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People & Business

FASHION retailers will no longer be able to blame declining sales figures on cool, damp summers, and power generators will be blocked from justifying poor revenues on a mild winter, if Mahmud Bhatti has his way.

Mr Bhatti, senior class underwriter at Brockbank, the biggest underwriting agency at Lloyd's of London, is spearheading the firm's new product - "Weather Stabilisation Insurance" (WSI).

In a country where the changeable weather is a source of constant conversation, Brockbank is offering to recompense companies which lose revenue when it rains instead of shines.

Or vice versa. Mr Bhatti says that oil and gas companies will be able to insure against mild winters which reduce heating bills for customers, while retailers of soft drinks, ice cream and beer will be able to take a policy out against rain-sodden summers.

The market for the WSI policies "could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars", says Mr Bhatti. He has already sold one policy to an energy company in the US, and is expecting big interest from the UK.

Brockbank will repay lost revenues to companies if the temperature falls outside independently estimated norms on specified days, he says. However, he does not expect much interest for the product in "monotype temperature" countries such as Saudi Arabia.

WHATEVER you made of Siebe's annual results yesterday, the engineering group certainly doesn't look on the way to winning a "Plain English" award.

Allen Yurke, Siebe's chief executive, described the company's pounds 100m re- jig, which will axe 4,000 jobs over the next two years, as "an accelerated facility restructuring and acquisition integration programme".

FORGET Gazza and his illicit kebabs. Scotland have already won the 1998 World Cup in France, I can exclusively reveal.

Logica, the IT consultancy, holds its own football world cup every year, and last week the venue was Bordeaux. The tournament attracted nine teams with over 100 players drawn from Logica's offices around the globe.

Scotland beat Italy one-nil in the final, thus ensuring themselves sporting immortality. And the whole team were real Scots, I am assured, drawn from Logica's Aberdeen and Edinburgh offices.

Ominously, there was no word of how England fared. Is this an omen for the real thing? Pass the chilli sauce ...

IT'S a tough job, but someone's got to do it. Dr Kim Howells, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Lifelong Learning at the Department for Education and Employment (try fitting that on your business card), yesterday visited the Chez Gerard restaurant in London's Covent Garden.

Dr Howells found time to make some of the pomme frites which were then consumed at lunch at the restaurant, one of 14 new Chez Gerards in London opened recently.

The lunching was all in a good cause, I'm glad to say. The restaurant group is doubling its annual training and recruitment spend to pounds 350,000 in an attempt to create over 100 jobs a year, a move welcomed by the Government.

Neville Abraham, chairman and chief executive of Groupe Chez Gerard, commented: "In today's tight labour market looking after staff means investing more money in training and development."

Meanwhile further north in London the refurbished Sadlers Wells theatre is in the process of being reopened after an ambitious refurbishment, together with a new Chez Gerard restaurant just down the road. According to the Groupe's deputy chairman, Laurence Isaacson, the restaurant and theatre form a "pas de deux".

SOME role switches are going on in the financial sector. Julie Baddeley, formerly a partner of Andersen Consulting and "in charge of a substantial part of its change practice in Europe", is joining the Woolwich as an executive director.

And David Reid Scott, who played a key role in the development of Phoenix, the London-based corporate finance boutique, has joined Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, the American investment bank, as a vice chairman of the European Investment Banking Group.

Mr Reid Scott will help develop business alongside Cliff Hampton in the Financial Institutions Group, and will develop clients across the European Investment Banking Group, with special emphasis on mergers and acquisitions.