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The Independent Online
Mandarins say `yes' to

the man from Nomura

Sir George Young, the Transport Secretary, was taking no chances yesterday over the sensitive sale of Britain's passenger trains. As confirmed exclusively in this newspaper, one-third of the choo-choos will end up in Japanese hands when a consortium financed by Nomura buys Angel Train Contracts, one of the three rolling stock companies, for pounds 672.5m.

Much like the trains, it was standing room only at the London press conference to announce the sale. Unfortunately, the Government had taken the precaution of packing the room with civil servants and advisers, leaving little room for journalists and questions.

The man from Nomura was particularly helpful. He could barely string two words of English together.

This month the Central Office of Information - the state's principle disseminator of information and propaganda - will be running the Budget in full. Unfortunately, the COI's computer is unable to replicate the pounds sign.

The magazine Accountancy Age probably made a mistake when it invited Ian Hislop to present its annual awards at a black tie thrash in London on Wednesday. The sheer absurdity of the occasion proved too much for the satirist and the handing out of the awards quickly developed into a farce.

The point of no return arrived when the Private Eye editor announced a short-list of six for the Best Big Firm award (there are only six). After that it was all downhill, with Mr Hislop staging theatrical yawns as accountants collected their trophies.

Struggling to find a financial topic to talk about, Mr Hislop recalled a mailshot he once received from American Express that offered to take care of his legal fees for a year for just pounds 12.50. Earlier the same week he had broken the record for the largest libel award ever handed down in a British court.

Having wrecked his knees in a series of marathons for Cancer Research, Max Dolding, the 52-year-old leisure analyst at James Capel, is going for another big one. The "knackered cart horse'' has entered the New York marathon on Sunday and hopes to raise as much as possible for the charity. This inglorious return to the big time has been prompted by the plight of Mr Dolding's Capel colleague, Tim Bates, who used to run for Cancer Research with him. Mr Bates is now fighting cancer. Mr Dolding says he has already raised over pounds 32,000 but individual and corporate sponsors are still desperately needed. If you can help please phone Mr Dolding on 0171-621-0011.

Relief on the giggle-prone switchboard at Lehman Brothers, where Alastair Smellie, the leisure analyst, is leaving for pastures new.

Word filters down from Oxford that Bill Heine, the radio chat- show host who fell out with the local council after burying a 25ft fibre- glass shark (above) in his roof, has been disqualified as a company director for four years. The Department of Trade and Industry took a dim view of Mr Heine's cash-flow improvement techniques, namely "the retention of Crown monies'' (VAT and tax to you and me) and prosecuted. The judgment - which is unlikely to help the broadcaster's claim to the moral high ground on his show - follows the collapse in 1994 of his Penultimate Picture Palace Company which owned cinemas in Oxford and Brighton.

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