City Diary: Beevering away as life goes on after the blast

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The Independent Online
If Laurie Beevers of Manchester stockbrokers Stephens is anything to go by, the city's business community is coping with commendable presence of mind to Saturday's bomb.

"We've redirected our five telephone lines to our mobile phones. One of our directors is working from Quilters' [the brokers] office, while two others are executing the business through Smith Brothers [owned by Merrill Lynch]," Mr Beevers says. He is working from home in Hale, while other directors are fielding calls in Bolton and Alderley Edge. Stephens' offices are located on the fifth floor above a Pizza Express in Dalton Street, just 300 yards from the blast, and Mr Beevers hopes to get back into the office today or tomorrow.

Fellow broker Albert E Sharp is operating through its Birmingham office and Siddalls through its London branch. Mr Beevers will be processing Monday's business today via Legal & General's local brokerage, Fairmount. As Mr Beevers says, "Life goes on."

The brokers' problems are dwarfed by those of the Co-op Bank Manchester head office in Balloon Street, which normally houses over 700 staff. Bits of the bomb lorry landed on the bank's roof. Terry Thomas, Co-op Bank's managing director, says all the staff have been redirected to branches in Salford and Stockport.

"It could be a blessing in disguise. It's an opportunity to rebuild the Arndale Centre, which is an eyesore and a blot on the landscape."

Congratulations to Sir Alastair Morton and Andre Benard, who have received a joint honorary degree from Cranfield University "in recognition of their distinguished leadership as co-chairmen of the bi-national Eurotunnel Group in the building of the Channel Tunnel". Doubtless the tunnel's shareholders and bankers, frequently on the end of a tongue-lashing from Sir Alastair, were on hand to applaud this entente cordiale.

BZW has moved swiftly to fill the gap left by Sam Morrone, chief executive of the global markets division, who is leaving the investment bank to return to the US after a nine-year stint in London. He is replaced by a fellow-American, Robert E Diamond Jr, previously a big noise in the fixed-income markets at CS First Boston in New York.

Mr Diamond joins in July and his new boss, Bill Harrison, arrives in September. Part of his empire includes BZW's metals trading outfit - but don't expect any comment from them on the Sumitomo copper scandal. "They're not involved and they don't want to be," says a BZW spokesman sternly.

Treasury staff have been pondering Chancellor Ken Clarke's speech at the Mansion House last week in which he warned against stoking up the economy for a pre-election boom.

He said: "The economy is not like a Pot Noodle - just add water and stir! Creating healthy sustainable growth is a painstaking process." The Treasury has since been bombarded by free samples of Pot Noodles, prompting one mandarin to reflect: "If only he'd compared the economy to Veuve Clicquot."

Most businesses suffer relocation problems at some time, but Viscount Linley's are turning out more troublesome than most. His partner in his cabinet-making business, Mark Whiteley, comes from Whitby in North Yorkshire, and the pair have decided to move there now they have outgrown their current workshops in Cirencester, Gloucestershire. The duo have applied for planning permission to convert a disused army barracks in Whitby, only to run into a wall of opposition from local teachers who want to convert the barracks into a centre for children with special needs. Viscount Linley's party has pointed out that his business will generate 50 jobs in an unemployment blackspot, and that the local tradition of crafts suits his firm perfectly. Watch this space.