Much grousing in Yorkshire

CITY DIARY

Raised eyebrows in the shooting fraternity following an enigmatic message in the Malton Gazette and Herald. An advertisement in the outdoor pursuits corner of the classified section reads: "Gamekeeper appealing for unwanted sweaters, needed for very cold grouse. Telephone F Croft.''

Can this be Frank Croft, gamekeeper to Sir Lawrie Barratt and the man who runs the house builder's famous Farndale shoot in north Yorkshire? Apparently it is, although what the message means is not clear.

The betting is that the ad is a spoof, placed by a rival gamekeeper to poke fun at the Barratt birds. The Farndale shoot enjoys a handsome reputation and has consistently topped the local shooting tables. Our beater on the 4,500-acre Farndale estate says the ad was placed by a blonde woman who paid cash, no questions asked.

Internecine warfare between the local landed gentry must now be on the cards. For the record, Sir Lawrie is a keen shot.

This month's award for the most timely piece of research goes to Hoare Govett for its "buy'' note on Cable & Wireless. Barely had it hit the streets when the full horror of the tempestuous working relationship between Lord Young, the C&W chairman, and James Ross, the chief executive, became glaringly apparent.

"The next talking point will be an upcoming presentation on the group's cellular operations,'' notes the broker. No sooner said and the C&W board goes into crisis meeting to see which executive it can safely jettison.

Oddly enough the name on the bottom of the Hoare Govett note is James Ross.

No, surely not? The implications are appalling.

A glance at the most recent edition of The Estimates Directory reveals BZW to be out of synch with other brokers over the prospects of Albright & Wilson. You will recall that the chemicals company failed to protect its stranglehold on the formula for liquid laundry detergents when the courts gave SB Chemicals, an Irish upstart, permission to produce 10,000 tonnes of the muck.

Four brokers all downgraded forecasts to around pounds 55m. Not so BZW, the company's broker, which has increased its forecast to pounds 75m, according to the directory.

"Good God, no,'' guffaws a BZW man. "Don't believe all that you read in The Estimates Directory.'' So has BZW also downgraded Albright? "Ahem ... we ... er really would rather not comment.''

A change in name has done nothing Rexam, the packaging group, which yesterday issued its second profits warning since ceasing to be Bowater (there is a school of thought that this is defeating the object of the exercise). Perhaps sensing a rough ride, David Lyon, chief executive, and Michael Hartnall, finance director, conspired to be a long way from their desks. In Australia, in fact.

The England rugby team may be in need of some refurbishment following its drubbing at the hands of South Africa on Saturday but the same cannot be said for the corporate hospitality boxes that now grace the new Twickenham stadium. The National Westminster Bank function was particularly agreeable, drawing comparisons with the Barclays do at Wembley for the Rolling Stones concert. The only alarming moments came when the South African VIPs began chanting a crescendo of "Bok Bok Bok'' as their team applied pressure. And when they relieved the English VIPs of their money.

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