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Thursday, 16 November, 2000, 14:17 GMT
How to spend 40m
Sir Elton and his millions
Pop superstar Sir Elton John once spent nearly 40m in 20 months. How can you get through that amount without blowing it all on flowers, wigs and jewellery?

While giving evidence in a multi-million pound contract battle in the High Court, Sir Elton John revealed himself to be a veteran shopaholic.

Between January 1996 and July 1997, the singer frittered away 290,000 on flowers alone.

But what would 40m buy in the hands of another?

On the rails

engineer on tracks
Running repairs: Trouble on the tracks
Railtrack would no doubt welcome a 40m boost in its coffers.

In the wake of the Hatfield crash, the company has set aside 100m for a re-railing programme - 40m would pay for about 100 miles of track repairs.

But it would make less of a dent on the 150m earmarked for compensation to rail companies for track closures and delays caused by speed restrictions.

Political purse

This year's election has been the most expensive in American history, with campaign expenses up about 50% on the 1996 race.

A mere 40m is peanuts in the race to claim the top job - the Republican contender, George W Bush, raised a record $100m (70.2m) to fund his bid for the presidency.

The battle between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Rick Lazio to win the New York senate seat alone cost $80m (56m).

Bargain basement

dome
Going cheap: The Dome
Should the Legacy bid fall through, Dome chief executive Pierre-Yves Gerbeau has offered to buy the troubled attraction himself with commercial backing.

With bids typically running at around the 100m mark - well short of the nearly 1bn spent on the Greenwich attraction - he would no doubt welcome a pledge of 40m.

Wheeling deals

An e-commerce investor with 40m to spend could pick up a 26% stake in lastminute.com this week, with shares trading at about 80p.

lastminute
Lastminute: Profile above profits
Yet when the travel website launched on the stock market last March, that same 40m would have bought less than 6% of the company - the issue price was 380p a share.

In comparison, 40m would buy but a fraction of the low-cost airline Easyjet, which hopes to take off on the London Stock Exchange this week.

With an initial share price of 310p, the UK-based company is valued at more than 770m.

Going for a song

Sir Elton
Piano man: Sir Elton, singer and shopaholic
Such a windfall would pretty much cover the amount MP3.com will shell out to end its legal dispute with Universal.

The online music service this week agreed to pay the record company $53.4m (37.1m).

MP3.com has now secured a licensing agreement which allows it to use songs owned by Universal - artists signed to the label include Sir Elton, Eminem and Jimi Hendrix.

In return, the music giant has the right to buy a stake in the online company, whose website MyMp3.com allows computer users to listen to CDs over the internet.

Petrol

oil
The price of 'black gold' is on the up
"Black gold" is far and away a better bet than the precious metal itself, for which Sir Elton has a particular weakness.

Prices rose again this week amid worries over low oil stocks in the US, fears of a cold winter, and uncertainty over Iraqi exports.

Crude oil is currently trading at more than $35 a barrel in Asia and New York, while in London the price topped $33 a barrel.

Although protesters may salivate at the thought of 40m to pour into fuel tax concessions, in reality that sum would make little difference at the pumps.

To cut petrol duty by 1p a litre would cost the Treasury around 500m - a sum even Sir Elton may well struggle to part with one go.

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See also:

30 Oct 00 | Entertainment
Sir Elton: Man of means
15 Nov 00 | Entertainment
MP3.com strikes Universal deal
15 Nov 00 | Business
Easyjet sets flotation price
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