City Diary: Dragon's puff is a load of hot air



Modest is not a word Diary would use to describe Dragons’ Den fire-breather and Jessops saviour Peter Jones.

The self-styled guru is “one of Britain’s rising entrepreneurial stars”, according to the website for Phones International Group (PIG), the mobile “solutions” company Jones founded in 1988. The testimonial continues: “In a short time, the group has grown into a £150m business delivering exceptional profits.”

Not according to Companies House.

Having made a profit of £10.5m in 2011, the following year’s accounts show PIG swung to a loss of £2.6m and scrapped the dividend and charitable donations it had paid last time round. Exceptional profits in the sense of “unusual”, then, as opposed to “unusually good”.

Priced out of Mayfair? How about Norfolk Diary hears Ptarmigan Land has won planning permission to build 1,196 new homes in the village of Hethersett near Norwich, of which 33pc will be affordable. The “land promotion” group acted on behalf of a consortium of Norfolk landowners to deliver the “much needed” housing, to be completed by 2025. Of course, the scheme had its nimbys, says Ptarmigan MD Hugo Kirby. “But through teamwork and negotiation we arrived at a workable solution.” By throwing a primary school and “other community facilities” into the mix, perhaps?

= TUI (Xetra: TUAG00 - news) lost in translation =

Loss-making holiday company TUI Travel (LSE: TT.L - news) took a flight of fancy in its first-quarter results. TUI’s operating loss reduced by £16m to £93m, the City was told “excluding the impact of empty leg accounting”.

Could TUI chief Peter Long rephrase that gold-standard gobbledegook in plain English? Here’s his translation attempt: “Based on current trading, we expect to be towards the top of our roadmap guidance for the 2013 financial year." With directions like that, it’s going to be quite some journey. Time to jump off?

Richard Caring is equally famous for the parties he throws as the fancy dress outfits he wears to host them. Now Diary hears of another costume that has come out of the Caprice Holdings owner’s wardrobe. For a birthday party for one of his sons a country pile celebration with a haunted house theme Caring dressed as the devil, complete with horns. No doubt he had a wicked time.

= Doing the Devil’s work =

Remaining on Lucifer, FSA chairman Lord Adair Turner has made the case for quantitative easing, regarded by some as “the work of the Devil”.

Lord Turner told the Cass Business School that printing money “is seen as a sort of moral sin... the work of the Devil indeed”, but that he believes that “overt money finance should be taken out of the taboo tool box”.

Warming to his theme, the one-time prospect for Bank of England governorship admitted that money printing is “enough to give most central bankers a heart attack”.

Let’s hope central banker Mark Carney, the QE ingénue who beat Lord Turner to the top BoE job, won’t be one of them.

Energy company SSE (LSE: SSE.L - news) is known for the protection it gives its staff. But executives were nevertheless amused to see the business described as “the Durex condom maker SSE” in a profile of SSE’s non-executive director, Richard Gillingham, in one of Diary’s rival news outlets. “We are proud of our safety record, but this is taking it too far,” said a tickled spokesman for SSE not to be confused with Durex owner SSL International, acquired by Reckitt Benckiser (LSE: RB.L - news) in 2010.

= Oppenheimer bets on Tesco’s return to form =

Former Barclays retail banking boss Deanna Oppenheimer has been a non-executive director at Tesco (Other OTC: TSCDY - news) for almost a year.

It seems she reckons the only way is up for the grocer’s shares after the horse-meat scandal Ms Oppenheimer has marked her anniversary on the board by this week splashing out £188,296 on 52,000 Tesco shares.

Group CEO Philip Clarke is the last of the big spenders, meanwhile he has topped up his £6.86m holding by a restrained 30 shares a total outlay of £107.77. Every little helps!

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