Rentokil's non-execs are in a different league; City Diary

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The Independent Online
Rentokil's chief executive Clive Thompson is rightly proud of his "Mr Twenty Per Cent" nickname, earned by his company's success in boosting earnings per share and pre-tax profit by 20 per cent a year over the last 14 years.

Now Mr Thompson has appointed two non-executive directors with rather different recent records. The new non-execs are Brian McGowan, chairman of House of Fraser and former chief executive of Williams Holdings, and Robert Napier, chief executive of Redland.

While Mr McGowan had a sparkling career at Williams, and retired in 1993 "to go fishing," House of Fraser's progress since its listing in April 1994 has been less happy. It floated at 180p and now stands at 172p.

Mr Napier's Redland was finally forced to cut its dividend in 1994 after years of saying it wouldn't, and its share price over the last five years has gone steadily south against the market.

Meanwhile L John Clark, former chief executive of BET, is persisting with his claim for pounds 3m from Rentokil, following the latter's successful hostile pounds 2.3bn takeover of BET. No doubt today's interims from Rentokil will assuage any worries over these developments.

Nick Knight, market strategist with Nomura, clearly got carried away writing his latest note: "Footie: The new emerging sector."

"Like a small tremor heralding major seismic activity, the earth recently moved for a few lucky fund managers. Holders of Manchester United plc - now on the reserve list for the Mid 250 - will know what we mean. Football is not so much coming home as coming of age, and has a long way to go in a stock market context before the final whistle."

Time for the cold sponge for Nick, I think.

Brian Marber, one of the City's leading technical analysts for 20 years, has teamed up with financial bookmakers IG Index to manage currencies for IG's clients.

This is a first for Mr Marber, who runs his own technical analysis firm, Brian Marber & Co. He has never previously managed money in the currency markets. "No one has ever asked me before." However, he has known IG's head, Stuart Wheeler, for a long time. "He persuaded me to give it a go."

Mr Wheeler stresses Mr Marber will not be placing bets. IG set up a foreign exchange dealing operation earlier this year, and some clients have asked for a management service.

Mr Wheeler says Mr Marber is "widely respected. Our main worry was getting him through the SFA exams, but he is so distinguished he has been exempted".

Talk about "drunk old hacks baffled by figures". For journalists who had to wade through the Ofgas press conference yesterday, the explanation of how they calculate TransCo's "regulatory asset base" was particularly riveting. Ofgas regulator Clare Spottiswoode claims she is "rock solid" on this subject. Hardly surprising then that no sooner had the event finished than a queue of confused journos formed at the feet of an Ofgas economist. "What is the regulatory asset base?" pleaded one. And, he added gingerly, "what exactly is TransCo?"

Civil engineers aren't boring - it's official.

No wonder Emma Leahy of Alexander Gibb & Partners and Miles Delap of Robert West Consultancy are celebrating. They can go to dinner parties with renewed confidence. Our road and bridge builders have been the butt of endless ribbing over the years due to being listed under "Boring" in Yellow Pages. This heading refers to tunnelling, of course, rather than to any character defects civil engineers may or may not possess.

The Institution of Civil Engineers got heartily fed up with the joke and in May lobbied Yellow Pages for a change in their listing. From September they will be Civil Engineers pure and simple, with all the excitement that implies.

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