Out without a chance to retire before the bell

People & Business

Alas, we hear that the Lutine Bell has tolled for one of the best- known faces at Lloyd's of London, whose job was to fill in the names of famous ship losses with a feather quill pen.

David Burling, who has performed the role of loss book clerk for 25 years, has been forced to stand down within months of retirement, claiming that he was given no notice that his historic position was to be instantly terminated.

The decision to decommission the post was taken by LLP, the former Lloyd's publishing division, even though Mr Burling was within 11 months of his expected retirement date.

LLP, which was sold to its management in December 1995 for pounds 84m, has been addressing its financial Plimsoll line by going through a heavy cost-cutting exercise ahead of a planned stock market flotation.

Mr Burling, who first started work in the intelligence department of Lloyd's in 1957, was the loss book clerk who wrote in careful script the titles of ill-fated vessels like Exxon Valdez and Estonia, among many others.

And staying with things nautical: forget quota-hopping, the Spanish fishing fleet is about to make another foray into UK waters via a rather circuitous route involving the flotation of drug group, PharmaMar.

PharmaMar, which makes drugs from marine plants, plans to float in the first half of next year either on the London main market or on Easdaq, capitalised at around pounds 150m.

The company has blood ties with the Spanish fleet which helped found the group in 1987, and which owns a 4 per cent stake. Manuel Fernandez Sousa, chairman of Pescanova, the second-largest fleet in the world, is also the brother of PharmaMar's chairman, Jose Maria Fernandez. Pescanova is quoted in Madrid at a market capitalisation of more than 19bn pesetas (pounds 18bn).

Privately owned PharmaMar, which employs around 30 people, uses the boats of its big brother to fish for samples to use in drug research. The company, which specialises in cancer treatments, has isolated 60,000 different organisms found in the sea and has is working with Bristol Myers Squibb.

The group recently raised $10m from venture capitalists, including the Swedish fund, Banken Fonder, and Spanish group, Axis. We assume the investor roadshow won't take in Cornwall.

Let nobody say Gordon Brown is not a radical. The date of the Budget will be announced formally on Monday when Parliament reassembles after its half-term holiday. (Whoever thought it was not a family-friendly institution?) But we can reveal that Budget day will not be a Tuesday - for the first time since Geoffrey Howe in 1980. Given the Chancellor's liking for an early start, perhaps it will even be in the morning. The smart money is on Wednesday 2 July.

But even more daring, the colour of the cover on the Red Book to accompany the Budget is likely to be changed. The old sun-dried tomato red will go. Sources could not reveal the new colour. Will it be imperial purple, the eau-de-nil of Labour's campaign backdrops, or avocado?

EU commissioner Neil Kinnock gave a speech at the European Movement's post-election bash on Tuesday. He has obviously been influenced by the old-fashioned continental view job sharing is the solution to unemployment. Mr Kinnock passed on apologies from his fellow UK commissioner Sir Leon Brittan for his inability to attend. "It's his turn to work this week," he said.

As one door opens another door closes. Lord Hollick has pressed the ejector seat at British Aerospace, where he has been a non-executive for the five years, in order to concentrate on his new role as part-time special adviser to Margaret Beckett, President of the Board of Trade. The announcement was accompanied by the usual exchange of gushing eulogies. We await with interest Lord Hollick's advice when BAe's first arms export licence application lands on the desk of La Beckett. Let's hope it's not a request to supply the Indonesians with more of those Hawk "trainer" jets.

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