Lazard’s European union

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September 20: Lazard is trying to unify the management of its London and continental European operations by appointing Paris’s Georges Ralli as chief executive of its European banking business and London’s William Rucker deputy chief executive. Given how bitter the rivalry between the firm’s London and Paris offices once was, today’s news is historically significant. Yet, it all feels like a bit of a fudge. Marcus Agius, the London chairman who is off to chair Barclays, will still be replaced, even though this position must surely be less important now. Peter Thal Larsen, our banking editor, will guide you through this yes-but-no-but story in tomorrow’s paper. Those interested in this story can also go to FT.com for Morgan Stanley’s strong results.

Alison Reed is already leaving Standard Life, where she has only been finance director since June last year. She has just seen the group through its flotation two months ago. It’s not exactly clear yet whether she just struggled to make the leap from retail (she was at M&S for years) to life assurance (if so, who could blame her?), or whether there is more to it. The story was first reported in The Guardian.

Dreadful figures from Woolworths. The retailer reported a widening in interim pre-tax losses to £63.9m, from £20.3m last time. Chief executive Trevor Bish-Jones said this morning that he would, one day, be prepared to consider splitting off the group’s entertainment distribution business but that this was “not the right time to change the shape of the group”.

UTV, the northern Irish broadcaster, has withdrawn its proposal to merge with SMG, the Scotland-based media group. Deals like this have been off and on for so long that this is unlikely to be the last word, although the private equity interest many have talked about has failed to materialise. Some SMG investors will be very cross. The group’s shares are down almost 8 per cent.

And it wouldn’t be a normal day if there weren’t another BP story, following on from our package this morning, Today we report that prosecutors in Siberia are threatening to suspend an exploration licence for TNK-BP, its Russian joint venture, to develop Kovykta, the massive gas field in Eastern Siberia.

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