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City Diary : Where there's smoke, there's cattle-burning

Pooh, what a pong. Fledgling Buckingham-based manufacturer Environmental Technology Research is on tenterhooks. Like most people it doesn't know what the Government's latest thinking on slaughtering and Mad Cow Disease is. The company's Steven Feldman says this is important since it makes metering devices for chimneys which measure how much dust and smoke particles are emitted. In these environmental times, there are strict rules on what can be thrown into the atmosphere. If loads of new cow incinerators have to be built, to burn the mad cows, ETR is quids in. If not, it will have to stick to crematoria. It already has a quarter of the UK market.

Marc Popiolek is leaving City spin doctors Financial Dynamics after two-and-a-half years, to join rivals Gavin Anderson. The former editor of the Daily Telegraph Questor column helped to advise Smith & Nephew and Burmah Castrol while at FD. Jeff Randall, former City editor of the Sunday Times who joined FD last year, has also recently left, to return to the paper. Headhunters have apparently been interested in the firm's talent.

The traditional image of small business owners is that of "movers and shakers in their local communities, active in local politics, community and social activities." Office World's latest quarterly Small Business Survey brands this a myth. When you might have expected the butcher, baker and plumber to be down the Rotary Club or running the local Conservative office, most in reality prefer to go to the cinema or theatre. The survey finds that sports activities were also important with over a third of business owners. So at least they are still down the golf course. Interest in political activities was a mere 5 per cent. John Major really has had it.

The Italians love nattering on their mobile phones so much that the Italian government was forced recently to place screening material on the outside of its Parliament building, to block such phone conversations and ensure at least some work got done.

This story is told with a mix of amusement and pride by Francesco Caio, the 38-year-old chief executive of Omnitel Pronto Italia, the smaller of Italy's two mobile companies. In the months since Omnitel launched last December, it has gained 100,000 subscribers. By comparison, Orange managed in the first three months of its UK launch to attract a quarter of that number.

Ominitel's progress is of especial interest to Olivetti, Carlo De Benedetti's troubled computer giant, since the latter owns 41 per cent of the new company. Olivetti yesterday announced net losses for 1995 of a mere 1.598 trillion (yes, trillion) lire, or pounds 670m. No wonder Signor Caio is interested in floating off Omnitel.

No elephants, please, we're British: Xenophobic Brits may think that Johnny Foreigner has lots of funny habits, but they should hear what the Chinese think about the Brits. The latest Overseas Jobs Express quotes the China Trade News on how to behave when travelling to the UK to do business. "When dealing with the British there are certain taboos and superstitions it is necessary to understand.

"Elephants are taboo to the British - if you are exporting goods you must ensure that they do not carry any pictures of elephants on trademarks or packaging. Horseshoes however are considered lucky."

The correspondent goes on: "When eating with the English, you must make every effort to avoid making any noise by knocking china and cutlery together. Also, meetings of 13 people are out of the question, as it is an unlucky number." The article concludes by advising visitors to remember that Britain is a country of animal-lovers and to make a point of saying a few words of appreciation to pet owners about their animals. Like "nice goldfish."