City Diary: Away day in Peking nearly came off the rails

Clem Jansen, chief executive of Silvermines, the Leicester-based manufacturing group, nearly got run over in Peking recently. He was in the Chinese capital trying to take a picture of the front of the new railway station, which is two kilometres wide, since it contains closed circuit TV cameras made by Silvermine. Much of the 41 per cent leap in sales last year was due to such technology, he said, but he was lucky to be alive to announce the results.

Howard Davies, deputy governor of the Bank of England, is taking time off from worrying about the effects of EMU on British industry to christen a canal narrow boat. On Saturday, Davies will name the Bank's own boat, the Watermark, on a canal near Derby. The boat replaces the old Watermark, which had to be sold off following nine years of wear and tear. The Bank Waterways Society owns and runs the boats, which are hired out to Bank staff. The sailing club also runs a yacht, called Ingotism, after the Bank of England's telex address.

Hans Snook, group managing director of Orange, had one sticky moment when preparing for yesterday's pounds 2.5bn float. Whilst on a roadshow to US institutions, Snook was asked by one American banker: "What's going to happen to your Arpus?" Snook recalled yesterday: "I thought he was being rude. In fact it stands for 'average revenues per unit', where a unit is a customer."

Half-way through the ads for toothpaste and motor insurance on London News Radio yesterday morning came an exhortation to join the Institute of Directors. Apparently the IOD feels that 50,000 members is not enough. The ad asked: "Are you a company director who is not a member of the prestigious IOD? If so, many doors will be closed to you," followed by the sound of slamming doors. The various doors that would be opened were then listed. "We've never done this on radio before," an IOD spokesman said. He denied it was a desperate measure to get new members: "They still have to satisfy quite searching criteria. The ads are an experiment for a couple of weeks. We were offered a good rate."

Roughly 47 per cent of senior executives are prepared to commit fraud by understating write-offs that depress company profits, the Wall Street Journal reported this week. According to a study by four business school professors published in the February issue of the Journal of Business Ethics, 41 per cent of controllers and 76 per cent of graduate-level business students were willing to commit fraud as well. Securities and Exchange Commission officials commented that failure to record write-offs properly is one of the most common types of fraud investigated.

The Inland Revenue should win a prize for "Most Insensitive Press Release title" with this week's contribution: "Ships: Rollover Relief for Balancing Charges."

The last time only two horses finished the Grand National was 1928, and Sporting Index are hoping that history won't repeat itself this Saturday. The spread betting specialists lost pounds 90,000 in 1994 when only six horses finished. This year they are taking the horse by the reins and forecasting that there will be between 13 and 15 finishers in their "Number of Finishers Index." Another bet being offered is the First to Last Index which asks the punter to wager on the number of lengths there will be between the winner and the last horse to complete the National course. The Sporting Index spread for this is between 110 and 120 lengths. On the other hand you could put your fiver on a horse with an interesting name.

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