Column Eight: Midland tiptoes out of Norway

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The Independent Online
Not a lot of people know this. Midland Bank has just quit Norwegian stockbroking. Not a lot of people knew they were in Norwegian stockbroking in the first place. Nevertheless the closure of the business has cost pounds 11m.

Midland's chairman, Sir Peter Walters, yesterday brushed aside questions about the Scandinavian shambles with a brazen, if uninformative: 'It was before our time.'

Brian Pearse, chief executive, was a little braver: 'I'm afraid it wasn't before mine. They were making a mess of things. We can't say anything more about it.' Nor did they.

Stanley Kalms, the philanthropic chairman of Dixons, is something of a student of ethics. He has long sorrowed about the moral code of the ram-raiders who smash up his electrical shops.

Now he is turning his attention to the consciences of executives, helping the London Business School to set up a chair of business ethics.

Andrew Likierman of the LBS says students will learn how to take decisions on issues like dealing with countries where bribes are the norm, and whether one has a wider responsibility than just to shareholders.

Mr Kalms has already wrestled with this last dilemma: Dixons is giving the LBS pounds 1m over five years.

What has happened to the French? It's disillusioning enough that one of Marks & Spencer's best-selling lines in Paris is white sliced bread. Now we hear that discerning petit-dejeuneurs have taken to wolfing down cornflakes and puffed rice. Across the Channel demand is growing by 15-20 per cent a year.

French taste runs to chocolate-chip and strawberry-flavoured cereals, according to Harrisons & Crosfield, whose brand 'Harrison' can be found on hypermarket shelves by determined gourmands.

Kiwi raider Sir Ron Brierley should beware. His purported bid target, Gibbs Mew, is best known for its brew Bishop's Tipple. It sounds harmless but is in fact strong barley wine. It could, properly administered to a predator, help

befuddle the price up a million or two.

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