Damsels in undress cause great distress

City Diary

Imagine our intrepid reporter's surprise yesterday as he made his way to the BBA interim results press conference at the Chiswell Street Brewery in the City, only to be met by two scantily clad young ladies.

Had BBA expanded from its usual business of brake linings and nappies into lingerie, our man wondered?

The chairman of BBA, Vanni Treves, and his colleagues were distraught. The damsels had nothing to do with BBA, but were models preparing for a Playtex press conference at the brewery that evening. "We can't compete with what is going on outside," one person wailed.

I don't know. I'm sure brake linings have a fascination all their own.

It is well known that the Lloyd's of London insurance market in Lime Street celebrates good news with two rings of the historic Lutine bell, and bad news with one.

David Rowland, chairman of Lloyd's, had the bright idea of ringing it an unprecedented three times yesterday - one for the losses that market had made, and two for the Government's go-ahead for Equitas, the reinsurance company which will spearhead Lloyd's restructuring.

Mr Rowland recalls that the last time the seven-and-a-half-ton bell was rung twice because of maritime good news was back in 1981.

The last double-chime for any other reason was when John Major attended as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1990 to mark a European Directive which opened insurance markets in the European union to Lloyd's.

Mr Rowland says that although the bell was actually rung by one of Lloyd's pink-coated waiters and not Mr Major, the latter was the "official" ringer.

"You see what happens to people who ring the bell," the chairman said, referring to Mr Major's subsequent elevation to No 10.

David Newbigging, chairman of Equitas, added quietly: "If they can count."

British Gas and HFC are launching a multi-million pound joint venture called Goldbrand, whose first product will be a credit card called the Goldfish Card. Presumably it will only be available at fairgrounds.

Ward Thomas, the cheeky chairman of Yorkshire-Tyne Tees Television, has written to Channel 5 insisting that when their people turn up at his home to retune his telly to receive the new channel, they will have to do the job out in the drive.

"To avoid any security risk I will not permit any of your operatives access to my house," writes Mr Thomas.

He then includes a form Channel 5 must sign and return, indemnifying him against damage or worsening of interference he may suffer as a result of the retuning.

Channel 5 has written back to Mr Thomas, saying: "We regret that we cannot sign the attached form."

Robert Heald, head of customer services at Channel 5, goes on to assure Mr Thomas that all staff are fully trained in retuning, that any complaints will be dealt with swiftly and that no one is being forced to accept a visit from a retuner. Mr Heald concludes: "In the event that retuning cannot be successfully implemented, a blocker can be fitted to exclude Channel 5 [and any associated interference]."

I call that 30-all. New balls, Mr Thomas?

Cadbury's results yesterday were the swan song for chief executive David Wellings, who is retiring to devote all his energies to his first love: ornithology in Majorca. Mr Wellings wants to help preserve wildlife on the island, which includes the rare Black Vulture (above).

News reaches us, however, of a damaging boardroom split at Cadbury. The chairman, Dominic Cadbury, likes going out and shooting magpies as a hobby. Mr Wellings is aghast that as fast as he is saving birds, Mr Cadbury is blasting them to pieces. Mr Wellings says, sorrowfully: "Every time he does that, I give him a bollocking."

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