City Diary

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The Independent Online
The joint Merrill Lynch and Smith New Court bash at the Royal Albert Hall on Monday to celebrate their recent nuptials was a rollicking affair.

Dan Tulley, Merrill's chairman, and David Kymansky, chief operating officer, acknowledged that the Brits were worried by the arrival of brash, flash Americans. They then presented Smith's chairman Michael Marks and chief executive Paul Roy with flash American shirts in the worst possible taste. Not to be outdone, the Smith pair presented the Americans with bowler hats with horns, a reference to Merrill's "thundering herd" nickname.

All the top watchdogs turned out for the Labour Party's seminar on utility regulation yesterday, chaired by Labour energy spokesman Martin O'Neill.

Mr O'Neill introduced a distinguished economist, Peter Lehmann - one of British Gas's regional MDs - as "one of the brains behind Cedric Brown". The great and the good fell about laughing, but a British Gas official was afterwards unable to explain why.

Barton M Biggs, investment guru for Morgan Stanley, is on form in the bank's latest strategy and economics circular: "There are far too many rich young men wearing suits that look like they were made from the foreskins of llamas who think that Wall Street is a one-way street." Is this proof that Vivienne Westwood has made it big in the US?

A magnum of Bollinger is on its way to Cardew & Co, the City PR consultancy. Yesterday we suggested that the firm had disclosed confidential information to the press prior to PowerGen's bid for Midlands Electricity - Cardew's clients. We accept this didn't happen - apologies all round for any embarrassment caused.

Efforts are under way to correct a Euro-blunder which could wipe out an entire industry. Retread tyres have been unwittingly outlawed by the wording of a new directive on car safety which states that only new tyres can be fitted throughout the life of a car.

The Eurocrats wanted to ensure that only new tyres were fitted to new cars.

Sheffield MEP Roger Barton is raising the problem with Europe's Commissioner for the single market, Martin Bangemann - famous for threatening prawn cocktail-flavoured crisps in an earlier harmonisation scare. He is certain to amend the wording.

Michael Heseltine has announced a dozen measures to cut red tape blamed for stifling business growth. The measures include trimming by a quarter the time bosses spend filling in government surveys. Nearly 300 business licences, from sausage makers to telecom operations, are to be reviewed to see if they are necessary, and payrolls will be simplified by bringing tax and National Insurance systems closer. A computerised start-up system will help new businesses touch a button to find which regulations apply. Mr Heseltine said: "Our aim is to release British industry from the burden of unnecessary rules and regulations. We intend to increase the momentum for deregulation both here and in Europe."

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