CITY DIARY

The privatisation of British Rail is throwing on to the market a number of smaller businesses which should not be overlooked by entrepreneurs looking for a bargain.

At Ditton, near Liverpool, the interestingly-named sleeper impregnation unit has been soaking softwood staves in creosote since the 1920s.

The business, which is marginally profitable on a turnover of more than £1m, produces 70,000 sleepers a year and would presumably be attractive to telegraph-pole manufacturers, who could make use of the 40-metre-long creosote ovens.

Herb Kelleher, the head of America's SouthWest airlines, will have to learn to watch his tongue after his office was bombarded with strange pictures of happy families. Asked recently whether he was frightened about low-fare competition from United Airlines he replied: "I hate talking about those bastards."

UA's 74,000 employees, who own most of the airline, took umbrage and, after their in-house magazine thoughtfully published details of the remarks, bombarded Mr Kelleher's personal fax machine with pictures of their parents. "It's been very different," admitted Vickie Schuler, Mr Kelleher's secretary.

Save & Prosper has appointed Amanda Webster, 33, to its group board. Ms Webster comes from Flemings, where she was responsible for marketing the Luxembourg-based Fleming Flagship fund.

After moving to S&P in 1992 she took over responsibility for marketing life and pension products. She will be joined by Lesley Sharratt, head of the new managed funds desk.

Leonard Curtis, the insolvency experts, are bucking the downward trend among the corporate grave-diggers and recruiting new talent. Bernard "Bernie" Bradford, former head of corporate recovery at NatWest bank, is joining as a consultant.

He is famous among Lloyd's names as the chairman of the debt collection committee whose vigorous measures to extract debts from beleaguered names has caused howls of pain in the shires.

Water industry soothsayers have run into a problem trying to divine what their regulator may have in store since Professor Stephen Littlechild unsettled their calculations. Ian Byatt, the Ofwat boss, has signalled that he may stand down in 15 months - and after his number two, Chris Bolt, moved to the rail regulator's office, there is no obvious in-house successor.

A choice from the academic field may seem possible - Martin Cave, the telecoms specialist at Brunel University is one name mentioned - but Professor Littlechild has given academics a bad name. The choice may narrow to civil servants - Mr Byatt himself served in the Treasury - but analysts are scared of unknown quantities. Names emerging from Whitehall include Neil Summerton, water specialist at the Department of Environment, and Norman Glass, the DoE economist. Alternatively, the Government may anticipate Labour demands for an environmentally sensitive appointment. Could a green Tory candidate be Alan Clark, the vegetarian former defence minister?

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