WORLD Cup fever is starting to grip the City in earnest ahead of the summer in South Africa, as evidenced by the latest analysts to have a pop at the business impact of the tournament.

Sanford Bernstein’s Trevor Stirling, Joao Valli and Melissa Yates yesterday released a missive on the effects of the World Cup on beer markets, traditionally buoyed by the fans enjoying games with pint in hand.

According to Bernstein, South Africa will tick up by an additional 60 basis points (to 2.6 per cent) beer volume growth due to the tournament, though this is substantially less than the average 1.2 per cent boost enjoyed by previous hosts. (The Johannesburg winter weather, relative weakness of the South African national side and the distance from Blighty are all partly to blame, apparently. “It is estimated that 2m tourists visisted Germany for the 2006 World Cup,” the analysts note, “of which approximately 400,000 were very thirsty England fans…” Point taken.)

Bravely, the Bernstein team have also taken a pop at which sides are most likely to reach the final – for which they’re going with the bookies’ favourites, Spain and Brazil, rather than official FIFA statistics. Mind you, that prediction could have rather a lot to do with the hopes and dreams of their “resident Brazilian soccer pundit” Valli, an ardent supporter of his national side…

Just when hedgie Steve Cohen thought the troublesome legal problem of his ex-wife might be over, back it comes to bite him with a vengeance.

Cohen’s former spouse Patricia, who previously launched a lawsuit accusing him of insider trading in 1985, has now returned claiming that he owes her a chunk of his $12bn hedge fund empire, SAC Capital Advisors.

The former Mrs Cohen claims he “defrauded” her out of “a substantial, if not controlling, interest in SAC” because he used capital to set it up which was allegedly hidden from her during their divorce proceedings in 1989.

An SAC spokesman called the “recycled allegations” ridiculous, while over on the other side, Patricia Cohen has taken on attorney Gaytri Kachroo to represent her – who counts among her other clients Harry Markopolis, the man who claimed to be the first to catch on to Bernie Madoff’s fraudulent dealings.

Settle in for another round of punch-ups, everybody.

Ranjit Mathrani, the outgoing chairman of Indian restaurant group Masala World, isn’t going to have a whole lot of free time on his hands over the next year.

Mathrani – a former director of Lazard and founder of advisory group Vanguard Capital – has plenty on his plate already, what with overseeing the budding Masala Zone chain, Michelin-starred Amaya, Chelsea’s Chutney Mary and the award-winning Veeraswamy restaurant – the oldest Indian in Britain, with its origins dating back to 1926.

But I hear Mathrani has just added another string to his prolific bow as the latest High Sheriff of London – the oldest civil office in Britain, dating from before the Norman Conquest, which he will hold for the next year. The financier-turned-restaurateur is looking to rule the capital with a rod of iron on key issues such as law and order, so we’d better all start minding our Ps and Qs.

Happy news, courtesy of the fund management gossip mill, for Guy de Blonay, the star Swiss fund manager recently poached from Henderson New Star by Edward Bonham Carter’s Jupiter.

De Blonay and his wife Anna celebrated the birth of their first baby on Tuesday, welcoming into the world a bouncing baby boy weighing 3.98kg, named Charles Robert de Blonay.

The Capitalist’s hearty congratulations go out to the lucky pair.

Dave Cameron’s Conservatives may be concentrating their election campaign elsewhere but they’ve certainly been thrown a curveball by Gordon Brown in the West Country.

The near-55,000 members of “Leave Our Cider Alone!”, the Facebook group which popped up after Alistair Darling announced plans to slap a punishing tax on cider at the Budget last month, were cheering yesterday after the government was forced to scrap the tax in favour of pushing through other measures before the election.

Mind you, even though the tax is off (for now), don’t bet on those angry Somerset scrumpy-drinkers being quick to forgive and forget.

“Democracy in action!!!!” yodelled one jolly campaigner on the group’s wall yesterday.

“Suck our apples Alistair Darling! All we need to do now is start an ‘anything but Labour campaign’ to make sure the tax hike stays scrapped…”

Could it be time for Labour to put in some serious time with the grass roots, perhaps?