BIG BUSINESS

First, £416m for the reconstruction of Iraq were discussed in Hammersmith. Now, nobody less than George Soros is behind a business deal that includes serviced offices in the neighbourhood.

Bechtel's roadshow at the Novotel hotel last week in Hammersmith meant big business opportunities. Over a 1,000 British companies were lobbying for a slice of the £416m contract that the US giant Bechtel won for the reconstruction of Iraq from the American agency for international development (USAid).

It is considered the biggest international effort since the II World War and representatives of giants British companies, such as the engineering and construction firm Costain, stopped by the neighbourhood. Despite its magnitude, the event meant little locally if it wasn't by the break on the routine caused by some 30 anti-war protesters outside the Novotel.

This time, we are talking about a £20 million business involving nobody less than the most successful financial speculator of the 20th Century. George Soros is said to be the backer of a deal to buy the European operations of HQ Global Workplaces, including the London centre in Hammersmith.

The deal is not closed yet, but it wouldn't be bad if Mr Soros brings to local groups his philanthropist habit. He spends two-thirds of his time and half his income on good works. It is true that the bulk goes, for example, to Russia ($500m), the country most affected by his financial "predictions" in 1988. But current trends on Corporate Social Responsibility indicate that business should take care also of the local community where they are based. Fingers crossed.

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