CITY DIARY

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The Independent Online
It's an open secret in television circles that ITV companies Yorkshire Tyne-Tees, HTV and Meridian would like to buy shares in Independent Television News - at the right price.

Shares in the news provider are about to come to the market, as a result of a forced sale of stakes held by Granada and Carlton, who must reduced their holdings to 20 per cent each to meet current ownership rules.

How odd, then, that HTV is publicly questioning whether ITN will retain its lucrative contract to supply the ITV companies with news, including News at Ten, or that YTT and Meridian are privately saying the same thing. Surely they don't hope to talk down the price of ITN shares?

The sale of cash-cow World's End Garden Centre by EFG to Wyevale Garden centres for pounds 4.43m yesterday, should raise a few eyebrows.

EFG, led by Robin Garland, has long promised a complete change of direction and it seems the time is now ripe. The company - previously known as the Economic Forestry Group, until new tax rules forced it sell its tree-growing arm - is now cash rich. I caught the newly endowed and secretive Garland trotting between meetings in London yesterday. "The new venture will be something quite different," he said. Not a barbecue in sight apparently.

Daiwa Securities and Commercial Union's seminar on a new technique for minimising risk in fund management earlier this week could have sounded like bad timing. But as a relieved spokesman at CU told me, Daiwa Securities is actually related to Sumitomo Bank and has no connection with Daiwa bank at all. The system being demonstrated at the seminar however, known as Cudos, helps to obtain a better risk-return trade off than traditional methods of stock selection. Unfortunately it can't yet help banks to improve their staff selection.

Need to move fast and take your client list with you? How about a personalised telephone number which follows you around? This is now available from PNG, the Personal Number Group, which is a service provider for Vodaphone.

Numbers consist of 07000 followed by a mnemonic. City dealers have already snapped up 07000-Equity, 07000-Trader, and even 0700-Leeson. Simon Hill at PNG tells me that one dealer wanted 07000-Porsche, but that had already been taken by the car company.

Since taking on Bruno Gabriele to lead its financial institutions group the influx of new recruits at Lehman Brothers has turned into a flood. Not only has it picked up the entire private client broker team from Goldman Sachs, with a $1.3bn client list, Lehman's has now also lured Robert Fleming's insurance analysts Michael Lindsay and Robert Proctor. The pair, I understand, are already known as Proctor & Gamble.

The construction industry's links with its founding families have remained remarkably durable over the years, but the latest recession appears at last to be taking its toll. Yesterday's news that David Hill is retiring as deputy chairman of Higgs & Hill, the Queen's builder, severs yet another family connection which has had its moments of glory in the past. A former chairman, Sir Brian Hill, will be remembered for his trenchant warnings a few years ago over the damage to the industry caused by Government policy while he was president of the Building Employers' Confederation. Now president of Higgs & Hill, he can maintain a studied detachment from the current bloodbath in the industry.

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