Pembroke: Mercedes goes bananas

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MERCEDES-BENZ may have fallen on hard times, but surely no one thought it would come to this. The noble company is to start flogging buses in exchange for bananas.

Mercedes has something of a bus surplus. And because of the latest European Union restrictions on importing Latin American bananas, Ecuador is sitting on a banana mountain. So in true barter economy fashion, the two have got together, starting with a trade of 100 buses for dollars 6m ( pounds 4.1m) of bananas, which Mercedes now has to sell in Eastern Europe.

As there is litle currency there, it will then barter the fruit for goods that in turn will have to be sold elsewhere. Who says the Germans aren't becoming innovative in their desperation?

DAVID MONTGOMERY, chief executive of Mirror Group Newspapers, is clearly not one to miss an opportunity. He bought 25,000 shares in the company at 151.1p yesterday to bring his holding to 100,333 shares.

A good investment. After all, Mirror Group shares have slid from 161p this week, following the publication of the Princess of Wales workout pictures in the Sunday Mirror.

Perhaps the purchase is intended to show faith at a time of crisis? 'He thinks the shares are very good value,' says a Mirror man.

Not a bad judge. The shares closed up 3p at 154p.

KARL OTTO POHL, the widely respected former president of the Bundesbank, managed a joke the other night. Delivering the prestigious Lionel Robbins lecture at the London School of Economics, Mr Pohl took a gentle dig at enthusiasts of central bank independence.

He reminded his audience that when Germany had hyper-inflation in 1923, the Reichsbank too was completely independent. 'I hope this will not be widely reported in Germany,' he jested.

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BUREAUCRACY out of control. A stunned Treasury official has learned that the Government Art Collection has decided that he is not senior enough to 'enjoy' the painting he has hanging on his wall.

The official didn't like the mangy picture, which looked more like a faded plan than an old master. Now the GAC has come to his rescue. It will relocate His Majesty's Royal Palace and Park of St James's (anon) to a more senior Treasury official.

WHITBREAD'S plans to scrap its antiquated two-tier voting structure did not go smoothly at a shareholders' meeting yesterday. A crucial vote by holders of the 'B' voting shares had to be held three times before the required 75 per cent majority on a show of hands could be achieved.

After two split votes, Sir Michael Angus, chairman, turned to the former chairman Sam Whitbread, the only director to hold 'B' shares. But alas the former chairman had forgotten his little pink slip, and a minion had to fetch it so the board could limp to a 9-3 majority.

Only Whitbread, which produces Heineken under licence, can do this.