Pembroke: Lawson moves markets

Some interesting share dealings recently by Nigel (Lord) Lawson in Barclays Bank, where he has been a non-executive director since 1990. Curiously for a man of his financial acumen they involved buying tranches of shares and then cunningly selling them later the same day at a slight loss.

What is he up to? Barclays says Lord Lawson was setting up a PEP and that Inland Revenue rules preclude investors from simply transferring shares that are already owned. That the stock managed to slip between his buying the shares for the PEP and then selling others shows that even former chancellors cannot read the markets.

Is the French truffle industry about to come under threat from New Zealand?

Government researchers in Wellington say New Zealand is about to become the first country in the southern hemisphere to grow perigord truffles, which can sell for dollars 11,000 a pound.

The New Zealanders' secret weapon is apparently a black labrador retriever called Boss, which has established a bit of a reputation for itself in sniffing out the subterranean fungus.

'The signs are that truffles will be harvested in commercial amounts in several years' time' says Dr Ian Hall, an agricultural scientist who has spent eight years trying to get truffles to grow in New Zealand.

This should please Dr Hall's brother, who owns one of the country's 22 truffieres (truffle farms).

Nail-biting stuff in a City cricket match between Fuji Bank and the solicitors Clifford Chance at the Lloyd's Registrars ground in Dulwich, south London, the other night.

Fuji Bank batted first and scored 122 for nine off 20 overs. But Clifford Chance squeezed home with a bye off the last ball, which Fuji's wicket-keeper will claim was lost in the descending gloom.

Some novel tactics were employed, most notably by one of Fuji's two Japanese players whose bowling technique apparently resembled something more often seen on a baseball mound. Clifford Chance responded in kind, with Isobel Cassidy bowling underarm and Helen Short asking to have a few practice deliveries. 'Everyone enjoyed it so we might make it an annual fixture,' says Richard Pettit, a Clifford Chance partner.

Refreshing honesty from a second-hand car salesman in Chester-le-Street, Durham. Owlett Car Sales is trying to beat the recession by up-front advertising. A 1970s Vauxhall Viva comes with a free gallon of oil and a guarantee that it will get you home, as long as you don't live more than two miles away. And a W-registration Opel Cadet is promoted as having one careful owner . . . and six not-so-careful ones. 'I'm in a difficult business in a recession,' the proprietor says. 'You have to have a sense of humour.'

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