Accountant laps up new role as Wonder Woman

City Diary

John Willcock
Monday 22 April 1996 23:02

Wonder Woman was among the thousands who ran the marathon in London on Sunday, and the be-costumed runner certainly stood out on the TV coverage. Step forward Darren Hughes of Hull, for it is he, a 25 year-old senior accountant with Ernst & Young.

Darren also ran the London Marathon last year, and this time he was raising money for St John Ambulance. Recently he tried to get on Gladiators but failed. What would Wolf make of it all?

Andrew Fisher, finance director of Farnell, the world's third-largest electrical components distributor, also completed the marathon on Sunday. He started training only half-way through the recent successful bid for Premier, so he was delighted with his finishing time of 4 hours and 15 minutes.

Mr Fisher also started well yesterday as Farnell reported its results for the year to January. But senior colleagues voiced their concern as the day wore on, one saying in the afternoon that he was "fading fast".

The current negotiations between Eurotunnel and its creditors, presided over by two arbitrators or "mandataires ad hoc", one British, one French, must be complicated affairs. It cannot be helping matters, therefore, that one of the arbitrators, Lord Wakeham, cannot parle francais tres bien. Just as well translators are on hand.

Sir Alastair Morton, co-chairman of Eurotunnel, needed no French when he turned his verbal flame-thrower on City scribblers yesterday. Incensed that some analysts had forecast a loss for the year as low as pounds 700m, the great man was clearly worried that the announcement of the real figure - pounds 925m - would prompt the dreaded "worse figures-than-expected" tag.

"It couldn't possibly have been pounds 700m," he thundered, and proceeded to prove it with a flip chart and felt-tip. No doubt the guilty scribblers will mend their ways.

Speaking of analysts, their version of musical chairs carries on, with one long-rumoured move confirmed yesterday; Steve Plag and James Dodwell resigned yesterday from NatWest Markets, having already enjoyed a spot of "gardening leave", and will join BZW in May.

Mr Plag has been the top-rated analyst of all sectors in the Extel 1995 survey and will cover pharmaceuticals at BZW. This follows BZW's recent poaching of water expert Peter Hyde from Kleinwort Benson, so the firm's planned relocation down the river to Canary Wharf doesn't seem to be putting anyone off. Or are they just paying them a packet?

Meanwhile, reversing the outward flow at Merrill Lynch is Stephen Reitman, "top-ranked European auto analyst by Institutional Investor," who has been poached from UBS.

Fancy one of the most interesting yet most thankless jobs in the City? The Bank of England is advertising for a new head of its Special Investigations Unit, to try to prevent fraud in the banking sector.

"The rewards will reflect the seniority of the position and its importance both to the Bank and the financial community" - which sounds tasty, but you must have been an accountant for at least 20 years. The present incumbent, Ian Watt, is retiring is helping to look for his successor. Since the Bank has had to deal with the collapse of BCCI and Barings in the last five years alone, it's no job for shrinking violets.

"Bribes are no longer tax-deductible." There it is in black and white. The US Information Service attached to the American Embassy in London regularly published Atlantic Outlook, the latest of which contained the following: "The OECD has taken another step in the battle against international crime in recommending that member states commit to change their tax laws to disallow deductibility of bribes." The pamphlet adds hastily that "the US already disallows such deductions". So which countries allow them? Watch this space.

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