Pembroke: Surprises in Shanghai for Standard?

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IT COULD be a case of back to its roots for Standard Chartered in Shanghai. The bank used to occupy a stately old building in the Bund area of the city, complete with river view. But after the war it moved out and has been muddling along in a rather modest and by all accounts anonymous office ever since. Now I understand Standard Chartered plans to put in a tender offer for its elegant former headquarters, currently occupied by the Shanghai Home Textile Corporation. 'It is one of our options,' muses an SC man in London.

A bit of refurbishment may be required to knock the old haunt back into shape. I hear that while the facade has been kept in good order the building has become rather tatty inside. 'I think it took a few hits during the war while we were still there,' one banker says.

Local SC staffers are wondering whether the return might yield the same archive material as their old Vietnam office. Standard Chartered left Saigon in 1977. When they moved back 15 years later they found all their old files still there.

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I HEAR BT's chairman, Sir Iain Vallance, has been doing his own bit of union negotiation, with some success. The BT knight was in Scotland earlier this week where he attended a BT-sponsored concert for the disabled at Edinburgh's Usher Hall. This was a cause of some concern to BT minions who had heard talk of a mass demonstration outside the concert hall by the managers' union, the Society of Telecommunications Executives, which has been disgruntled over pay.

They need not have worried. The mass demo turned out to be a three-man picket. Perhaps touched by their lonely vigil, Sir Iain gave them free tickets to the concert. I am told they thanked him politely and went inside.

THE 88 entries for the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year Award have been whittled down to five high-flying finalists.

Jan Fletcher has built up a Leeds-based group of car dealers with sales of pounds 44m (she also owns a fine fish & chip shop). Tricia Guild chairs the Designers Guild, a London maker of co-ordinated fabric and furnishings. Ann Iverson is chief executive of Mothercare. Perween Warsi founded an ethnic chilled food manufacturer in Derby. And Jean Wilson worked her way up from secretary to chief executive of Vernacare, a Bolton healthcare group.

The winner - the successor to the 1993 winner Patsy Bloom of Pet Plan - will be announced at Claridges in London next month by William Waldegrave.

PEMBROKE always thought that circus skills - stilt walking and unicycling and whatnot - were handed down from family to family. But you can learn the tricks at night school.

Skylight, a centre in Rochdale that specialises in such courses, has just received a life-saving grant of pounds 140,000 from the Rank Foundation. 'We would have had to scale down our operation without this grant,' a Skylight spokesman says.

Popular courses on offer at Skylight include clowning, slapstick, plate spinning and, for the more adventurous, stilt walking and the trapeze. 'We are trying to get the circus out of the Big Top and on to the street,' Skylight says.

NOTHING like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. With the Scott inquiry still rumbling on, those helpful people at the DTI have issued a new information pack on export guidelines for British businesses. The package of training materials includes a video and personal computer tutorial package. 'This is part of a process that has been going on for some time. It's got nothing to do with the Scott inquiry,' the DTI protests.