Salomon move to Canary Wharf

SALOMON SMITH Barney's 1,800 London staff are to be moved from their current offices in Victoria to a brand new skyscraper in Canary Wharf to be built alongside Citicorp's new head office, which was begun before the merger of SSB and Citicorp last year.

Staff have already been informed of the move, and one plan under consideration is for a giant dealing floor to connect the two new skyscrapers, which when completed will face the Millennium Dome across the Thames.

Since October, joint chief executives Ron Freeman and James Boshart at SSB Europe have been pondering how to bring all the investment and wholesale banking activities of the new group together under one roof.

It is less clear what will happen to another 90 SSB staff at Lombard Street in the City, and another 300 in Piccadilly. Citigroup refused yesterday to comment on the plan, or what will happen to Citicorp's 3,000 staff in offices in Berkeley Square, The Strand and London Bridge.

Citicorp also has a big back-office operation in Lewisham, a Diners Club head office in Farnham, and other operations in Scotland.

SSB has a trading floor over Victoria railway station the size of a football pitch, one of the largest in Europe. The floor has already been extended twice, and is "bursting at the seams", according to sources close to the bank.

Salomon had the choice of moving to Canary Wharf in 1988 but this was vetoed by John Gutfruend, then the investment bank's chairman, when he discovered there was no Tube line to Docklands.

The much-delayed Jubilee Line extension to Canary Wharf is due to open before the end of the year. Citigroup management have promised staff that no transfers to Canary Wharf will take place until the new line is open.

The Citigroup move coincides with plans by Canary Wharf to raise around pounds 2 billion by an initial public offering (IPO) on the stock market.

Some City analysts voiced doubts this week that the float would go ahead as planned before Easter, following the high-profile pulling of the William Hill float by Nomura last Saturday.

However, the consortium, led by Paul Reichmann, which owns Canary Wharf has refused to confirm in public the property market's conviction that it is planning a spring float, thus making it easy to pull out if the state of the market looks unattractive.