City Diary : Carnivores carry on chomping

This might not seem the best moment to be sponsoring the Carnivore Club, a group of gastronomes devoted to eating bloody bits of meat. Groupe Chez Gerard was determined to brazen it out yesterday. After unveiling good interims, the Groupe which owns swish London restaurants like Bertorellis and Scotts yesterday said the next meeting of the Carnivore Club would go ahead as normal.

The chomp-in is scheduled for 24 April in Chez Gerard's restaurant in Chancery Lane in Central London. So have the Carnivore Club received any cancellations since the BSE scare broke? A company spokesman said yesterday: "We have yet to receive a single cancellation. Further more we don't expect any." Brave talk. Even braver, Laurence Isaacson, Chez Gerard's chief executive, had Beef Wellington for dinner last Saturday evening, and then went to MacDonald's for a beefburger on Sunday.

Which brings us to a joke currently doing the rounds on the dealing floors: two cows in a field. One says to the other: "Aren't you worried about Mad Cow Disease?" The other replies: "Doesn't affect me, I'm a frog." Boom boom, as Basil Brush was wont to say.

You must have been on holiday on Mars not to have heard about Halifax sacking SBC Warburg for the building society's flotation next year. How strange, then, to see a happy trio of Warburgers at the Halifax/Clerical Medical press conference at the Savoy yesterday. Surely those thrusting types at Deutsche Morgan Grenfell, who took over Halifax's flotation mandate, should have been on the job?

Not a bit of it, as John Cryan, SBC Warburg's corporate finance leader on yesterday's deal, was only too happy to point out. "When Halifax stood us down for the float, they made it clear we would continue to do other things for them. Our relationship with them, including the chairman (Jon Foulds) is extremely strong. We've got another couple of things for them that we have been working very hard on recently."

In which case, it seems perverse that Halifax ever bothered sacking SBC Warburg in the first place. Mr Foulds himself said at the same press conference in London that "it's very unlikely that we'll be making another major acquisition before conversion next year". Very rum.

Forget England versus Bulgaria on Wednesday, the true football confrontation comes tonight in Birmingham with the "Sweet FA Cup". Bankers, accountants and lawyers making up 16 teams are meeting up for an evening of Subbuteo, bar football and computer soccer games at The Old Royal Public House. The knees-up is hosted by ECI Ventures, which handles medium-sized management buyouts. The police have been alerted.

In a world of theorists and consultants, it's always refreshing to hear about a lecturer who really knows what he's talking about. John Clark, chief executive and managing director of BET, will this Friday address over 250 European business leaders at a conference on the subject: "Recipes for Growth In Europe". As Clark stands to collect around pounds 5m in bought-out options and the like if the bid from Rentokil goes through, he is in a perfect position to comment.

Another topical conference starts on Wednesday. Called "1846 Freedom and Trade 1996", it commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Repeal of the Corn Laws. This was the moment the new industrialists from Up North overthrew the protectionist farmers of the South, installing Free Trade as the credo of 19th-century Britain. It also split the Tories for a generation. There's nothing new in Euro-sceptics after all.

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