CITY DIARY

Profits were up 40 per cent at Low & Bonar, the Corn Flakes to Fruit & Nut packaging company, and analysts were sent puzzling yesterday about what it may buy with its burgeoning cash-pile.

In Britain the acquisition of Vibixia, the Weetabix box manufacturer, might clash with their existing commitments to Kellogg's, while the Britton group - trading 50p lower than its 180p high a year ago - would be fiercely fought by the packaging group's ambitious management, led by Robin Williams.

Opportunities may, however, be more numerous in America, where many paper mill companies such as Smurfitt and James River are selling off their packaging divisions. William Leng, chief executive, is encouraged by the success of the company's recent $10m (£6.4m)acquisition of Twinpack, the Canadian packaging business.

It is odd to hear Tony Wheeler, the British-born, publisher of Lonely Planet travel guides, slagging off the country of his birth as "tacky" and complaining about the service in the forthcoming guide about Britain. He has made a fortune out of selling incredibly idiosyncratic travel books, with indecipherable maps and uninteresting pictures, which are constantly featuring bug-ridden doss-houses and the most unappetising meals around the world. The words pot, kettle and black spring to mind.

The story behind Carr Sheppards' charitable support of the National Gardens Scheme gives an intriguing insight into the life of Fred Carr, chief executive of Carr Sheppards, the private client investment managers and stockbrokers. Mr Carr admits he loves horticultural affairs. He lives with his wife, Cinty, in a Fulham house with a tiny garden which is packed with flora and fauna. Among the wildlife are two ducks, up to a dozen ducklings, five hamsters and three guinea pigs among others.

Why on earth does he put up with it? His secret passion is an Edwardian launch and, for being patient, his wife lets him play with it at weekends. "Just don't tell her how much it costs - she would kill me," he pleads.

I was wrong to suggest last week that Ascot Holdings had yet to tackle a £173m debt. In the haze of Christmas I did not notice that shareholders approved a complete financial restructuring in December. Changing Derby Day from the first Wednesday in June to the weekend may have annoyed the gypsies, but its seems to have delighted the corporate hospitality junkies. The gypsies, who used to meet on local common ground before the mid-week race for a wild festival of trading, Romany dancing and bare-knuckle fighting, said the change disrupted their traditional event. However, demand for tickets for the fixture by businessmen is so high, I hear, that the hospitality boxes at Epsom's Grandstand and the Queen's stand are sold out four months before Derby Day on 10 June. Anyone without a ticket could always go along to see the gypsies.

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