The City Diary: Howkins gives the game away

Slackbelly exposes the good, the bad, and the ugly of the square mile
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The Independent Online

I fear that the PR minders of Tim Howkins, the chief exec of spreadbetting giant IG Group, may have allowed their client to fall into an obvious trap.

There have been vague rumours that capital gains tax will be applied to spreadbetting, but nobody was taking the stories seriously as the move wouldn't raise much for the Exchequer. Still, at the company's results presentation last week, Howkins was questioned about the risk. Small, he replied, before conceding that not many of his clients make more than the £10,000-a-year CGT allowance.

Say that again, Timmy. Spreadbetting companies have always insisted that they actually provide a serious investment product, and that the "betting" tag is only a convenient tactic to allow their clients tax-free profits. In reality, it's a sales pitch, as around 80 per cent of financial spreadbetters lose money. Now the boss of the biggest player seems to be admitting his clients don't make much. How careless.

Goga, Goga, everywhere...

My old friend, Goga Ashkenazi the socialite, bosom buddy of Prince Andrew and mother of a child with the President of Kazakhstan's son-in-law, conducted a big interview with Hello! magazine late last month. Since then, she's followed up with a gaudy photo shoot in the Evening Standard's mag (she was pictured on a white horse, while wearing a ball gown) and a gushing 2,000-word interview with The Mail on Sunday. The pieces are suddenly talking up her business interests, even dubbing her an "oligarch" (really?). Now I hear that Goga's just completed another photo shoot, this time with OK! magazine. These things rarely happen by accident. Is she trying to tell us something?

Former HSBC boss spotted out

Surveillance: Michel de Carvalho – the Citigroup vice-chairman, former film actor, Olympian and husband of Heineken heiress Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken – spotted with Eddie Charlton, the respected former HSBC Private Bank director. The pair were spied at the Champions League Final in Madrid last month and in London since. Might Charlton be on the verge of returning to the City?

Clarke's shares fly off the shelf

Philip Clarke, incoming Tesco chief exec, was surely identified for the job years ago as the man in charge of Tesco's growth engine, the international business. But does Clarke, known as "Mr Supply Chain", think the grocer's shares have got further to rise? In December, he cashed in £1.3m of his stake.

How to win friends for BP

Could BP have stumbled on a cunning PR ruse to minimise the flak it's taking over the Gulf of Mexico disaster? A cast list of American luvvies – the likes of actors Ted Danson and Kevin Costner and Barbra Streisand – has jumped on the BP-bashing bandwagon. Is anything more likely to garner sympathy for the oil major?