Cuts in lending

Virtual City Diary

I HAVE some bad news for NatWest, the beautiful bank, which seems to think everyone wants to look like Pamela Anderson. Far from funding an initiative for a better looking Britain, the bank is funding a range of "other purchases".

You may have noticed coverage of "NatWest research" that led parts of the media to conclude that 20 per cent of personal loans are to finance cosmetic surgery. This is nonsense. There is no way I or my friends would put up collateral for our collagen. If you take an objective view of the research it is clear that NatWest has merely been involved in a cheap publicity stunt.

There were 65,000 cosmetic operations last year. Barclays and NatWest between them made more than 800,000 personal loans. Take out operations not funded by loans, add in other lending institutions, andyou'll be lucky to get to 2 per cent of plastic surgery financed by personal loans.

Could NatWest unwittingly be funding some less than gilt-edged purchases? "A loan can be used for almost anything as long as it's legal. We don't judge what people want to spend their money on," the beautiful bank coos. If I wanted to fund a girls' night out in the Snug bar at the Fount of All Knowledge, I may be tempted to give liposuction as my reason for the loan. I hate to think what people might do with a loan for a nose job.

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ONE PERSON who has no need of cosmetic surgery is Marilyn Carlson Nelson, chief executive of US "leesure" group Carlson Companies. Marilyn is in town on a fact-finding tour of the European leisure industry.

Once voted the seventh most powerful woman in American business, Marilyn now contents herself with the sublime. "We like to leave a trace," she once said. "That came from the collective unconscious - it's Jungian, I know - that we want to count." It may sound like gibberish to you but to me it's pure poetry. I love her. I will introduce her to Yoda, from the Jedi council. Famously they will get on.

u

IT MAY not have been Marilyn who said: "Wall Street bankers never die, they just run for Congress," but how apt it is. Former Goldman co-chairman, Jon Corzine, is preparing to seek the Democratic nomination to contest New Jersey's senate seat.

Some old politicos are a little sniffy about Mr Corzine's personal $300m war chest. The front runner for the nomination - former Governor Jim Florio - has accused him of "exercising a Wall Street-style takeover of the party". Given that a campaign costs about $15m, Mr Corzine has clear financial credentials. He is also an economic adviser to presidential hopeful Al Gore.

u

WITH A tear in my eye I must say goodbye. I would have liked to stay, but hard on David Blunkett's attack on teenage scribblers comes a threat from Malaysia Airline System to take legal action against journalists who ask questions damaging to the firm. MAS chairman Tajudin Ramili told hacks they were responsible for rumours of a takeover bid for the airline and that such speculation pushed up borrowing costs.

Take away rumour and speculation and I am but an empty vessel. I'm off to Newbury where I will have a wager on Annapurna in the 3.10. TTFN - love Dot.

By Dorothy `Dot' Komme

John Willcock is away

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