Business Diary: There's no place like gnome

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The Independent Online

Perhaps the silliest story of the silly season comes from the insurer More Than, which has released research showing that 18 to 24 year-olds are now the second-biggest demographic group when it comes to garden gnome ownership (after the over-55s). It has even come up with an electronically tagged version to help counter a wave of thefts (largely, it has to be said, caused by pranksters). The message behind this madness is that Britons have a tendency to leave too many valuable items on display in their gardens (presumably, most of the gnomes wouldn't be valuable enough to warrant the sort of policy excesses that insurers like More Than are so keen on.

HSBC clears air with Ocado

Time to buy into Ocado? The embattled online retailer was given a boost yesterday by analysts at HSBC, who highlighted the "unique" opportunity Ocado offered to investors seeking exposure to the online grocery market, predicting that it would be in profit by next year. Would that be the same HSBC which advised Ocado on its controversial flotation, and ruffled feathers when it told potential investors that the firm was unlikely to make a penny of profit until 2014?

Hewitt seeks the simple life

Hewitt Associates, the "human resources consultant and outsourcing company", was quick to pat the Coalition on the back yesterday in its response to the proposed changes to pension tax relief in the UK. The company was making its formal response to the Government's consultation and hailed the plan as "simplicity" itself. Diary cannot help but raise an eyebrow at this sort of stuff, given that it is the lack of simplicity in the world of pensions that does so much for the business of companies like Hewitt.

iPad sceptics face defeat

Much laughter about recent reports that Sumo wrestlers are given iPads because their fat fingers don't work so well with iPhones. If the health lobby's claim that just about every Briton will be a tub of lard by 2050 comes true, the iPad sceptics will have been well and truly vanquished.