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"This is the last hurrah of that older generation--the last hurrah. Our time is coming, my friends." -- GOP Presidential hopeful Pat Buchanan, after losing seven states on Super Tuesday to Bob DoleEDITED BY LARRY LIGHT, WITH OLUWABUNMI SHABIReturn to top

TOLL-FREE COULD BECOME REAL PRICEY

WASHINGTON, WHICH IS making a bundle selling airwave rights, now wants to auction off new toll-free phone numbers. That makes retailers and other toll-free users, such as 1-800-FLOWERS, apoplectic. A key part of their argument is that unlike the airwaves (proceeds to the Treasury: $10 billion plus), phone numbers don't belong to the feds. "This is not going to happen without a big fight," says Loren Stocker, managing partner of phone consultant Vanity International.

Since the supply of "800" numbers recently ran out, the Federal Communications Commission set up a new toll-free "888" exchange. But many users of well-known "800" numbers worried that a competitor--or speculator--might reserve the equivalent "888" number (example: 1-888-FLOWERS) with the FCC and then either use it or sell it back at an obscene price. So 375,000 such "vanity" numbers, out of 8 million, were set aside for companies with the equivalent "800" numbers. The FCC began issuing the remaining "888" numbers on Mar. 1.

Trouble is, now the feds know those numbers have value, at least to the existing "800" users. Result: Clintonites and Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) want to sell the set-aside "888" numbers to the highest bidder. That idea is before Congress, as part of current budget deliberations. The estimated value ranges from $350 million to $700 million.EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT, WITH OLUWABUNMI SHABI $by By Mark LewynReturn to top

THE FEE TREE ALWAYS BEARS FRUIT

SOMETIMES YOU CAN WIN BY losing. That's the case for Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, initially hired by First Interstate to fend off Wells Fargo's hostile bid. Irony: Wells won anyway in January, and First Interstate must pay one of the largest deal fees for a target company in history.

The Los Angeles bank owes its two investment advisers $44 million, according to recent SEC filings. That's more than double what Wells paid and is exceeded only by three other targets' fees, says Securities Data. The largest: Federated Department Stores' $54 million in 1988 when it failed to avoid Robert Campeau.

Why the big payday for Goldman and Morgan? Because their fees ($22 million for each) are pegged, in part, to the deal's size. This $12 billion stock-swap deal is the seventh-largest ever. Wells's stock rose during the process (often, acquirers' shares drop), and it got in a bidding war with First Bank System.

First Interstate investors are getting $160 per share, $21 more than Wells' first offer and $54 over the pre-bidding price. First Interstate and Goldman declined to comment. Morgan says its mandate was to maximize shareholder value and review all alternatives.EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT, WITH OLUWABUNMI SHABI $by By Nanette ByrnesReturn to top

LLOYD'S OF LONDON VS. THE COLONISTS

U.S. INVESTORS IN TROUBLED Lloyd's of London may thwart the insurer's $4 billion restructuring--and perhaps threaten its very survival. They're going to court to block its attempt to make them pay up millions in debt. The investors, also known as "names," underwrite Lloyd's policies in return for premium income, while pledging their entire net worth against insurance claims.

In the largest legal action to date, California securities regulators are suing to thwart Lloyd's from drawing down $100 million in letters of credit from some 500 California names and pursuing an additional $400 million in debts Lloyd's says they owe. The suit alleges that the contracts Lloyd's signed with its names were actually securities--and were neither properly registered nor adequately explained. Lloyd's disputes that, asserting that the feds once passed on a chance to register the contracts as securities. If the suit is successful, names could tear up their contracts and cancel all their Lloyd's debts.

Hobbled by huge claims stemming from the Exxon Valdez oil spill and other disasters, Lloyd's is facing a deadline: By August, Lloyd's must prove to the British Trade & Industry Dept. that it has sufficient capital to stay in business. That's after providing for an estimated $22.7 billion in claims relating to policies written through 1992. Its restructuring hinges on the names' O.K.By Ronald GroverReturn to top


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