CITY DIARY

A foreman at the VSEL submarine plant at Barrow-in-Furness has shown the City slickers a thing or two about share tipping. Richard Potter tipped Wellcome to be the best-performing share over a one-month period in a competition organised by the BBC television programme Working Lunch. The tip happily coincided with the Glaxo bid, which sent Wellcome shares into orbit.

For his prize Mr Potter will next week be taken to New York, where he will stay at the Algonquin hotel, visit the New York Stock Exchange and take in a performance of the Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. There was a snag, however. Mr Potter has never been abroad before and rang the BBC offices asking if they could help him to obtain a passport.

N Brown, the Manchester-based mail order firm chaired by Sir David Alliance, specialises in niches such as EEEE width shoes and size 32 dresses. Jim Martin, chief executive, was in London yesterday beaming about his latest line, a range of men's cardigans in sizes up to a 60 inch chest. "At the moment the only place people that size can go is High n' Mighty, but that's quite expensive," he says. Mr Martin is a svelte size 42.

Mitsubishi Bank and the Bank of Tokyo did not exactly cover themselves in glory yesterday with the handling of their proposed merger. Hours before the deal was made official a spokesman for Mitsubishi Bank said a report that a merger was imminent was "groundless and we deny it". The Bank of Tokyo was equally firm. "It is not true. It is just a rumour." Quite a strong one, evidently.

They seem to be counting their chickens a bit at the Cheltenham & Gloucester building society ahead of the proposed merger with Lloyds. A customer passing the Ross on Wye branch of the G&G the other day noticed that workmen were already taking the sign down.

It was an appropriately icy day yesterday when Iceland, the frozen food retailer, unveiled its annual results. The company went to some lengths to extol the virtues of frozen foods. Journalists arriving at the meeting were invited to participate in a blind tasting to see if they could tell the difference between frozen and fresh fish dishes. City analysts, who tend to get up a little earlier, were offered bacon butties with their coffee.

Mark Skinner, managing director of Baring Fund Managers, is in gushing form in the latest issue of Facts & Briefing, which is dedicated to unit trusts. Mr Skinner opens: "To say that the last 10 days have been challenging would be a gross understatement. While the nation looked on in amazement and the news reverberated across the globe, our undoing seemed complete and the future far from rosy. But as each day drew to a close, an army of staff made for their homes only to return with renewed vigour and enthusiasm in the morning." Mr Skinner was unavailable for comment on his purple prose yesterday as he is celebrating the bank's continued existence with a holiday in Antigua. "I think he had that booked before the Nick Leeson affair," a colleague said.

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