CITY DIARY

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The Independent Online
Timothy Eggar, Minister for Energy and Industry, must have done something wrong. His boss, Ian Lang, President of the Board of Trade, has sent him to Siberia. Not, it emerges, to slave in the gulag but to stump up trade for British oil equipment manufacturers. We wish him well in this chilly task.

Merrill Lynch, the American investment bank, looked at a number of different venues before settling on the Royal Albert Hall for a shindig next Monday week to celebrate its takeover of - sorry, merger with - London brokers Smith New Court. "There aren't many venues that can accommodate 2,500 people in London," said a Merrill spokesman yesterday, explaining that the combined workforces of the two firms would all be there. "We did look at Grosvenor House ballroom."

Other sources suggested Wembley Arena had been given the once over, to which the spokesman replied: "Not seriously." The lucky employees will hear presentations from Merrill's chairman, Dan Tulley, and chief executive officer, David Komansky, as well as viewing a corporate video. There are cocktails to soften the blow, plus some "surprises", says the spokesman. Eric Clapton, perhaps?

Daimler Benz, the largest industrial group in Europe, has unveiled a dynamic new restructuring package code-named "Dolores". Where does this name come from? The name of chairman Juergen E Schrempp's wife perhaps? Not so. With typical Teutonic rigour it stands for "Dollar Low Rescue". The problem is that German industry has been badly hit by the fall of the dollar against the mark.

You had to feel sorry for some of the shareholders at yesterday's annual meeting of Signet, the former Ratner business. One shareholder stood up to praise the board for its efforts. Another got to his feet and begged to differ. "I can only imagine you paid something like 15p for your shares," he said, referring to the price of the previous week. "I paid more than pounds 3 for mine."

Forget Ian Wright and Dennis Bergkamp. The real excitement in football over the weekend sprang from a titanic confrontation between a financial journalists' 11 and a team of financial spin doctors. In London's trendy Islington, just round the corner from Arsenal's home ground at Highbury, the hacks beat the press officers 6-4 in a thrilling encounter. Man of the match was Nick Fox, City reporter on a certain Sunday newspaper, who scored a scintillating hat-trick, despite the pouring rain. The PRs had the consolation of a "fantastic" goal from John Bick (that's what its says here) who works for Financial Dynamics. Man of the match for the spin doctors was, however, James Melville-Ross of Square Mile, whose staunch defending reminded many of Tony Adams. A return match is planned.

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