People & Business

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THREE cheers for the Germans, part one:

Teutonic industrial behometh Siemens has appointed the first ever Brit to head up its UK business. Alan Wood is taking over from Jurgen Gehrels as chief executive of Siemens PLC, as the latter heads back to the Fatherland to become non-executive chairman of the holding company.

Mr Wood, previously group managing director of the Industrial and Energy businesses of Siemens PLC, is joined by two other distinguished names. Sir Bob Reid, chairman of Sears, and George Mallinckrodt, President of Schroders, join the board as non-executive directors.

Siemens first founded a UK offshoot 154 years ago, but the company's progress mirrored the relations between the two countries. According to Mr Wood, Siemens had become the biggest electrical engineering company in the UK on the eve of the First World War - at which point it was sequestrated by the British government.

Then in the 1920s and 1930s, Siemens built up a second British subsidiary - which was again confiscated on the outbreak of the Second World War.

Somewhat chastened, Siemens dipped its toe back into the UK in the 1960s, but it was only in the mid-1980s that it really began to motor, according to Mr Wood. "Turnover has grown from pounds 100m to over pounds 2bn last year," he says.

Mr Wood reckons appointing a Brit "is not so outrageous when you consider Siemens's stated policy is to staff its operations with local nationals". It helps, of course, that Mr Wood is "fairly fluent" in German, which he did as an O' Level at school in his native Sheffield.

THREE cheers for the Germans, part two: While UBS, NatWest and BZW have been shedding investment bankers like apples in autumn, Commerzbank has decided to hire 300 of the lucky blighters. Yesterday Mehmet Dalman, head of global equities at Commerzbank, named a score of his latest recruits.

A dozen of them are from UBS, while there is a sprinkling of former BZW and CSFB people as well, not to mention a couple of refugees from Peregrine, the crashed Hong Kong investment bank.

Mr Dalman was himself poached by Commerzbank last summer from Deutsche Morgan Grenfell to build a derivatives and equities operation. He was posted to Frankfurt, to avoid any chance of him "going native" in London, although most of the bank's new operations will be in the Square Mile. Mr Dalman was given SocGen's old, empty offices in Gracechurch Street, and more or less told to fill them.

Commerzbank had previously sniffed around Smith New Court and BZW, but plumped for "piecemeal" growth rather than forking out huge wads of cash for existing investment banks.

As Commerzbank's announcement put it yesterday: "This strategy differs from those of Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Bank, which acquired existing institutions. Commerzbank's strategy is to build its own."

Newcomers from UBS include Lakis Athanasiou, head of utilities, who is ranked number one by both Extel and Institutional Investor, together with his team-mates Paul Rogers and Chris Rogers.

Other UBS refugees include John Atkins (property), Michael Drepper (insurance), Peter Dupont (metals and mining), and Jeremy Eldon (oil and gas). Mr Dalman has also managed to lure Andrew Blair-Smith, former head of autos at BZW, Tim Hirst, ex-head of telecoms at Dresdner Kleinwort Benson, and Ronald Koehler, former head of chemicals at CSFB.

Commerzbank has also assembled three "core analytics and trading teams": Martin Bell, head of derivatives proprietary trading, leads half a dozen people from Barclays Capital; Sunni Goonetillake and Patrick Wong come from Peregrine to trade in Asian derivatives; and Laurie Pinto leads two other colleagues from Mesirow Europe to form a risk arbitrage sales team.

THE FRENCH are determined not to be left out of the party. Credit Lyonnais has dropped the "Laing" off the end of its investment banking title, and appointed UK boss Michael Kerr-Dineen head of all European brokerage, in a newly remodelled "CLSE" or Credit Lyonnais Securities Europe.

Other talk in the wine bars of the City suggest that Dutch outfit Rabobank is about to hire another UBS type, John Aitken, the top-rated banks analyst, together with his team. And big noise Hector Sants, who has just defected from UBS to join Wall Street investment bank Donaldson Lufkin and Jenrette, is rumoured to be preparing the way for loads more UBS staff to follow him across.

All in all, the City has still got some way to go before it can earn the title "unemployment blackspot".

NEIL Kinnock has never been short of a word or two and last week the European Transport Commissioner was on particularly good form. Mr Kinnock was attending a lunch in Brussels hosted by the European Policy Forum at which Lord Simon, the minister for competitiveness and Europe, was guest speaker. Midway through his peroration Lord Simon switched into fluent French, as is his wont. Whereupon Mr Kinnock was heard to observe: "Le nouveau Labour est arrive."

TIM Eggar, former energy minister and now chief executive of Monument Oil and Gas, appears to be using his political contacts to good effect.

Monument has won itself friends in Azerbaijan and is hoping to capitalise on those contacts by bringing on board Terry Adams, first president of the Azerbaijan International Oil Consortium in Baku.

Former BP man Mr Adams knows all there is to know about the region, so a joint development project in Azerbaijan is expected to be announced before long.

Mr Eggar is clearly gung ho about the region and he brings a more swashbuckling style to the CEO job compared with Tony Craven Walker, who remains Monument's chairman. But Mr Craven Walker knew what to expect. He and Mr Eggar, a former investment banker, both shared positions on the board of Charterhouse Petroleum in the early 1980s.

Meanwhile, some other old friends, Roy Franklin and Malcolm Gourlay are struggling to put the wheels back on Pittencrieff Resources. They found themselves out of a job last year when Gulf Canada took over Clyde Petroleum. They came into Pittencrieff in September and have cleaned out the stable with a pounds 10.5m writedown of assets.

Despite the consequent pounds 10.8m pre-tax loss, Mr Franklin says he is confident of "doing another Clyde", which they built into a major success story.

The shareholders of Clyde, however, might remember that when Mr Franklin arrived in 1991 the share price was pounds 1.20. It sank to 19.5p as the oil price slumped but later recovered. Gulf Canada paid ... yes, you have guessed it, pounds 1.20 a share.

A LONDON Underground project manager has been nominated for a top national award for inventing a system which monitors delays on the Tube.

Graham Stephens has been put up for Project Manager of the Year for his system "for monitoring the 60,000 incidents that each year cause above a more than two-minute delay on the railway".

60,000. It's a wonder anyone in the City ever gets to work at all.