Column Eight: Salmon a la nuit

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Let no one accuse National Power of squandering its own product. The lights in its swanky new City of London HQ are programmed to switch off automatically if sensors fail to detect any human activity.

Guests dining there with senior managers yesterday were surprised to be plunged into darkness just as they were tucking into the pan-fried salmon with watercress sauce.

'I suppose there was a bit of a lull in the conversation,' muses one.

Much disappointment among reporters from the Wall Street Journal and the German financial daily Handelsblatt yesterday when their exclusive interview with Helmut Schlesinger, arguably the most powerful man in Europe, was abruptly cancelled.

The Bundesbank chairman was sorry, explained his secretary, but he could no longer spare the time because he had to prepare more for the IMF meeting next weekend.

If Europe's toughest central banker is this jittery, what can they be feeling in Threadneedle Street?

Despite the peace on the takeovers front, the City's heavyweight merchant bankers are finding something to do. Samuel Montagu's Rupert Faure Walker, who recently steered through the arduous dollars 420m refinancing at the WPP advertising group, is off to Cheltenham for two weeks.

Not for the horse racing though, but a spot of jury service.

You can't help feeling sorry for the image merchants at Benetton. No amount of controversial advertising can disguise the fact that their industry - woolly jumpers - is rather unexciting.

Still, the poor souls have been allowed to go to town on the company's annual report - a massive, no-expense- spared hardback tome complete with their favourite colour snaps of gory babies, snogging clerics etc.

Its scale and grandiosity is a bit reminiscent of Burton Group's last annual report under Sir Ralph Halpern, just before the fashion giant headed horribly south.

Those high-street bankers are up to their old tricks. They are dragging their heels on agreeing to the creation of a new watchdog, the Personal Investment Authority, to replace the old regulators for investments sold to the general public.

But while the PIA remains a glint in the eye of a few life insurers, the start-up costs are proving rather more concrete.

The bill so far has just topped pounds 1m, I hear.

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