The City Diary: Gissing's gone missing

Slackbelly exposes the good, the bad, and the ugly of the Square Mile
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The Independent Online

Where's Jason? There was a time when it seemed that Ocado co-founder Jason Gissing would crawl through rotten groceries to get a name-check in the media.

Strangely, over the past six months, the Bullingdon Club boy has disappeared from view – while he did not make the team sheet for last week's investor roadshow when the online grocer attempted to persuade US investors to buoy its flagging flotation. Gissing's supporters insist that since stepping aside as finance director last year, his role has changed, although some unkind souls are cruelly suggesting that he's been kicked into touch as Ocado's public face (he is prone to the odd gaffe, such as musing that supplier Waitrose is "a pain in the arse to deal with"). "I don't think he's been particularly sidelined," says a spokesman helpfully, before toddling off to return with a more refined (and off-the-record) response. Considering how the flotation is progressing, Gissing might have had a lucky escape.

New species of Orange turns sour

Remember when third-generation mobile telephony was billed as a revolution that would allow users to download data almost instantaneously (as well as, er, make calls)? The reality seems far less ground-breaking – despite operators paying £22.5bn for their licenses. "3G is really unstable [in London]," an Orange call centre operative admits. "We have five masts out of service and three degraded sites. It is not a very good network to be on. Try switching your phone to G. That is much better and more stable." Or as the firm's marketing bumf puts it: "[3G is] simply about faster, higher quality services for everyone."

US group set lawyers on Lloyds

I read that a US shareholder action group – Lloyds Action Now – is attempting to bring a lawsuit in America alleging that its former chairman, Sir Victor Blank, and chief executive, Eric Daniels misled investors about HBOS's dire condition when their bank acquired its stricken rival. This is hardly what Daniels needs, just at a time when news reaches me that much of the Lloyds corporate PR effort is focussing on propping up its embattled chief. As readers will know, Daniels's job seems not to be as secure as he might wish.

The Goldman soft-shoe shuffle

Here's Goldman Sachs's statement from 16 April, as the SEC unveiled its suit against it: "It is completely unfounded in law and fact." And here's its second effort from 15 July, after the bank agreed to pay $550m to settle the case: "We believe that this settlement is the right outcome for our firm, our shareholders and our clients." Who'd have thought it?

God's bank's number cruncher

Amount of fine to settle SEC fraud allegations: $550m. Amount of government money received when AIG was going bust: $12.9bn. Rise in share worth after news of the settlement: $3bn. Amount of cash on balance sheet: $27bn.