previous returns of capital and must be taken as a sign of both a strong full-year 2007 and of optimism for 2008,'' Philip Middleton, an analyst at Merrill Lynch & Co. in London, wrote in a note to investors. He has a "buy'' rating on the shares.
Further down the linked Bloomberg report you'll read a quote from 3i Finance Director Simon Ball:
"Last year was a strong year for realizations and we've seen that continue into this year,'' Ball said. Even after "the return of capital we've made previously, we've still had the opportunity and capacity to extend investment levels by 35 percent.''
The firm invested 1.6 billion pounds in the first 11 months, up from 1.2 billion pounds a year earlier. It also raised 700 million pounds this month in an initial public offering of a fund that will invest in utilities, schools and toll roads.
3i agreed to buy Enterprise Plc, a U.K. company that lays pipes for utilities, for about 486 million pounds this week. In December, it agreed to buy maritime shipping company Dockwise Transport for about 357 million euros. It was also part of a group of investors that agreed to buy AWG Plc, owner of Anglian Water in the U.K., got about 2.2 billion pounds.