The guru steps into hot water

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The Independent Online
Bob Farrell, Merrill Lynch's investment guru of 40 years' standing, put this fascinating photo of himself on the cover of his latest annual address to the investment community.

Quite what the connection is between Mr Farrell emerging from a hot tub on a boat beneath London's Tower Bridge and his talk's title, "Putting a Market Top in Place", eludes me.

Perhaps his thesis for his 22nd address in London, that US markets are about "to take a bath," is the key. Or there again it could be his advice to investors: "Go liquid."

The ironically dry Mr Farrell says the picture is "the perfect sign of a market top - this market guru out sailing in a hot tub on the Thames".

He adds that it is just as well it was not a market bottom - "otherwise I would have been upside down".

Pity the poor postmen - but buy shares in web-offset printers. The reason is simple. You know all those millions of circulars being sent out by building societies which are converting to banks?

Due to this deluge of paper from Halifax, Woolwich and Alliance & Leicester, the post office has introduced emergency measures. It has found that posties can carry only 30 Halifax conversion packs at a time, so vans have been sent out to carry the extra bumpf to your doors.

What's more, it emerges that there is no free capacity for web-offset printing in Europe at the moment, because they're all working overtime to cope with the building societies. So buy shares in printers. My tips are Watmoughs and St Ives.

Now the dust is settling on years of conflict at Lloyd's of London the various combatants are putting down their lawsuits and picking up their pens.

Christopher Stockwell, chairman of Lloyd's Names Associations' Working Party, is thinking about writing a book but is being held up by "loose ends thrown up by the Lloyd's settlement".

Colleagues of John Rew, chairman of the Sturge Names' Action group, are urging him to chronicle the goings-on at Sturge.

There have already been several good books about Lloyd's. The Independent's own former foreign editor, Godfrey Hodgson, wrote Lloyd's of London: A Reputation at Risk in the mid-1980s. Probably the best is Adam Raphael's Ultimate Risk, which, however, only goes up to 1995.

Patrick Streeter, a partner in publishers Matching Press, published For Whom the Bell Tolls by two anonymous Lloyd's names last December. Mr Streeter, a name himself, says the autobiographical novel is now going into its second printing.

So what does Mr Streeter think of the Lloyd's settlement? "It's an adequate compromise. It's like the First World War - each side bashing the guts out of each other and then finally signing a peace treaty. Rough justice." Sounds like a good name for a book...

David Beever became part of the great Warburg exodus when he resigned as managing director of SBC Warburg last November in order to join accountants KPMG as head of corporate finance. Now he has been appointed non-executive director of TLS, the fast-growing vehicle rental company.

Mr Beever tells me: "I've known TLS for quite a considerable length of time. I worked on leasing at Warburg in the early days, and I hope that this and my corporate finance experience will be useful."

Mr Beever is still a non-exec at Northern Electric, but he doesn't anticipate this post lasting, since CalEnergy recently bought out the company in a fiercely contested takeover battle. He is also a non-exec at London and Continental Railways, which is developing the Channel Tunnel rail link and which owns Eurostar.

TLS should be more than just a time-filler for Mr Beever, since it has quadrupled in size over the past couple of years.