City Diary

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The Independent Online
ED STORY, chief executive of Soco International, a London-based oil and gas exploration company, was suitably pleased with himself yesterday when he presented trebled half-yearly profits of pounds 1.1m.

During his report Mr Story mentioned Soco's drilling for oil in North Korea. Mindful of the West's dismay over North Korea's recent sabre rattling, one of my colleagues asked Mr Story whether Soco's operations there were going okay. Mr Story said jokingly: "We like to keep that quiet." He added: "North Korea is thawing. You can do anything you like as long as it doesn't involve missiles."

Just for the record, the fearless Soco is also operating in Nigeria, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Kazakhstan and the Congo.

DRESDNER KLEINWORT Benson has poached Hugo Heath from Schroders to head corporate finance for the chemicals sector, the second defection in a week from the UK's largest independent investment bank. Mr Heath joined Schroders in 1986.

LAST WEEK Goldman Sachs lured Karen Cook from Schroders to head its UK investment banking business. Steven Kotler, chief executive of Schroders' US unit, left in May and Richard Broadbent, head of corporate finance, stepped down in April over a disagreement about US strategy.

JOHN LEWIS isn't just a department store group. It's also the name of the chairman of the venture capital-backed hotel group Principal. This other John Lewis has turned Principal into a four-star group with the purchase this week of London's Hotel Russell in Russell Square for pounds 59m. Mr Lewis was formerly chairman of Cliveden, the stately home-turned hotel.

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