The Crash: Slump At The Sales Window

It was intended as a highlight of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's ambitious program to put Britain's vast array of state-owned businesses back into private hands. But when some 2.2 billion government shares in British Petroleum -- about 31.5% of the company's equity -- came up for sale last week, the result was an enormous bust. In the wake of Black Monday, BP shares already on the market were trading well below the $5.68-a-share issue price of the new offering, and investors therefore shunned the new $12.2 billion flotation. Underwriters were stuck with millions of unsold shares, and could face losses totaling...