Attractive chief exec seeks long-term relationship with caring investor

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The Independent Online

Speed dating has come to the City of London. While West End bars and even the famous Harrods department store have been hosting speed dating evenings for time-poor professionals who assess a string of putative partners in two minutes flat, a new version of the craze has been invented by City bankers for good looking public companies.

Speed dating has come to the City of London. While West End bars and even the famous Harrods department store have been hosting speed dating evenings for time-poor professionals who assess a string of putative partners in two minutes flat, a new version of the craze has been invented by City bankers for good looking public companies.

Businesses looking for fulfilling, long term relationships with like minded investors are now invited to speed dating sessions in the heart of the Square Mile. Lonely heart chief executives get 45 minutes a time in their own cubicle with a potential investor to impress them and hope they will marry their fortunes together.

Bob the Builder company HIT Entertainment is doing it, Chrysalis, the music and radio group is doing it, McCarthy & Stone, the retirement home builders is doing it as well. In fact more than two dozen well-heeled growth companies looking to expand their investor base are now hooked on the idea of a day of quick dates with investors.

Instead of champagne or wine there is still or sparkling water, and rather than romantic music there is a keynote speech from the global head of research. But it working, according to the blushing corporate maids seeking happiness with a new shareholder.

The matchmaker in all of this is UBS, where the 7th floor of the Swiss-owned investment bank has been turned into a sort of corporate Love Boat. Each of the 28 lonely hearts gets their own room. There they wait while 60 institutions - all the usual suspects from the US and Europe - rotate around each room in 45-minute slots.

After 40 minutes a bell rings as a five-minute warning. At the end of each session, out go the institutions into the next room to the meet the next date.

Michael Greig, finance director of RM, the educational technology group, said: "What some banks do is have conferences in exotic locations and have conference speakers. There will be one-on-one sessions but the conference bits tend to get in the way. This way both us and the institutions get the most efficient use of time."

There is a serious purpose to all of this apart from introducing investors to public companies in double quick time. UBS is using it to muscle in on the market for broking the shares of small and medium sized companies, an increasingly important area for leading investment banks.

Tom Hill, the bank's global head of research, was there on the day to warn companies that more regulation meant they would need more rigorous advice while institutions needed more independent research - all supplied by UBS, the City's very own corporate Cupid.

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