PEMBROKE : NFC cuts take the biscuit

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The rumblings at NFC are becoming increasingly ominous. The company battened down the hatches following the messy departure of Peter Sherlock, the outsider called in to shake up the former publicly owned company, and Sir Christopher Bland, chairm an, is giving few clues away.

However, yesterday's boardroom reshuffle of responsibilities has raised hopes of a deck-clearing exercise in preparation for an impending chief executive announcement. As analysts hope for an end to the uncertainty, the common wisdom suggests that the inside favourite, Robbie Burns, director, will be passed over in favour of a more radical outside candidate.

Shareholders have little cause for celebration. Invitations to next month's annual meeting make it clear the new regime is cutting unnecessary costs, such as the parties, complimentary travel and hotel arrangements that used to accompany AGMs. Instead, amodest meeting in Harrogate, Yorkshire, is planned and travel-weary delegates are warned by Trevor Larman, finance director, that they cannot be assured a seat and there will be no refreshment except a cup of coffee and a humble biscuit.