Times Staff Writer

A one-week public offering of 5 million shares in "Cats" composer Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group theatrical company received "a lukewarm reception," according to the Financial Times of London.

Michael Campbell Bowling, a London securities dealer, told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday that "from Webber's point of view (the offering) was obviously a great success because it worked and they got what they wanted."

But response indicated that potential buyers may have had some reservations about buying into what one observer called a "one-man band." The Financial Times reported that the public offering was oversubscribed 1 1/2 times, with 17,000 applications for shares. (A public offering in November, 1985, of 46.5 million shares in the fashion and furnishings group of the late fabric designer Laura Ashley was oversubscribed 34 times, according to the paper. Investors put up $3 billion at $2 per share.)

The initial offering price for a Really Useful Group share was set at 3.3 (about $4.75 at current exchange rates), according to Barry Dargan, an executive at Phillips & Drew stockbrokers. The minimum tender price per share when the offering went public Jan. 7 was 3.2 (about $4.60 ).

Based on a share price of 3.3, Really Useful would have a value of 36.3 million (about $52.3 million).

While "Cats" ticket sales and other merchandising activities have contributed nearly 90% of the company's earnings in recent years, Really Useful also holds copyrights on Webber's London hit "Starlight Express," his Broadway success "Song and Dance" and "The Phantom of the Opera," Webber's new musical expected to open in London later this year. Besides owning and managing the Palace Theatre in London, the company will hold copyrights to any new works Webber completes during the next seven years "in return for fixed commercial rates of royalty."

Before last week's offering, the Really Useful Group was owned 70% by Webber and 30% by his business manager Brian Brolly. Following sales by both men, as well as a new issue of 1 million shares, Webber's ownership drops to 38.2% and Brolly's to 16.4%. Neither Webber nor Brolly could be reached for comment.

Americans were not eligible to participate in the offering.

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