City Diary: Paws for thought over Sellafield contract, after exec claims £714 taxi ride for a cat



The revelation that an executive at Sellafield operator Nuclear Management Partners (Frankfurt: A0JJY6 - news) expensed £714 for a taxi-ride for himself "and the cat" continues to set the atomic kitten among the pigeons.

The latest critic to give the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority paws for thought as it considers whether to extend NMP’s lucrative contract to run Sellafield when it comes up for renewal at the end of the month is the Labour MP Paul Flynn.

Given that NMP paid £6.6m in bonuses over the last three years, as Sellafield’s costs spiralled to £67bn, Flynn argues the consortium doesn’t deserve its performance-related cut of its £1.6bn annual budget from the Government.

In fact, he reckons NMP, whose top-tier execs were discovered to have claimed £2,795 for flights to the US Masters golf tournament and £2,316 for a computer, alongside the cab for the cat, should be replaced with a “competent management team”. Miaow.


Is obsessive tidiness in the job description for accountants? Diary only asks because Iain Martin’s new book on Fred Goodwin, the City’s most infamous ex-accountant, reveals that the former RBS (LSE: RBS.L - news) boss had such a phobia of mess on top of filing cabinets that he ordered that all the bank’s storage cupboards must have rounded tops.

Now it emerges Grant Thornton does the same.

One mole, a client of the number-crunchers, tells me: “I went to their offices one day to get the accounts signed and all the cabinets had domed tops. The audit partner explained that someone had had them changed to stop stuff being put on top of cabinets.”


= Lord Mayor's guests get hammered =

Auctioneer Lord Dalmeny was, for once, lost for words as he started the charity auction at the Lord Mayor’s Best of British gala after a performance by the virtuoso violinist Nicola Benedetti.

“How do you follow that?” said the Sotheby’s UK chairman. “The only notes I know are the ones you pull out of your wallets.”

But the man who persuaded the hedge fund elite to part with a record £26m at the Ark gala at the peak of City excess in 2007 was soon back in his stride. “I am the third Scot in a row on the stage, but I don’t want you to be too Scottish,” he joked.

The guests at the Guildhall complied. One City patron paid £800 for a goblet made of wood albeit rather special wood. The chalice was made from the branch of an apricot tree in the Lady Mayoress’ garden.


Mysticism came to the City last night as David Green, a financier who saw the light after a mysterious “healing experience”, launched his guide to spirituality, The Invisible Hand .

Green peddles the line that business success is “a manifestation of spiritual freedom”, but his tip number one for others hoping to achieve financial nirvana seems rather materialistic: “It is never wrong to take a profit.”

Just like Green did in 2005 after he sold his finance house, Key Business Finance Corporation, when turnover hit £100m.


= Excalibur counts the cost of defeat =

Did (KOSDAQ: 074130.KQ - news) oil explorer Excalibur have a feeling that Tuesday’s finale of its battle to claim 30pc of Gulf Keystone’s Iraq oil wealth might not go its way?

My courtroom moles confirm that the lawyer representing Excalibur, Alex Panayides of Clifford Chance, was noticeably absent as Mr Justice Clarke handed down his judgement in favour of Gulf Keystone as were Excalibur’s founders Rex and Eric Wempen.

No doubt they all had more important matters to attend to. Such as squaring the costly loss with Excalibur’s backers, perhaps the New York hedge fund Platinum, US litigation funding specialist BlackRobe, and the shipping tycoons Andonis and Filippos Lemos.

This will be a particularly awkward conversation for Panayides, given Diary’s insight last November (Xetra: A0Z24E - news) that the Lemos brothers’ London outfit, NS Lemos, employs his brother, George Panayides.


Where will Britain’s next Silicon Valley-style tech hub be found?

Devon only knows. According to Philip Letts, the founder of the Aim tech company Blur Group, you can forget Cambridge (SES: E1:J91U.SI - news) , home to ARM Holdings (LSE: ARM.L - news) , or even Manchester. He reckons the next Apple (NasdaqGS: AAPL - news) or Facebook (NasdaqGS: FB - news) will be spawned in … Exeter.

“Exeter has the right ingredients to become Europe’s San Francisco, and the South West the new Silicon Valley,” claims Letts whose opinion is in no way swayed by the fact he has just moved Blur’s HQ there.


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