Cable & Wireless poised to give Mercury the boot

Cable & Wireless has taken the first step towards formally ditching its best-known brand name in the UK with the removal of the "Mercury" brand name from its UK telephone subsidiary's London headquarters.

The move is a prelude to incorporating Mercury in a landmark pounds 5bn merger with three cable operators.

Workers at Mercury Communications' headquarters in central London arrived on Friday morning to discover that the huge corporate logo on the front of the building had been concealed behind white boards. Inside, perplexed employees were handed a brief letter from Peter Howell-Davies, Mercury's chief executive, which said the move was a "first symbolic step in the process leading to the formation of Cable and Wireless Communications", the name for the new company.

The letter went on: "The white covers will be in place for approximately two weeks. We will then put up interim signage with the Cable and Wireless logo and name. When CWC is formed and launched in April we will erect permanent signage depicting the full Cable and Wireless Communications name and logo."

Mercury was unable to explain why it felt the need to hide the Mercury name for two weeks, rather than simply leave the logo in place until a new sign had been constructed. However, the decision to dispense with the Mercury brand confirms the drive by Dick Brown, C&W chief executive, towards "global branding", using the C&W identity in all its subsidiaries. The decision to abandon the Mercury brand, some 11 years after the business began marketing telephone services, emphasises the importance marketing will play in the success of the new group.