Nearly half the fastest-growing small businesses in the country plan to buy another business in the next three years, according to a survey by Coopers & Lybrand.

The study found that 24% of the 440 businesses surveyed have bought another business and 48% plan to do so. More than 68% of the businesses paid cash for their acquisitions, 41% used bonds or loans, and 25% used stock.

"It's an opportunity for the banks," said Robert L. Paglia, high tech leader for Coopers & Lybrand's financial advisory services.

Twenty-eight percent of the businesses planning an acquisition said they want to bulk up to expand internationally. Only 8% of the businesses that completed an acquisition had a similar motivation.

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