Will it be Bermuda, Barbados, Acapulco? Sorry, the freebie's off

City Diary

There are long faces around the dealing floors today. Analysts that follow Lonrho are aghast that following the pulled flotation of the Princess Metropole hotel group, a lavish overseas beano for analysts this weekend has also been indefinitely postponed.

The City scribblers were due to be flown out to a luxury Princess hotel in Phoenix, Arizona, with other Princess hotels in the Caribbean also pencilled in. Analysts were packing the sun-tan oil as they eyed Princess's roster of hotels in Bermuda, Barbados and Acapulco.

But for now - no float, no freebie. Instead of frolicking in the sun- kissed surf it looks like the scribblers will have to make do with Match of the Day and a take-away.

It is an open secret that Granada is interested in buying Yorkshire- Tyne Tees. How interesting, then, that Duncan Lewis, Granada Media Group's chief executive, together with the company's chief operating officer, Steve Morrison, and colleagues, should gather in Leeds for a strategy session.

Leeds is squarely in the Yorkshire-Tyne Tees heartland. Strangely, the Granada team eschewed the local Granada-owned Forte hotel, the Queens, in favour of a rival, Halleys.

According to people close to Mr Lewis, Halleys was the only hotel they could find at short notice within striking distance of the Manchester headquarters of Granada.

The group was spotted ogling the Yorkshire head office whilst driving their Jaguar, no doubt sizing up their prey.

What they did not know is that Halleys is home from home four days a week for Bruce Gyngell, managing director of Yorkshire-Tyne Tees, who said he enjoyed rifling through the flip charts in the hotel dustbin that night.

The economics team at HSBC, headed by Roger "Inflation is Dead" Bootle, and that of James Capel, headed by Keith "Nice" Skeoch, was merged into one unit this spring.

According to insiders, the experiment has failed, and the HSBC and Capel teams are being demerged.

According to the bank, they were never merged in the first place. How puzzling.

The word amongst economics soothsayers is that the two teams simply couldn't work together. For example, in contrast to Bootle's oft-trumpeted belief that UK inflation is a thing of the past, Skeoch's team was much more sceptical.

You will be reassured to know that Dr Martin Read, chief executive of computer consultants Logica, and his colleagues are keeping their eyes peeled on Britain's potato crop.

Logica has launched a "spuds in space" project, which will use satellites to monitor UK farmers' production of potatoes for the Potato Marketing Board. The board needs to know that farmers are not fiddling the number of spuds they claim they are growing when it calculates the levies it will charge them.

BPB Industries is the British plasterboard maker headed by a Frenchman, Jean-Pierre Cuny, which is expanding its German operations, which are run by a Dane. This week BPB opened the biggest and most modern plasterboard factory in Europe.

The pounds 53m plant outside Berlin ran into technical problems as it was being shown off to journalists. A paper reel supplying plasterboard liner snapped, resulting in 15 minutes of downtime.

"These things happen from time to time," an embarrassed executive of BPB's German subsidiary explained. "It's what gives managers grey hairs."

Peter Harrison, chief executive of Molins, is determined his company should be remembered for more than cigarette rolling machinery. For those of you new to the story, Mr Harrison is spearheading the introduction of tetrahedral tea bags.

Forget round bags, let alone square ones. The future is tetrahedral. Giant models have been exhibited in fields in Cornwall. Now the real bags are on shop shelves, full of Brooke Bond tea leaves. Mr Morrison is proud that one of the largest consumers is Molins' own head office. So, will this revolutionise the drinking habits of the Great British public? Mr Harrison responds: "What we can say is, we use the tea bags in our office and they do make a good cup of tea. And a lot quicker too."

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