The City Diary

How funny will the protesters be when they're outside your door, David?
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The Independent Online

Where have all the protesters gone? Just one year ago it was customary for a gathering of private equity bigwigs to be flanked by the usual green-eyed gaggle of union-backed demonstrators.

Who can forgot the antics of the GMB union in taking a camel to the Clapham church of Damon Buffini, founder of Permira, to make a convoluted point?

But at this week's Super Return conference in Munich, the European private equity and venture capital summit, there was little appetite for protest, with a small number of protesters dispersed by elevenses.

It was too good an opportunity for David Rubenstein to stick the boot in, with the Carlyle founder bemoaning how unaccustomed he is to speaking without protestors.

Funny. Even more so when the GMB turns up at your door in the coming months, David.

Dance of the hedge funds

As rumours spread about the collapse of the hedge fund Peloton Partners last week, top brass quickly called in the services of the PR disaster-recovery specialists Brunswick. Shame nobody told the foot soldiers at either firm, who led journalists a merry dance as the fund burned only finally to fess up hours later.

One can understand Brunswick's reticence at taking on a failing, soon-to-be defunct client. Still, things could be a lot worse – ask Stephen Carter the former chief executive of Brunswick. He's just taken a job advising No 10.

The cost of saving newts

BAA might be having its fair share of travails at the moment, but you can bet your bottom dollar that its top brass are happy to be avoiding the PR disaster that is Manchester Airport.

Apparently the taxpayer-owned landing strip has spent more than £1m of our cash protecting newts living around runway two in the last five years. The cool million comes on the back of the £3m spent re-homing 4,500 great crested newts and other amphibians before the runway was built. A shocking waste of cash or the worthiest of spends? We couldn't possibly say.

Globalisation begins at home

Alchemy boss Jon Moulton might have hogged the headlines at the private equity jamboree in Munich, but a rather unlikely cult figure in the form of a Swiss academic got tongues wagging too.

Stephane Garelli, a professor at the University of Lausanne, injected some levity into proceedings, making heavy use of comical slides ranging from Woody Allen to Mae West.

But it was his parting fact that left the audience, including us, dumbfounded: "20 per cent of total imports in the US come from domestic companies that have manufactured their goods from operations abroad. We could reach the point in the near future where the highest proportion of imports into the US comes from the US. That's globalisation for you!"

Now's the time to get cold feet about marriage

The harsh reality of proposing during a leap year might hit home to lovestruck couples when they realise how much the big day can cost, a piece of research from Sainsbury's warns. The supermarket chain-cum-money-lender estimates that as many as 123,500 personal loans worth an estimated £1.16bn will be taken out during 2008 to help pay for weddings. The average size of a personal loan taken out with Sainsbury's Finance to help fund a wedding was £9,363 last year. It's not too late to change your mind.

Catching the eye of the market, but not its brain

Two notes from James Eden, banks analyst at Exane BNP Paribas, caught our eye last week. For his note on HBOS, Eden lead with: "Andy Hornby is arguably the best-looking CEO of any UK bank. However, despite his many attractions, Andy does not appear to be very popular." He followed it up with an interesting take on Sir Fred Goodwin at Royal Bank of Scotland entitled: "Megalomanic or Champion?"."It is not true that if you fly a light aircraft over the new RBS head office, that the building resembles the shape of Fred Goodwin's head," said Eden. It's one thing to strive to catch the market's eye, but in these times of woe, surely good research should take precedence over such guff?

In Austria, they do bonus rage properly

The City rumour mill is in overdrive at the moment with Square Mile website Here is the City revealing one of our favourites.

Apparently, "a well-known Austrian bank" (is there such a thing?) witnessed a classic piece of bonus rage recently. The story goes that the bonus-stiffed staffer kicked a colleague between the legs, destroyed a few computer screens and thrust a small pocket knife into a desk. Security staff are said to have taken care of the out-of-control, now probably ex-staffer. Delightful.

Planets collide as Jupiter orbits the Tories

Hurrah for Liberal values! While most people laughed at the Tory's "back of a fag packet" plans to introduce so-called Green ISAs, or GISAs, as laughable gimmickry, fund managers at Jupiter last week lauded the plans. Clearly there is no three-line whip at Jupiter these days. Chief executive Edward Bonham Carter comes from a long line of Liberal supporters and is a regular contributor to Nick Clegg's coffers. And, of course, his great-grandfather was HH Asquith, prime minister for eight years from 1908.

Aviva 'scared stiff' of being mauled by McFall

Treasury Select Committee rottweiler and chairman John McFall is on the warpath once again. His ripping to shreds of the British Venture Capital Association last year, which eventually cost Peter Linthwaite, the chief executive at the time, his job, could be repeated again when the committee of MPs meets to discuss the issue of inherited estates in late April. A political insider tell us that Aviva's top brass are "scared stiff" of being ambushed by Labour's McFall and the rest of the committee. "They are frightened to hell that they'll be made to look like the bad guys," we are told. "There's no way their chief executive will go. I'm sure that a fall guy is being lined up."

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