People & Business: German entente not so cordiale

IF YOU thought that the recent announcement of a joint venture between the London Stock Exchange and the Deutsche Borse heralded a new era of warm, cosy relations between the City and the German financial community, think again.

The latest issue of Finanzplatz-News, a Frankfurt news-sheet giving "background information on the German Capital Market and Economy", isn't the most diplomatic document.

"Frankfurt am Main will nudge London out of first place as the European financial center by the year 2005," declares a front page report on a study by CNBC, the American financial news channel. Next to it is an interview with Dr Lutz Roger Raettig, chairman of the board at Morgan Stanley Bank AG, who says: "The differences between London and Frankfurt at the moment are relatively clear-cut in favour of Frankfurt." I wonder if Dr Raettig's 2,000 or so colleagues in Morgan Stanley's London office would agree with him.

The British reader can relax for a moment as Finanzplatz quotes Barbara Rockefeller, President of Rockefeller Treasury Services. "The euro will be popular worldwide in the first six months of its official launch on 1 January 1999. As a reserve currency, the US dollar is a dead duck," she says.

Having despatched the dollar, the news sheet goes back to trumpeting the German financial capital's progress. "Whereas the trading centers that have been the traditional leaders New York, Tokyo and London have been operating under overall conditions that have not changed much for about 10 years now, the German community has been modernising the market at an impressively fast pace."

I just hope the LSE's man, Gavin Casey, gets the equivalent of his towel on the lounger before his Deutsche Borse colleague, Werner Seifert.

WHILE HUNDREDS of thousands of schoolchildren ponder their A-level results, the nation's trainee liquidators have been receiving their own exam results.

The Insolvency Practitioners Association (IPA) has published its list, and 57 of the 80 people who took its Certificate of Proficiency in Insolvency (CPI) passed this sternest of tests.

The qualification was only introduced two years ago, in the profession's continuing crusade to wipe out "cowboy liquidators" who play fast and loose with creditors' assets.

Congratulations to Edwin Keddie of PricewaterhouseCoopers in Aberdeen, whose mark gained him first place in the IPA's ranks. There were a dozen trainee liquidators from PWC taking the exam - not surprising as that accountancy firm has by far the largest insolvency practice in the country.

THERE WERE red faces at the Central Office of Information (COI) over the weekend after their attempt to move their website - and hence all government press releases - to a new Internet server. This is important, as the COI publishes press releases on behalf of everybody from the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) to the Welsh Office.

As with so many projects involving computers, the aim was to save time and provide a better service. But the time needed to download stuff from the new website was often longer than the lifespan of an average Russian government.

To be fair, the COI site then ran the following message: "Please accept our sincerest apologies for the long delays in accessing information from this service; steps have been taken to remedy this fault."

The COI added that in the meantime "the old press release site has been resurrected". So if you want to see a rare grovelling apology from a government agency, tap into the new site: http://www.nds.coi. gov.uk/coi/coipress.nsf.

And if you want to peruse the old yet reliable site, go for http://www.coi.gov.uk/coi/depts/deptlist.html.

IT'S A busy time for EMI. Not only is the British music business mulling over a bid for PolyGram's film division, but it has just received a writ from Lupus Music, a London-based firm, over an alleged copyright infringement of a classic of British 60s psychedelia. (Anyone under the age of 35 can stop reading here).

The writ, issued via solicitors Gentle Jayes of Grosvenor Street, London, says that "the plaintiff is the owner of the UK copyright in the musical work known as `Careful with that Axe Eugene'".

The writ says the work, recorded in 1968, "was made by Roger Waters, Richard Wright, David Gilmour and Nicholas Mason (known collectively by the professional name `The Pink Floyd') who, when the work was made, were British subjects...". It adds that around December 1969, The Pink Floyd "recorded a work known as `Come in Number 51, Your Time is Up'."

The writ alleges that this second track included bits of "Careful with that Axe..." and that this second track was used in the film Zabriskie Point, released in 1970.

The writ claims that the second track found its way on to the album of the soundtrack of Zabriskie Point currently on sale on the EMI label. It claims that this is a breach of copyright, deserving of damages. Whether this revelation will rock EMI's share price remains to be seen.

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