CITY DIARY

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The Independent Online
Some observers were perplexed by the timing of Lord Weinstock's knockout bid for VSEL yesterday. The artful negotiator could have pushed the timing to the limit and waited until next week. But anyone who has watched Lord Weinstock for long knows that the delay would have interfered with his second-greatest love in life - racing.

On Saturday, Weinstock will have his best chance of winning the Derby since Troy won the 200th Derby by seven lengths in 1979. This year, his hopes are riding on Spectrum, the remarkable Irish 2,000 guineas winner trained by Peter Chapple-Hyam and second favourite at 11/4.

Lord Weinstock's love of horses began in 1957, when he took a 1,000-guinea stake in London Cry with his father-in-law, Sir Michael Sobell. With Simon, his son and heir, he has turned out five classic winners, including Sun Princess, winner of the Oaks and the St Leger, and Helen Street, winner of the Irish Oaks.

One prize, however, eludes the GEC boss. Although winning the Derby would please him, it is the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe that is his obsession. He has been placed in the October race four times with Homeric, Troy Ela- Mana-Mou and Sun Princess. But the 70-year-old entrepreneur, known for patiently stalking his prizes, is determined to have a winner.

Living conditions in Bulgaria have plummeted since Todor Zhivkov, the Communist leader, fell from power. Electricity supplies from leaky radioactive generators are erratic and food is scarce. It is odd to discover, therefore, that Bulgaria achieved a pounds 10m trade surplus with France last year, mainly due to exporting foie gras. Hungry Bulgarians managed to export more than pounds 20m of the pate, made with much pain for the poor geese. The gastronomic French managed to provide the Bulgarians with something much more wholesome. Their biggest investment in Bulgaria is a giant yoghurt factory run by Dannone-Serdika.

A well-placed rumour is causing sweaty brows at Warburg and SBC. The story is that the combined group is going to move to cut-price quarters in Canary Wharf. The rumour is denied by authorities in both banks, where integration committees are hard at work bashing out plans. After all, ambitious bosses at Warburg have provided a whole floor of spare space in their Broadgate headquarters. But the rumour-mongers suggest those men on the integration committee might find such a move a useful way of breaking down frontiers between the two antagonistic empires.

Preparations are taking place at Sears for the opening next week of Premier, a restaurant designed by Sir Terence Conran on the top floor of the company's Selfridges department store in Oxford Street. The opening follows the success of The Fifth Floor, the fashionable meeting place atop Harvey Nichols where generous female clients have contributed to its popularity.

It sounds like a joke, but for 1,500 members of the Society of Practitioners of Insolvency, the deteriorating finances of their association are causing acute embarrassment. The association lost pounds 40,312 in 1994 after top-up grants from its backers were reduced and income from training courses fell, and the situation looked set to grow worse as the grants continued to shrink and the insolvency practitioners, whose business is drying up after the recession rush, use less of the society's services. However, innovative suggestions are doing the rounds at SPI, including selling its title to members seeking endorsement, and selling membership lists to parties wishing to contact the corporate grave-diggers.

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