CITY DIARY

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The Independent Online
Lucy Roberts

David Sainsbury, guest speaker at a business breakfast yesterday, admitted that the store group of which he is chairman had not always put its customers first, particularly on Mondays, when suppliers found it hard to deliver fresh produce in time for early shoppers.

Assorted committees that examined the problem concluded that it lay with the suppliers, but nothing much was done to remedy the situation.

However, Mr Sainsbury went on to say that he knew the key to getting service right was knowing the customer. And it seems the better the customer is known the more swiftly action is taken.

He recounted the tale of a Monday he took off when he decided to catch up with his grocery shopping. He wanted a lettuce, something not to be had on this day of the week. Needless to say, Sainsbury finds no problem in stocking its stores with lettuces and other assorted fresh goods on a Monday now.

Travelex, a bureau de change business, and Abbey National are getting on so well together that, according to one insider, their joint venture, whereby Travelex will offer travel-related financial services to Abbey's customers, will roll out early.

When Abbey bought a one-third stake in Travelex earlier this year, the two thought it would take at least nine months to put their plans into action. However, expect to see services up and running in a central London, as well as a Manchester location, next week.

While the musical chairs in the Tory party play havoc with the stock market, now is the time to invest in something altogether more convivial: wine.

A glut of top vintages in 1980 knocked prices, but dud wine weather in the Nineties has produced good returns.

Here's a sobering thought to consider from Michael Davey, chairman of Caxton's, creator of a unit trust of top wines and a wine index. He says had you invested pounds 10,000 in wine in 1975, your investment at the end of 1994 would have been worth pounds 150,000. In the same period, with the same investment, your return from the Footsie would have been pounds 102,630, and from Chinese porcelain pounds 93,390. The worst performer by far - diamonds, with a return of only pounds 18,500.

Critics say that wine is not easy to sell, but if you buy the best, such as Chateaux Margaux, that is not the case. One client made a 36 per cent return in 18 months on Mouton Rothschilds. Such an alternative investment also carries an alternative get-out clause. If your investment begins to look less than palatable, you can always drink it.

The comings and goings at Nomura International have been numerous recently. The latest move sees Basil Postan, managing director and joint head of equities at Nomura International, jump ship to join Credit Lyonnais Securities as head of European research. Credit Lyonnais has its eye on establishing a fully integrated research capability for continental Europe, so it comes as no surprise that Mr Postan should get the specially created responsibility of managing the research teams covering all pan- European sectors and national markets. He will report to the head of European equities, Joel Juevell.

Mr Postan is probably best known for scooping up the fallout following the collapse of the float of the aircraft leasing company GPA. Heads rolled and Mr Postan was appointed to take over from the head of research, John Tyce.

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