Business Diary: 19/09/2009


Aviva's advocate really does her job


When the insurer Aviva first began examining ways of unlocking £1.2bn-worth of assets in its "inherited estate", it knew it would have to hire someone formidable to represent policyholders' interests, or face accusations it was being unfair to them.

Still, it got more than it bargained for with the former energy regulator Clare Spottiswoode. The policyholders' champion yesterday welcomed High Court approval for a deal, agreed after two years of negotiations, but couldn't help chucking barbs the way of the FSA and Aviva itself. "The rules favour shareholders," she moaned after a series of spats with Aviva.

A business opportunity shines out

Famous for the festival, Glastonbury is obviously also home to some entrepreneurial spirit too. Jules Bending, a local estate agent, says he has stockpiled 10,500 100w traditional light bulbs. Once EU rules requiring retailers only to stock energy-efficient bulbs come into effect in 2010, Mr Bending plans to sell his stockpile at inflated prices. He reckons £40 to £60 a go sounds fair.

Mercer press office comes out fighting

Expect a combative approach to press relations and marketing from Mercer, the employee benefits consultancy, which has hired a new chief for its American press office. His name is Bruce Lee.

The campaign that won before it even started

No news yet on Monday evening's Stand up for the Observer event, due to be hosted by the comedian David Mitchell. The event appears to be going ahead, despite this week's announcement from Guardian Media Group that it won't be closing the Sunday paper, despite speculation this was on the cards.

Pedal power to the fore at Rolls-Royce

Best known for its powerful engines, Rolls-Royce now has another claim to fame – and it's a slightly greener one. The aerospace company is Britain's most prolific adopter of the Cycle to Work initiative, which offers tax breaks on bikes. Almost 1,700 employers have bought bikes collectively worth more than £1m through their company scheme.

Number of the day: 15%

The VAT rate at which firms can reclaim if taking clients to lap-dancing clubs. Harriet Harman wants them excluded.

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