CITY DIARY

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Word has it that matters are just a little sensitive at the moment at SBC Warburg. Senior executives asking for authority to talk to journalists are being told by Marcel Ospel, the new chief executive, that they can do so - so long as they do not talk about affairs at the bank.

What on earth can they have to hide? Surely the newly merged house is just one big happy family. Expect long articles in the financial press peppered more liberally than usual with off-the-record quotes.

What do you get if you cross an economist with a Mafia Godfather? Someone who makes you an offer you can't understand.

Exciting news from West Bromwich Building Society. It is launching a West Bromwich Building Society Albion Premier Saver Account after the similarly named first division football club. And who better to launch the striking new account than Jeff Astle, the former striker who played for West Brom in the late 1960s and early 70s.

Mr Astle was notable for missing "an absolute sitter" in the 1970 World Cup match between England and Brazil, and has gained more recent notoriety by performing as an occasional balladeer on the cult comedy football programme Fantasy League.

The other man to be presented with the first Albion Premier Saver Account is Bob Taylor, a less notorious figure who is currently West Brom's most dangerous striker.

It's not all fun and games in financial journalism. RTZ is floating a huge new gold mine called Lihir Gold on the Australian stock market. To herald the launch of Papua New Guinea's, and possibly the world's, largest ever gold mine, which is located in the crater of an extinct volcano, Lihir has invited international investors to a series of briefings in London.

Financial hacks have been deeply traumatised, however, by receiving invitations to a breakfast briefing by the company this week at a swish London hotel - at 7.30 in the morning.

This should feature in any PR handbook in the chapter "How not to get any coverage in the papers at all".

Folk-rock wrinklies Credence Clearwater Revival sang "wheels keep on turning" in their classic hit Proud Mary, and this could well be a suitable theme tune for NatWest Ventures. For the third year running, NatWest Ventures has been associated with the winning company in the Turnaround category of the British Venture Capital Association "Venturer of the Year Award". Turnaround here implies companies that have been "turned around" from loss to profit. Each of the NatWest Venture firms has been based on wheels in one form or another. The winner this year was David Hargreaves of automotive distributor Maccess Group. Last year it was baby buggy maker Denzil Lee. Now, with the small MBO category, is Sinelist, whose success is in wheels as well. Spooky.

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