Thursday 24 November 2011 8:26 pm


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IT HAD to be the Queen. “No-one else has that level of police presence,” said one City observer when he noted a convoy of four police motorbikes and two impressive cars making its way towards the Walbrook Building in stately fashion.

But no – it was Lord Mayor David Wootton, who had stepped up his usual security to escort an overseas dignitary as part of his mission to strengthen the City’s “business financial ties”. So was it the president of Panama, Columbia or Turkey being shown the sights of EC4 in the back of the car with Wootton?

Who knows – all three have visited the new Lord Mayor in the last ten days, with NBNK chairman Lord Levene, Lloyds Banking Group chairman Sir Win Bischoff and energy minister Chris Huhne among those who turned out to receive Turkish president Abdullah Gul at a state banquet for 500 at Mansion House on Wednesday night.

One of the Lord Mayor’s main projects for his time in office will be the Moscow International Finance Centre (MIFC), as first reported on 22 July. And moves have been made here, with Russian powerbroker Alexander Voloshin, the ex-presidential chief of staff, flying to London on 14 December to discuss how creating a new financial centre for Moscow will allow business to flow backwards and forwards between the two cities.

London is the preferred partner for the MIFC over Frankfurt, after David Cameron signed a memorandum of agreement on his Moscow visit in September, and the Kremlin is keen to encourage dual stock exchange listings between London and Moscow. Funding is likely to come from Russia’s state-run VEB Bank, said a source close to the project.

THERE was a lively line-up of speakers at the Institute of Directors’ annual dinner last night: Eden Project founder Tim Smit, business secretary Vince Cable, and his Strictly Come Dancing predecessor John Sergeant, the BBC political broadcaster.

And, of course, the IoD’s new chief Simon Walker, who used his debut as director general to deliver an attack on the failings of UK employment law.

“The sheer weight of employment law is a massive drag on business,” he complained. “Our latest survey of IoD members shows that the burden of employment law has stopped almost half of you from hiring at some point. That’s a lot of jobs not created.”

CASH-STRAPPED Guardian News & Media is considering its options for saving costs by outsourcing its printing operations to a third party.

And if the newspaper group can hold on for just three months, Richard Desmond (right) will be more than happy to take on the printing contracts for the Guardian and the Observer at his new printing plant in Luton, once he has transferred presses for his Express Newspapers titles from Docklands. The presses start rolling next Monday with the Daily Star, and The Capitalist understands Desmond plans to go after further publishing contracts once his newspapers have bedded in.

The words “over” and “my dead body” spring to mind when imagining Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger’s response to Desmond’s efficient business proposal. But then desperate times, as they say, call for desperate measures.

FORGET the ongoing £233m acquisition of rival Evolution Group, the biggest deal at Investec is its record-length sponsorship of Test Match cricket.

The South African investment bank may have posted a two per cent decline in earnings for the six months to the end of September, but it still found the cash to yesterday emerge as the title backer of the sport until 2021. “Excellent news,” said the England Cricket Board’s chief executive David Collier – just no word yet on which side the Johannesburg and London-listed Investec will be batting for when England meets South Africa next summer in one of the first fixtures under the bank’s ten-year association…

REMAINING at Investec, a number of the bank’s employees were yesterday amused by one of their insurance clients’ choice of lunch venue.

Not for them Barbecoa or Gaucho – Investec’s guests asked to be taken to the vodka bar Revolution, where the house specialities are the Revolution vodka burger and the Revolution vodka pizza. And let’s not forget the restaurant’s new vodka-based Christmas cocktail the Twinkle Berry, or its 30 different variations of homemade vodka shots. Investec wouldn’t say which “good-sized” insurance company was propping up the bar – but the Lloyd’s of London market is within shouting distance of Revolution’s Leadenhall venue…