France's Big Sale

Europe's biggest-ever privatization bodes well for the dozens more to come as governments across the Continent slim down. France's $5 billion sale of Banque Nationale de Paris, which closed on Oct. 12, was gobbled up by institutions that signed up for 12 times their allotted shares. The goal of finding 1 million individual buyers was topped by 50%. Small wonder: Shares went for 14% below market. Next on the 21-company list are Rh ne-Poulenc, Elf Aquitaine, and Union des Assurances de Paris, which just wrapped up a $4.3 billion deal to acquire Germany's third-largest insurer, Colonia, ending a four-year-long battle with Groupe Suez for control of the company.