Column Eight: Coleridge out in the cold

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The Independent Online
Footnote to that extraordinary meeting at Lloyd's of London this week. The subject of freemasonry was raised. Would Lloyd's disclose which members were masons? asked a member.

David Coleridge, the chairman, replied: 'That doesn't seem to be part of the resolution under discussion.'

Member: 'The answer I've just got appears to come from a freemason.'

Coleridge: 'I am sorry to disappoint you but your present chairman is not a freemason. Nobody has invited me to become one.'

Tom Farmer, chairman of Kwik-Fit, has such a way with words. Discussing the company's progress yesterday, he told Extel that tyre sales had been good in January and February in response to tyre legislation, but had slackened off in the following months. 'The tyre market,' he said, 'is flat.' No, really. He did.

American Express has made its share of enemies in recent years. One was Edmond Safra, who sold his Trade Development Bank to AmEx in 1983, only to become the object of a smear campaign by the company.

Another is Peter Cohen, the Wall Street wunderkind fired in 1990 as chief executive of its Shearson Lehman Hutton subsidiary.

As further proof of the old adage that any enemy of American Express is a friend of mine, the two have decided to work together. Mr Safra, now the largest shareholder of New York's Republic Bank, has enlisted Mr Cohen to help the fast-growing bank enter the securities business.

Mr Cohen, for the time being a consultant with an office and secretary at the bank, is expected to head the new investment banking subsidiary - which would, of course, compete directly with Shearson.

Many reasons have been advanced by companies seeking to raise funds through a rights issue. But ML Laboratories certainly had stock market dealers scratching their heads yesterday with its pounds 15.8m cash call to help develop Dextrin 20, its kidney failure treatment.

'Unlike glucose the product has the advantage of being iso-osmolar with serum and is unlikely to react by glycosylation with the peritoneum,' ML helpfully explained. Well, that's perfectly clear then.

Coals to Newcastle Corner: Japan's biggest brewery, Kirin, is to pay pounds 3.6m for Southern Glasshouse Produce, a British firm that grows and sells chrysanthemums.

The Japanese imperial family, whose symbol the flower is, are no doubt delighted at the news, although they were not available for comment.