Share indices in the week to 1 February 2002
It’s pleasing to see that the City rumour mill is still firing on all cylinders, despite the markets almost grinding to a halt through apathy.

The latest morsel that has got tongues wagging is who will take over from Sir Peter Mason at Amec. Such is the fervour building up among analysts that it threatens to develop into construction’s version of the national saga involving another knighted Scot and a football team everyone loves to hate – also based in Manchester.

The story doing the rounds is that Mason plans to step down in the next couple of years and that the company has a headhunter lining up possible successors.

Like the Manchester United soap opera, whoever eventually steps into Mason’s shoes will have a hard act to follow: Mason and Sir Alex Ferguson have transformed their teams into the best in the business. And like Ferguson, Mason is seen by many as the best manager in the business. What he says goes, and shareholders place a lot of faith in his judgment.

This is, perhaps, why Amec is so sensitive to any talk about Mason’s departure, and why it has strenuously denied that it is looking for a replacement. The company’s exact words are: “It’s pure speculation with no truth in it all.”