People & Business: And now, here's a business text that we prepared earlier

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The Independent Online
We all know that Valerie Singleton has a way with youth and, of course, with sticky-back plastic. Now the veteran broadcaster is turning her Blue Peter experience to good effect by teaming up with another Beeb stalwart, Peter Hobday, for a series of "talking books" by the "top business guru" Ron Holland, designed to encourage more young people to start their own businesses. Mr Hobday will be reading such texts as the best-selling Talk and Grow Rich, Turbo Success and Debt Free with Financial Kung-Fu, while Singleton will take part in presentations with the author. "We are focusing on young people who are looking to start their own business. These young people are the future of Britain and need all the help they can get," explains Singleton. All together - "here's a business plan I prepared earlier..."

Meanwhile, whoever said that business school students were all financial control freaks without an ounce of imagination had better eat their hat. Just ask Peter Casey, chairman of the Casey construction group. Faced with finding a "green" use for 2 million tons of peat that his company was going to dig out of the ground during the building of the M66 at Ashton Moss, he went to Manchester Business School, which runs an annual creative thinking challenge among its MBA students.

Thanks to the lateral thinking encouraged by creativity professor, Tudor Rickards, the peat looks to be heading to a golf course in the Middle East. But in the competition, sponsored by accountants Arthur Andersen; their associated law firm, Garretts; insurance brokers and risk management consultants J&H Marsh & McLennan and Manchester Airport, the students also came up with other ideas, such as processing the peat for cat litter and using it as a sound barrier at the edge of a motorway.

Nikko Europe's new managing director and joint head of research, Simon Briscoe, launched into his new role with an admirable display of dedication yesterday. For although they only got spliced at the weekend, Mr Briscoe and his bride, Marie-Laure Duhot, were both back at their desks yesterday morning. He has been promoted from his previous position as UK economist and head of fixed income research. He will head a new integrated research division alongside Larry Prager.

Meanwhile, Ms Duhot, formerly a high-flier at the European Investment Bank in Luxembourg, has started at the capital markets division of Lehman Brothers. The honeymoon had to take place before the wedding, such are the pressures on dual-career couples in the City.

Given the pre-election takeover mania from the US for British regional electricity companies it was only a matter of time before a senior UK executive went west, literally, with his new masters. Norman Askew, chief executive of East Midlands Electricity, had already been appointed an executive vice president of Dominion Resources, which recently paid pounds 1.3bn for the Nottingham-based group in an agreed deal.

Now Mr Askew, who is 54, is to be the next president and chief executive of Virginia Power, Dominion's main subsidiary and a genuine first in the privatised power industry. East Midland's finance director, Robert Davies, 48, is taking over as chief executive. Mr Askew is reputed to have hit it off from the start of negotiations with Thomas Capps, Dominion's larger- than-life chairman.

Yesterday's announcement ominously noted that Mr Askew, who has run East Midlands for three years, is "familiar with American customs and cultures," having worked in the US for three years. Perhaps he is getting out at the right time. One thing he won't have to cope with is the dreaded windfall tax, hanging over every regional power company as judgment day approaches in the Gordon Brown's Budget.

High-profile biotechnology analyst Nick Woolf has been poached from Japanese broking house Nomura by US investment bank, Robertson Stephens. Mr Woolf will become Robertson's first biotechnology analyst in Europe. Robertson, a private bank based in New York and San Fransisco, focuses on high technology and biotechnology companies in the US, but is eager to extend its coverage to the fast-expanding European biotechnology sector.

Mr Woolf's appointment is a further pointer to growing investment opportunities in the biotechnology market in Europe. An increasing number of companies across the Continent are seeking to raise money on the London or new pan-European Easdaq stock markets.

He will initially be advising Robertson's US clients on investing in Europe, but the bank wants to build a European client-list offering investment opportunities in US and European equities.

Referring to last week's share price falls after UK group Celltech said that its leading drug had failed clinical trials, Mr Woolf said that when European share prices were weak, Robertson could provide companies a ready alternative route to market via Nasdaq, the US's technology exchange.