Pembroke: Oranges and lemons, say the bells . . .

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There was an ironic communications breakdown yesterday at Orange, the mobile telephone service that goes live today. With the launch action hotting up, the office switchboard went kaput. Clients seeking information had to call a special line and then be rung back by staff on their ever-so-reliable Orange mobiles.

The Orange office was not the only one experiencing difficulties yesterday. The worthy economists at the Central Statistical Office had their own little problem. The CSO celebrates 80 years of official price-watching today, marking the occasion by sending out a little resume of interesting statistics, such as the fact that rubber roller table mangles - once a common feature in the washday routine - remained in the retail price index for 42 years until they were replaced by table wringers in 1956.

Unfortunately, on the same day it had to send out a note saying some of its March statistics would be late due to 'technical processing difficulties'.

Further to this column's report on the outbreak of the three-letter acronym at Reuters, I learn that the chartered accountants Coopers & Lybrand are suffering from a similar affliction. Its new Human Resources Advisory group (HRA) - a jumped-up title for a personnel department - consists of four main divisions: SEA (services to executives abroad), ABI (actuarial, benefits and investments), CBI (compensation, benefits and incentives) and HRC (human resources consulting). This, no doubt, is the tip of a very large iceberg.

Reuters has been getting very excited in Geneva this week about its new Financial Television service, which it plans to offer to foreign exchange traders in June.

The service will offer live coverage of such thrilling events as Bundesbank and IMF meetings and screen them in little windows in the corner of dealers' screens. Reuters also hopes to offer instant analysis of the meetings by courtesy of City economists such as Ruth Lea, of Lehman Brothers.

Herein lies the problem. Should the economist's clients not come first? 'Of course they will,' says Ruth Lea, who has just returned from a two-week trip to South-east Asia that took in Bangkok, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. 'There are bound to be occasions when Reuters is not first in the queue. But I think they know that.'

Depends on your definition of 'instant analysis', I suppose.

The British Standards Institute will have to make sure its offices are shipshape and Bristol fashion when its new chief executive arrives next week. He is Sir Neville Purvis, a former member of the Admiralty board and a veteran of many missions on nuclear submarines. Sir Neville was on, or rather in, HMS Dreadnought, Britain's first nuclear submarine. His new position might come as a culture shock. He will be based in the distinctly non-maritime environs of Milton Keynes.

The broker UBS is strenuously denying rumours that a ban has been slapped on ordering taxis at its offices on Liverpool Street. Word is that lazy staffers have been told to use the perfectly convenient taxi rank outside the office rather than waste money ordering them. 'Some department heads may have said something but there has been no diktat from the top,' UBS insists.

Following its absorption of Midland Bank, Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation continues to extend its influence over its empire. Greenwell Montagu Gilt Edged, one of the best- known gilt dealers in the City, and part of the old Midland Montagu group, is to change its name.

From the beginning of May it will style itself simply as HSBC Greenwell. 'It is part of a process of streamlining the public face of our global markets businesses,' says an HSBC man.

Hammerson, the property company that has been cutting costs aplenty recently, knows how to spend lavishly when it has a mind to. Its annual report published yesterday reveals that the ousted chairman Sydney Mason managed to earn more after he bowed out than he did when he held the reins.

In the first six months of last year he earned pounds 134,000. After June, when he stepped down as chairman to take up a non-executive post, he banked pounds 191,000. Nice work if you can get it.

(Photograph omitted)