The long and the short of it gives a new definition of hot money

CITY DIARY

The annual chilli competition at Bank of America reaches its gut- wrenching climax next week, prompting much concern and duodenal rumbling among the participating derivatives boys. The results are due to be announced on 14 December and will be followed by the traditional mass ingestion of the fiery commodity.

For a financial contribution into the pot (most of which goes to charity) the participants are given a notional pounds 3m to invest on three different derivates products. The individual performances are measured over a number of weeks, with the deadline arriving on Thursday week. The one who makes the most money and the runner-up will receive a financial reward. The rest of the contestants must eat raw chillies - in the strict order of their rankings in the competition.

"This is where the skill comes in,'' said one trader. The third-placed contestant has first choice of up to 20 chillies which have been purchased for their individuality. Some are short and malevolent. Some are long and benign. Others are long and indescribably evil. The trick is to pick the right one. It is no good being fixed-income derivatives merchant at Bank of America if you don't know your chillies.

That said, there is usually little anyone can do for the last-placed man who must reconcile himself for an afternoon with the fire bucket.

On reflection Nick Leeson's six and a half years in Changi jail is looking lenient.

The sudden resignation of Sipko Huismans as chief executive of Courtaulds has posed nothing of a dilemma for the chemicals group over the BT Global Challenge - the round-the-world yacht race in which amateur sailors battle against the prevailing winds. Mr Huismans, a frightfully keen sailor, had already booked his berth on the Courtaulds boat for the New Zealand- to-Sydney leg. Alas, he will not be with the company.

The New Zealand-to-Sydney leg, which starts on 9 February 1997, has already been dubbed "the chief exec's leg". The shortest passage, at just 1,230 miles, it is seen by the sponsors as a chance to take part without too many risks and without spending too much time away from the office. It should take about a week.

Theoretically the berth could now go to Gordon Campbell, the new chief executive. But Mr Huismans, who owns a 46-foot, French-built Oceanis yacht, is no slouch on the high seas and could even help the Courtaulds boat.

Courtaulds adopts the racing line. The company, which today announces the Courtaulds Trophy for each individual leg, feels it safer to leave Mr Huisman's berth undisturbed.

Peter Morgan, chairman-designate of Swalec, formally agreed terms for the takeover of the south Wales electricity company by Welsh Water at 2.30 yesterday morning - and promptly signed away the job he will take up on 1 January. By his own calculations Mr Morgan, a former director- general of the Institute of Directors, will be in the job for about three days before he becomes redundant. He won't even make the first regular board meeting.

The betting is that Mark Andrews, the new senior partner at the solicitors Wilde Sapte will not be long in the job. So keen is the lawyer to play his French horn that he has taken to practising in the firm's underground car park.

With two electricity companies taken out in quick succession one can't be too careful. Our picture today shows Malcolm Chatwin (left), chief executive of Yorkshire Electricity, demonstrating his defence tactics in the event of a likely bid. Yorkshire claims that Mr Chatwin is merely promoting the company's sponsorship of the National Armouries Museum in Leeds. It depends whether you believe the man on the right to be Guy Wilson, Master of Armouries, or the head of one of Yorkshire's institutional investors.

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