The City Diary: TUI Travel: The strange case of the exploding boat reaches the High Court

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

Here's a rum do. TUI Travel, the listed travel agent group that owns Thomson and First Choice, is fighting a legal case brought against it by three of its holiday makers.

Ruth Howden, 53, Rosemary Salisbury, 51, and Elizabeth Schofield, 40, are claiming damages after a First Choice trip to the Maldives ended with their being transferred to the airport on a boat, which then exploded. The accident caused the three defendants to suffer burns, before they were forced to jump into the sea.

Court documents show that TUI admits liability for the accident – but the company queries some of the medical evidence.

This has been rumbling on since 2006 and proceedings have been transferred from Leeds County Court to the High Court. But as each victim's claim is limited to £100,000, I wonder if TUI thinks its time spent fighting the three women has been worth the legal fees.

The company fails to come up with a response. We'll hear it in court, I suppose.

Don't bet on IG coming first

Trouble for IG Index, the granddaddy of the financial spread-betting world, which has got itself in a spot of trouble with Google, the online giant.

The financial bookie has been paying the internet firm for sponsored links to appear above searches for its rivals, such as City Index or FinancialSpreads. Those ads contained a claim that IG has been "No. 1 since 1974" – a line that was certainly true in the spread-betting world until 1983 (IG had no competitors) but it appears that the company is having trouble substantiating the claim since.

A Google spokesman explains: "Google has strict terms and conditions about what ads we allow. Superlatives are not permitted in ads unless the site displays a third-party verification of the claim. If we discover that we are showing ads that break our terms and conditions we will take them down."

IG goes quiet about this when I call – which was always an odds-on shot.

Ocado? It should check its bankers' shopping lists

Was the embarrassment of the emergency rights issue (sorry, float) by Ocado simply a case of bankers playing to form? The bloated team-sheet of advisers (total fees: £15m) included Goldman Sachs's Phil Raper along with JP Morgan Cazenove's Laurence Hollingworth and Nick Garrett – all veterans of the Promethean World flotation (the shares have slumped 20 per cent and underperformed the market). Meanwhile, UBS's Tim Waddell was a hero of Lloyds TSB's disastrous acquisition of HBOS. You win some and you lose some, I suppose.

Where's the wind when you need it?

I see that Ian Marchant, the chief executive of Scottish & Southern Energy, blames the weather for a drop in its renewable energy production. You don't say. Despite brass-monkey conditions this winter, the wind never blew; during a particularly chilly spell in January, coal contributed an average of 44 per cent of the UK's energy, while wind breezed in with a pathetic 0.98 per cent. Those figures were much the same for the winter before last. The lesson? The wind never blows when you need it to – but we've invested in 2,800 turbines, just in case.

Mind how you go in the City

Is the City becoming more dangerous? The City of London Police's annual report, just out, shows there were two attempted murders in the Square Mile last year (up from zero in 2008), two manslaughter cases (none the previous year) and a 40 per cent rise in possession of weapons cases. Still, assaults seem to be out of fashion, and calls for transparency in the City are working. Last year's recorded instances of exposure and voyeurism shot up 67 per cent.

BP suffers a chill in the bond markets

When life was good at BP, the oil group hassled banks for market-busting bond rates on the assumption that they should be delighted to do business with a blue chip. Times have changed, and now deals are harder to come by. So is there a touch of Schadenfreude among the bond markets? "You could say that," grins one issuer.