OXFORD - Europe will end up with about 100 companies and 60 of those will be British. That was the bold prediction of Chris Evans, one of Britain's most outspoken biotech entrepreneurs and founder of Merlin Biosciences, only a few weeks ago at the BioIndustry Association's annual dinner. Yet the now weekly sight of the U.S. biotech companies getting IPOs away at multibillion dollar valuations is enticing European CEOs to avert their nervous eyes from the gloomy prospects of consolidation and liquidation to the far more appealing prospect of tapping the equity markets.

Indeed, there is a collective sigh of relief among many companies that are running on empty that they might be able to mount rights issues rather than be forced into merger. The prospect of a financial Band-Aid does not sit well in all quarters, however.