PEOPLE & BUSINESS

Its an ill wind, so they say. The turmoil in Asian financial markets and the collapse of the Peregine investment bank has British receivers licking their lips.

After all, the UK's liquidators have got sweet fanny adams to do over here at the moment, since company receiverships in the UK are at their lowest since the mid 1980s. In contrast, most observers expect Peregrine to be just the first of a rich crop of corporate casualties out East.

Big names in British bankruptcy that sprang to prominence in our last recession, and who have been spotted in various part of the Far East recently, include Colin Bird of Price Waterhouse, Stephen Adamson of Ersnt & Young, Murdoch McKillop of Arthur Andersen and Gordon Stewart of Allen & Overy.

It makes sense. They all have loads of experience of cross-border crashes, and the current Asian crisis has been sparked off by cross-border lending to places like Thailand and Indonesia.

Neil Cooper, a partner with Buchler Phillips in London, who has spent a long career specialising in multinational company collapses, said: "These days there's a wealth of [insolvency] talent in Hong Kong, which will be supplemented by shipping in more talent from London and Sydney."

"In the early 1980s it relied on immigrant labour, with people like me flying into Hong Kong to do the biggest jobs. I did three receiverships in Thailand once," Mr Cooper added, with a hint of nostalgia in his voice. Buchler Phillips is opening an office in Thailand via its associate Ferrier Hodgson specifically to deal with the expected avalanche of insolvency and restructuring work, Mr Cooper said.

It's an old saying that timing is everything. I've just received a report from the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office on the six months after reunification with China, which starts: "1997 was a momentous year for Hong Kong. There were sceptics who thought that it would bring changes to Hong Kong that would fundamentally alter its nature. How wrong they were." Stick around. They might be right in 1998.

Just to put Hong Kong's problems into perspective, how about this sound bite yesterday from Japan's Ministry of Finance: "Japan's bank bad debts now total 76.7 trillion yen." Even in yen that's a lot of money.

A "totally bald" lawyer is to run a marathon in the Sahara this year for charity under the banner: "Fat cat turns desert rat."

The self-deprecating chap in question is Robin Spencer, a partner in the insolvency group at Lovell White Durrant. The barrister turned solicitor will run the145-mile Marathon des Sables this March, and aims to raise pounds 50,000 for the Variety Club Children's Hospital at King's College Hospital, London.

The run will take six days and will cross the sand dunes, river beds and palm groves of southern Morocco, where temperatures can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mr Spencer, 39, is anything but a health nut, having only taken up running seriously last April. Since then he has been running 30 to 50 miles a week, a routine which has already brought his weight down from 13.5 stone to 11 stone and his resting heart rate down from 70 to under 50. Makes you sick, doesn't it.

He is also the only bald participant in the race. Mr Spencer's baldness is caused by the condition alopecia totalis - Duncan Goodhew, the swimmer, has the same condition. Mr Spencer believes it will be a positive advantage in the Sahara: "There are no hair washing facilities in the desert. Hirsute competitors may find this uncomfortable, given the heat and dust, whereas I will be restored by a quick wipe from a damp cloth."

The new money market rate for the euro, which will replace Libor if we ever get round to monetary union, will be called "Euribor", according to Paribas yesterday. How very appropriate. I think we all know a few Euribors....

As the graduate recruitment season begins, the questions asked at interviews seem to be getting more and more bizarre.

The Diplomatic Service appear short of jokes, asking young hopefuls what makes them laugh. Management consultants are getting a particular reputation for mind-bending posers. According to Nicki Henrion, head of consultant recruitment at Boston Consulting Group, "Each person is asked how many petrol stations there are in south-east London."

Surprisingly, Ms Henrion claims interviewers know the answers to this type of question and they expect reasonably accurate answers, too. Sounds to me like taxi drivers have a bright future in consulting.

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