People and Business: The World Cup winners and losers

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The Independent Online
WILL THE World Cup be good or bad for British business? The topic has exercised some of the keenest brains in the business arena. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and over 200 finance directors have come separately to the same conclusion: "It could go either way, Ron."

According to a survey of financial directors by Reed Accountancy Personnel and Accountancy Age published today, a third of FDs reckon the World Cup will affect the profitability of UK business, and just over half of that number expect it to have a beneficial impact.

Manufacturers of booze, soft drinks and drink dispensing equipment are euphoric, while another FD commented: "We lease and hire car radios. The probability is that people will be inside watching the World Cup, therefore there could be an increase in car theft." What a cynical world we live in.

Anyway, several accounting bods felt that the impact of the tournament would depend on how well England do: "It is always easier to sell to happy customers. If England win then sell, sell, sell," said one. I presume the opposite applies in Scotland.

But absenteeism, or "World Cup Fever," is a major worry to management. The intellectuals over at the Economist muse: "Not only will productivity fall and worker absenteeism rise - some two thirds of the opening-round matches are scheduled to kick off at 1.30pm or 4.30pm GMT - industrial relations could also deteriorate."

The EIU continues: "A round of strikes has been planned on the London Underground system (notably on the day of England matches), and technicians at the BBC have threatened to take industrial action which could affect coverage of the football."

All in all the EIU rates the impact of the Cup on England under four headings (based on a rating of one to five): Historical performance in the Cup, two and a half; odds to win, four; political impact of winning, three; economic impact, four.

GREED KNOWS no barriers. "Carpetbaggers" intent on forcing Nationwide Building Society to demutualise and pay them a handsome windfall in the process have set up a website to swap ideas, tactics and fantasies generally. If you would like to help plot the downfall of the Nationwide, tap into www.carpetbagger.com/cbtables9/

As an indication of the company you will be keeping, some of the carpetbaggers on the site have called themselves "Bilbo Baggins" and "Roberto Baggio". Hey ho.

I HEAR worrying suggestions that sources close to Tony Blair are moving to discredit The Age of Insecurity, the brilliant and incisive new book on the British economy by my pals Larry Elliott and Dan Atkinson of the Guardian.

To add insult to injury, the knife will be wielded in the review pages of the Guardian itself this Saturday, by Blair mouthpiece Anthony Giddens, an academic from the London School of Economics.

Will our hero's work survive such a savage assault? Watch this space...

THE TREASURY has appointed Carol Sergeant as a member of the Building Societies Commission (BSC) and Martin Roberts as a member of the Friendly Societies Commission. Ms Sergeant is director of banks and building societies at the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and Mr Roberts will soon join her there from the Treasury, where he is currently head of the insurance directorate.

Helen Liddell, economic secretary to the Treasury, says the duo will help to smooth the transition of the commissions' functions to the FSA.

LORD STERLING'S Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company has announced two additions to its board with immediate effect: Michael Gradon, currently legal director and company secretary, becomes an executive director, and Sir John Collins joins as a non-executive director. Sir John Collins is group chief executive of Vestey Group, and non-executive chairman of National Power and Cantab Pharmaceuticals.

L'OREAL, THE French hair care products company, is sponsoring the Junior Common Room (JCR) at Worcester College, Oxford, to the tune of pounds 2,000.

Just why a beauty products company should be handing money over to a bunch of unwashed students becomes clearer when I tell you that the sponsorship coincides with the promotion of Lyndsey Owen Jones, a former student at Worcester and confirmed Welshman, to chief executive of the company in Paris.

The students hope the pounds 2,000 will be become a regular, annual sponsorship. Whether the money will go on shampoo for their greasy locks or beer for their insatiable thirsts remains unclear.

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