Column Eight: Clash of the big days

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The Independent Online
BEFORE Norman Lamont had even got to his feet yesterday, Wimpey was issuing instructions on next year's Budget. Two years running, the builder's final results announcement has clashed with Mr Lamont's big day. Last year Wimpey rescheduled; this year it continued as planned.

'Next year, I can promise you, he's moving his date to accommodate us,' Joe Dwyer, Wimpey's chief executive, said. Now that the Budget is being moved to the autumn, there shouldn't be a problem. Still, with careful timing the Chancellor may be able to disrupt the Wimpey interims instead.

BUT, ON the subject of Budgets, things could be worse. Faced with an exploding budget deficit, Oscar Ribas Reig, Andorra's head of goverment, finds his options seriously constrained.

Denizens of the formerly tax-free principality may just wear higher indirect taxes, as a way of dealing with a hefty rise in the deficit. But Mr Ribas knows you can only push the people so far. Direct taxes here 'would cause a revolution', he observed.

Instead the principality is going to relax its strict foreign investment laws and build up services in an effort to compensate for a decline in its traditional economic mainstays of tourism and shopping.

NEVER SAY this country's clearing banks are incapable of making a profit, given long enough. Five years ago County NatWest paid dollars 8.8m for its seat on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. It has just sold it to Japan's Akane Securities for dollars 9m.

CURIOUS quotes part one: Bob Brown, finance director of the electronics company Graseby, explains why his firm's gearing has risen: 'We don't have a particular borrowing problem. Our problem is the shareholders' funds side of the balance sheet.'

CURIOUS quotes part two: Garry Heath, chief executive of the National Federation of Independent Financial Advisers, writes in a consultative document on why IFAs commit fraud: 'Most fraudulent IFAs do not join the industry for that purpose. For most, a run of poor selling months perhaps combined with increased clawback (of commissions by financial companies) forces them to 'borrow or miss-sell' to clients.' In other words, steal from clients. The report is titled 'Building a bigger cake'.

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