People and Business: When Euro-talk means everyone misses the point

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The Independent Online
GIAMPERIO GRANDI, the debonair head of International Personal Financial Services at American Express, exuded Latin charm yesterday when he unveiled a bold new initiative. The card giant is launching a pan-European investment fund, sold by Europeans, to Europeans, in euros.

Unfortunately he fell prey to the jinx afflicting pan-European telephone conferences this week - yesterday we reported the technical "f***king shambles" of the Astra-Zeneca teleconference. As the conference began, Mr Grandi stated in stilted English his conviction that the euro would lead directly to harmony in Europe - of taxes, that is.

Linguistic harmony might take a bit longer. Mr Grandi was immediately forced to apologise to gentlemen from the Frankfurt press who had no means of translating his statement. And asked a question in English by a journalist from Milan, Mr Grandi begged to be permitted to reply in Italian.

Never mind. As Oskar Lafontaine might say, it's good to tax.

Readers who know of any further teleconference cock-ups, please let us know via the e-mail address below.

ING BARINGS has made great efforts since the Nick Leeson affair to promote itself as a clean bank with clean practices and a clean image. But executives, desperate to tighten internal controls, appear to have failed in one key respect - vermin.

This is not, of course, to compare derivatives traders with those ancient foes of mankind, mice. But several furry friends have been sneaking in to the London Wall offices and scurry freely around the trading room floor.

After some investigation, bosses discovered the cause: a restaurant around the corner known as the Imari had shut down without cleaning up properly, and the mice were having a feast. The problem, I am assured, is being dealt with.

But I hear that some staff were so thrilled by the rodent antics that they are trying to lure the mice back. Junior traders have been spotted drawing small black arches on the wainscot, hoping Minnie and Micky will mistake them for a home.

But no reappearances as yet. Perhaps a lump of Cheddar would do the trick?

NIGEL LITTLE, the head of equity sales at WestLB Panmure, is finally parting ways with the German-owned broker to join a Japanese rival.

Mr Little, 44 has decided that after 20 years at Panmure, Morgan Stanley and Capel, covering every sector and country in Europe, that it's time to specialise. Now on gardening leave, he will pitch up as head of sales and trading at Nomura, covering hi-tech and life sciences stocks.

GREAT DISAPPOINTMENT at International Financing Review, the trade publication famous for its annual awards jamboree, where the likes of Merrill Lynch rub shoulders with rivals and celebrate cutting the biggest deals. The IFR had wanted a glamorous star such as Jeremy Paxman as master of ceremonies. Apparently, they are disappointed to have to book Joanna Lumley instead. No accounting for taste, then.

CONTINUAL restructuring at Guardian Royal Exchange - not to mention bids - has begun to have consequences at the top. GRE bought PPP earlier this year for pounds 560m and is now busy integrating its own healthcare services under the PPP banner. GRE has announced 300 job losses.

Now it's 301. Peter Gatenby, director of PPP lifetime care, leaves at Christmas. He has already begun to negotiate further long-term contracts - but won't say with whom.

The departure of Mr Gatenby, a guru on long-term care, will be seen as a blow. "It ended up that I wanted something more than they were able to offer me," he says.

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