Swiss banking culture affects Warburg's results

City Diary
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The Independent Online
I received a startling phone call from SBC Warburg's press office in London yesterday: "Just to say that SBC Warburg's results are out, but there won't be any separate breakdown of Warburg's activities, either in the figures or on the phone."

Um, right. It seems like only yesterday when SG Warburg's old annual report would slam on to the desk, a good half an inch thick. Before it was taken over by Marcel Ospel and his Swiss gnomes, Warburg's results were illustrated by countless graphs and pages of script. No longer. Warburg merited just three lines in SBC's half-year results announcement.

It is as if the whole history of financial reporting by investment banks is going into reverse, with less and less being revealed. Perhaps next year SBC's executive chairman in the UK, Hans de Gier, will be denying it owns a British bank at all.

Everyone knows what a mess the British phone system has got into over the spiralling number of phone numbers required. One suggestion has been to give everyone their own portable number which they can take with them whenever they move.

The British Chambers of Commerce, no less, expected to be able to do just this when it moved its headquarters recently just 400 yards down Victoria Street in London to new offices.

BT said no; the BCC would have to get new numbers. It had been in Westminster, now it was in Pimlico, a different phone district.

In vain did the BCC protest that Pimlico is itself in Westminster. Now that's how to keep customers happy.

A colleague has just received an exciting brochure inviting him to "the global business event of the century," a seminar featuring Tom "Peter Principle" Peters, Dr Stephen "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" Covey and Peter "Fifth Discipline" Senge, three of the biggest selling business authors ever.

This sounds great, thought my colleague. An opportunity to meet these prophets face to face and discuss ideas with them. Until he read the small print: "A world-wide interactive satellite seminar..."

At the back of the four-page brochure it transpires that in order to enjoy this event, beamed to 40 nations and 30,000 people, you will have to attend the National Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham. The three gurus will be beamed by satellite from Lexington, Kentucky, to discuss "how to make your team UNSTOPPABLE!"

Prices start at pounds 233.83 per person. I think I'll borrow the books from the library.

Peter Jarvis, group chief executive of Whitbread, must be pleased as punch. His Mackeson Stout has just won gold medals at the World Beer Cup and the World Beer Championships.

So forget Atlanta. The 200-year-old recipe, brewed in Samlesbury, Lancashire, has succeeded where so many athletes failed, and has just been launched in the US.

In contrast to the mighty Guinness, Mackeson tastes quite sweet, which Mike Morris, Whitbread's export director, thinks is an advantage: "Sweet drinks are popular in a number of diverse countries and Mackeson provides a very full flavour which is enjoyed around the world." Make mine a pint.

Granada recently unveiled proposals for a series of new television programmes, including one on cooking. Not to be outdone, Carlton then trumpeted its own cooking programmes to be hosted by well-known telly chefs. Granada has hit back, saying: "It's a useful thing to own Forte, which employs Nico of Chez Nico fame and Marco Pierre White."

Analysts take notice. Obviously there were synergies between Granada and Forte, after all. Hang on. Granada also owns Little Chef and Happy Eater. "And now, a new series on fried breakfasts..."