CITY DIARY

Bill Gates is a wanted man. As the reclusive billionaire behind Microsoft prepares to launch its controversial Windows 95 programme and skirmishes with the US Justice Department over the inclusion of the company's own on-line information service, a new film about the Internet hits US screens at the end of this week

Imaginatively entitled The Net, it features the requisite bad guy, British actor Jeremy Northan who plays Jack Devlin in the film and bears a striking resemblance to the computer entrepreneur. The film also features a make-believe computer programme called The Gate keeper.

Apparently the film's director, Irwin Winkler, approached Mr Gates about playing the part - a mysterious owner of an extremely powerful software company - but scheduling proved impossible.

In his latest weekly newsletter, American economics guru David Hale of the Chicago investment group Kemper Financial presents a theory that could explain the lack of a feel-good factor in the UK.

Writing about the US, Hale explains that journalistic behaviour is affected by advertising spend. As an advertising slump squeezes financial journalists' pay and expense accounts, they write pessimistic articles about the economy. But when media budgets pick up, so do expense accounts, and the hacks become more upbeat about the economy. It seems consumer confidence in the US is underpinned by this lunch-lubricated cheerfulness.

UK business has yet to enjoy a comparable financial revival though - journalists' lunches are still nothing like as fine as they were in the late 1980s.

Departures from SBC Warburg are usually the two-legged kind. But the last thing seen heading for the exit had four legs. The sizeable bronze horse and rider statue, housed in the atrium of its Finsbury Avenue office, has been moved to pastures new.

The statue underwent an uplifting operation of its own when originally installed. Such was the sculptures' stature, Princess Margaret was called upon to unveil the work. But its grand nature, reflected in all quarters, was deemed unsuitable for Royal consumption. The statue was thus transformed from stallion to gelding. And the new home of this oversized beast? Word is that it is being donated to a medical institution.

Special relationship or no, the latest deal between Merill Lynch of the US and Britain's Smith New Court is not exactly making beautiful music at the moment. In fact, it is not making any music. Instead, the Farringdon-based SNC-ers have had to endure the playing of politically correct welcome messages over certain PA systems. One version has an American enthusiastically proclaiming the joys of having snapped up SNC, while a British version is characteristically low-key about its new owner. It seems the message has outplayed itself, though. It was turned off yesterday afternoon when the tape went wobbly - through overplay.

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