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The last privatization supper

Jean-Claude Komarovsky resists the temptation to retrieve some of the family silver from the Russians. Especially while there are plenty of Americans willing to get their fingers burnt.

At a fairly select dinner party last week, a senior French banker pronounced: "Privatization is like castration, it works better on dogs." You could have heard a pin drop. A delightful Austrian lady asked me whether the Frenchie didn't like animals. I quickly explained that in this instance "dogs" probably referred to state assets which no sensible person would want to touch unless wearing surgical gloves.

Of course the Komarovskys, like other once proud families, have been experts on privatizations since the beginning of 1944, except that our experience was in reverse privatizations - the invading Russians taking all the family assets into their private possession in exchange for one bottle of vodka and a zero-coupon perpetual rouble IOU. "Now is your chance to take back great chunks of Mother Russia for Black Knight Bank and yourself," says the Austrian lady's husband. I tell him that if he is gung-ho on the Russians he should speak to Hans-Jörg Rudloff at MC Securities or Ian Molson at CS First Boston who desperately need someone to share their increasingly isolated confidence.

As the ladies retire I congratulate the French banker on his "dogs" philosophy. To be honest, the French state has very little to sell which isn't a waterlogged hound so it is difficult for them to be selective.

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