Vendors selling off Pope Benedict XVI souvenirs

With a new head of the Catholic Church imminent, shopkeepers near St. Peters’s Square are trying to sell their stock of Benedict XVI souvenirs.

“We have so much of (Pope Emeritus Benedict, who was born Joseph) Ratzinger,” says Luigi Englese as he shows off shelves full of photos, books and other items.

“Religious people buy more Benedict because he was a theologian but the people buy more John Paul. He is more speaking to the heart.”

‘John Paul II was a tough act to follow. … A new pope could revive some of the sales.’—Paddy Agnew, Vatican journalist

It’s serious business for the official shops and street vendors that line the streets around St. Peter’s Square.

Souvenirs range from the sacred to the possibly sacrilegious – from rosaries and crucifixes to bottle openers and bobbleheads.

John Paul II hasn’t been pope for eight years, but you can see his image almost everywhere you go, in restaurants, hotels and cafes.

Englese estimates anything with the image of Pope John Paul II outsells Benedict at by a ratio of about 10-to-one.

Many shopkeepers have shelves of Benedict XVI souvenirs that they are trying to sell off before a new pope is chosen. Many shopkeepers have shelves of Benedict XVI souvenirs that they are trying to sell off before a new pope is chosen. (Karen Pauls/CBC)

“He will always be the best pope in many people’s hearts,” agrees Elise Ciolfe, in charge of the mosaic gallery at Domus Artus, a high-end gift shop just outside Vatican City.

“He was a very charismatic person that was talking to all the people and especially the children and sick people and he also fell sick at the end. We were very close to him when he wasn’t well.”

Benedict, on the other hand, was a respected academic – a theologian who didn’t touch people in the same way.

“He’s very untouchable, very far away from the people. John Paul II was close to us, he looked like our grandfather or our father.”

Ciolfe commissioned a mosaic of Benedict XVI shortly after he became pope. It is still in her shop window and she hopes it eventually will sell.

Elise Ciolofe hopes someone will eventually buy this mosaic of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI. Elise Ciolofe hopes someone will eventually buy this mosaic of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI. (Karen Pauls, CBC)

Still, the unexpected resignation of Benedict provided an unexpected opportunity for suppliers and sellers, says Paddy Agnew, the long-time Rome correspondent for The Irish Times.

“Benedict has been a disaster. Ask anyone and they will tell you, his souvenirs do not sell,” he says.

“John Paul II was a tough act to follow. Benedict was an interim figure, transitional, and not as popular. A new pope could revive some of the sales.”

Meanwhile, like many other vendors near Vatican City, Elise Ciolfe is hoping a new pope will kick-start the sales of souvenirs.

It would be even better if he is from the United States or a Spanish-speaking country – because those tourists are more likely to spend money.

“Since Ratzinger was Pope, we don’t have a big sale of his items because Germans aren’t interested in his souvenirs,” she explains.

“The mentality of every country gives you a different proportion in sales. If the new pope is from a Spanish-speaking country where people are very religious, it would bring in a lot of money. Americans are our number one customers.”

Once the new pope is elected, tens of thousands of items could be on sale within hours of his name being announced, although it could take about two weeks to get official photos and souvenirs on store shelves.

Stompin’ Tom fans head to Peterborough for public tribute

Fans of Stompin’ Tom Connors are expected to start lining up outside the Memorial Centre in Peterborough, Ont., today for a chance to say goodbye in style to the legendary folk and country singer.

Stompin’ Tom, who created songs celebrating Canadian places from coast to coast, died March 6 at age 77. His hits such as The Hockey Song, Sudbury Saturday Night and Up Canada Way inspired a devoted following.

Tributes from hundreds of Canadians poured in following his death and many of those fans are expected to make the trip to Peterborough for the public celebration of his life.

It will be first-come, first-served seating at the Memorial Centre, an arrangement Connors insisted on as the fairest way to allow fans to join in the tribute. There are 4,000 seats in the hockey arena.

The memorial is free, though fans are encouraged to bring a donation for Kawartha Food Share. It begins at 7 p.m.

Connors himself helped plan his public memorial, which will include videos, stories, photos, speeches about his life and songs by artists who played alongside him or followed in his footsteps.

In the final two weeks of his life, the singer knew his health was failing and he left instructions with his friend and promoter, Brian Edwards of Rocklands Entertainment, for a public memorial.

Connors, a chain smoker known for his black outfit and hat, chose the venue in Peterborough, the town where he first gained the nickname Stompin’ Tom, because of his habit of stomping his boot as he played.

A private memorial for Connors was held Tuesday. His family, wife Lena, two sons, two daughters and several grandchildren, are expected at the public memorial, though they don’t plan to speak.

Speeches will come from MP and former hockey star Ken Dryden, former governor general Adrienne Clarkson, former EMI president Deane Cameron and Peterborough Mayor Daryl Bennett.

There will be performances, and stories, from artists who played with him such as Dave Gunning, Sylvia Tyson and J.P. Cormier and artists such as Rheostatics frontman Dave Bidini and Nova Scotia country-folk singer Cindy Church who consider him a strong influence. Also on the bill is a Calgary singer who Connors has said is his natural successor – Tim Hus.

Legend has it that Connors began his musical career when he found himself a nickel short of a beer at the Maple Leaf Hotel in Timmins, Ont., in 1964 at age 28. The bartender agreed to give him a drink if he would play a few songs.

That turned into a 14-month contract to play at the hotel, where he had his first hit with Bud the Spud.

Connors’ songs celebrated Canadiana – bringing to light Canadian history with songs like Tribute to Wilf Carter, Wop May and The Bridge Came Tumblin’ Down and telling stories of everyday lives like The Ferryman, Tillsonburg and Mad Moon Newfie.

A patriotic Canadian, he refused to take his act to the U.S., preferring to make his name touring the towns and cities of his home country.

Some of those songs will be revived in Peterborough Wednesday as fans and admirers gather to remember a true Canadian icon.

Patrick Brown: The vicious circle that is North Korea

In the fall of 2006, I was riding a train through North Korea with a group of Chinese businessmen.

“Coming here is like time travel,” said one of them. “It’s like going back to the China of the 1970s.”

A few weeks later, after I had completed my TV documentary on the country’s crippled economy and left the country, North Korea conducted its first nuclear test.

In Washington, president George W. Bush described the test as a “provocative act” and called for UN sanctions.

South Korea’s president Roh Moo-hyun, pursuing a decade-long effort to improve relations with the North, said mildly that South Korea was prepared to defend itself against any threat, while China, under President Hu Jintao, expressed its opposition to the test and called for dialogue.

North Korea’s “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-il threatened to go to war if sanctions were imposed.

Seven years on, the players have changed, but the game remains depressingly familiar. At the same time, the intensity of all these manoeuvres has increased significantly.

Kim Jong-il has been succeeded by his son, Kim Jong-un, who looks to be closely following his father’s playbook. He ordered his own personal nuclear test, North Korea’s third, last month.

South Korea’s new president, Park Geun-hye, who chaired her first cabinet meeting on Monday, said South Korea would retaliate if attacked.

She came to power promising to improve relations with North Korea by adopting a less antagonistic approach than her predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, who had abandoned Roh’s “sunshine policy.”

Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama, who gave the state of the union address for his second term only hours after North Korea’s latest nuclear test, pushed for new economic sanctions and these have now been unanimously approved by the UN Security Council.

China, where Xi Jinping begins a 10-year term as president later this week, unexpectedly voted for the sanctions against its protégé, then appealed for calm and dialogue.

Faced with these sanctions, Kim Jong-un, emulating his late father, is threatening war.

North Korea has threatened a pre-emptive nuclear strike to turn Washington and Seoul into “a sea of flames,” renounced the armistice that ended the Korean war 60 years ago, and stopped picking up the hotline phone at the Panmunjon Demilitarized Zone, which is normally tested twice a day.

Next door, Chinese businessmen like the ones I met in 2006 — and, probably the new leadership in Beijing — are still scratching their heads and sighing over the travails of trying to do business with a Stalinist dictatorship lost in a time warp.

A real bomb

North Korea’s strategy has been to advance its nuclear program, agree to tone it down in exchange for concessions and aid. Then press the repeat button.

Beijing supported UN sanctions but China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said on Saturday that sanctions were not the 'fundamental' way to resolve the tensions around North Korea, and that all sides should exercise restraint. Beijing supported UN sanctions but China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said on Saturday that sanctions were not the ‘fundamental’ way to resolve the tensions around North Korea, and that all sides should exercise restraint. (Kim Kyung Hoon / Reuters)

The 2006 test was something of a damp squib, whereas last month’s explosion proved that North Korea has made considerable progress towards a workable, deliverable bomb.

There are suspicions, as yet unproven, that North Korea has been able to switch from plutonium to uranium, which is ominous because the country has considerable deposits of uranium ore, but only small amounts of plutonium.

As well, this time the UN sanctions are more stringent than previous ones. They include tight financial restrictions, impediments to the movement of cash and measures, including cargo inspections, to prevent North Korea from acquiring banned equipment and materials.

A list of banned luxury items, aimed squarely at the expensive tastes of Kim Jong-il and the regime’s elite, includes yachts, racing cars and high-end jewelry.

North Korea’s response to the sanctions, which coincide with military exercises staged jointly by South Korea and the U.S. at this time every year, has been especially shrill.

Still, past crises in this noisy and nerve-wracking stalemate have ultimately eased.

North Korea would eventually take a step back, with or without some violent gesture across the border.

Sanctions would soften. The interminable six-party meetings among the two Koreas, Japan, Russia, China and the U.S. would resume again.

And yet, each time, the world edged just a little closer to the brink of disastrous war than it was before the most recent tantrum from Pyongyang.

The vicious cycle

The reason why all the players keep on making the same moves is that none of them knows how to end the game.

North Korea’s sole priority is regime survival. Kim and the generals around him are convinced that they could not withstand any substantive domestic reforms. So they will not loosen their totalitarian grip.

Believing nuclear weapons are the best protection against outsiders giving them a push, they will never give them up.

The U.S. has had one Korean War and it does not want another. While South Korea’s enthusiasm for reunification is a bit like Saint Augustine’s desire for chastity. They long for it, but not just yet.

The cost of absorbing the North would be an order of magnitude greater than it took West Germany to embrace East Germany. It could break the bank.

Meanwhile, China, tired of Pyongyang’s nuclear shenanigans, has signed up for sanctions, but it has its fingers crossed.

Luckily for China, the UN resolution includes “credible information” clauses that will enable Beijing to use any lack of information as an excuse to avoid doing anything it does not want to do.

Sanctions that further isolate North Korea from the rest of the world actually strengthen China’s hand by making it easier for it to squeeze its troublesome neighbour, adding to the leverage it already has as North Korea’s only source of oil.

In a speech on Monday, Obama’s national security adviser Tom Donilon suggested that North Korea should look at Burma’s example, and take seriously the president’s pledge to “offer his hand to anyone who would unclench their fist.”

“Anyone who doubts the president’s commitment needs look no further than Burma, where new leaders have begun a process of reform,” he said.

However, seriously perturbed by Obama’s so-called pivot towards Asia, China did not see Obama’s much publicized visit to Burma as a welcome step forward, but as unwelcome evidence of a plan to “contain” China by seducing all its neighbours.

That in mind, China’s new president Xi Jinping will not want to go down in history as the leader who “lost” North Korea.

Simply put, China would rather share a long border with a rogue regime than live next door to a single Korea closely allied with the U.S.

There may be new players, but do not expect the game to change anytime soon.

Prepped ‘for years,’ Hadfield takes over space station command

Chris Hadfield knows it’s easy to be in charge when things are going well.

It’s a lot tougher to be a leader when they are not.

Live chat

Join us Thursday at 7 p.m. ET for a live chat about what Chris Hadfield accomplished during Expedition 34 on the International Space Station, and what the Expedition 35 crew hopes to achieve under his command.

His son and social media manager Evan Hadfield will join us on webcam — and you can, too. RSVP here.

But the astronaut who becomes the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station this afternoon has done everything he can for the past 20 years to be ready for what he sees as the pinnacle of his career.

“I think the hardest part is being ready all the time for things to go badly because when things are going well, it’s easy to be in charge,” the 53-year-old told students via videolink from the ISS to Chris Hadfield Public School in his hometown of Milton, Ont., earlier this year.

Maybe a meteorite might strike the $150-billion high-tech orbiting laboratory. Maybe a fire might break out. Maybe a crisis might hit a crewmember’s family back on Earth and he can’t get home right away. These are the kinds of eventualities a commander has to be prepared for.

Hadfield’s two decades as an astronaut have been geared toward an assignment like this. But his preparation probably started even earlier.

“In truth, I started training to command the space station when I was 14,” he told University of Waterloo students via videolink from the ISS last month.

“I was in the Air Cadets and I went to a junior leaders’ course and they taught me the basic precepts of leadership at 14 years old as a young Canadian, and since then I’ve watched leaders, and you can learn something from every leader.”

Good and bad

Even bad leaders can teach lessons to those below them, and Hadfield said he’s learned from all kinds.

“I’ve also, through the military and then in my 20 years as an astronaut, been given increasing opportunities to manage and to lead people, and that all put me in a position where I could get assigned to command a spaceship,” he told the students.

“This is something I’ve really worked hard to be prepared for, an unprecedented opportunity personally and professionally and nationally, and I’m just really pleased that I’m in a position and really happy to have the chance to pick up the reins here.”

Hadfield assumes command from NASA astronaut Kevin Ford, and others who have held the role or lived on the space station have full confidence in Hadfield’s abilities to handle everything the job entails.

Ken Bowersox, shown on the International Space Station in 2003, says Chris Hadfield wil be able to cope with any eventuality during his command.Ken Bowersox, shown on the International Space Station in 2003, says Chris Hadfield wil be able to cope with any eventuality during his command. (NASA)

Retired NASA astronaut Ken Bowersox, who has worked with Hadfield, says he’ll be able to cope with any eventuality.

“He’s really good,” Bowersox says in an interview from Houston, Texas, noting Hadfield has both the technical and leadership skills needed to be commander.

Leroy Chiao, a retired NASA astronaut who commanded the space station for six months in 2004-2005, says Hadfield is “very capable” and doesn’t need any advice for his new job.

Chiao, who now lives in Houston, said via email that the key to being a successful commander is bringing all members of the team together, and working with each individual according to personality.

Keeping an eye on the big picture – something Chiao says Hadfield has always done — is important, too.

More than running the machines

Retired Canadian astronaut Bob Thirsk, the first Canadian to fly a long-duration mission on the space station, says the most important thing the ISS commander does is ensure the safety of the crew, followed closely by ensuring their well-being.

“Astronauts, we’re typically Type A behaviour people. We’d work all 24 hours if it was totally up to us. But I think it’s important for Chris to be aware of the well-being of each of his five crewmates and make sure that they do take time to attend to their own personal needs and also to their families’ needs on the ground,” Thirsk said in an interview before Hadfield’s launch.

Being in charge, it seems, is much more than overseeing the mechanics of the space station or the science experiments running in the orbiting lab.

“In fact, the ground does a very good job of taking care of the station systems. The crew’s job is just monitoring it. I think the soft skills are more important for Chris than … the operational skills,” says Thirsk.

“One of the things that Chris wants to avoid at all costs is to make sure that the relationship between the crew and the ground doesn’t devolve into an us-versus-them kind of mentality. If that kind of mindset prevails, the situation is hopeless and their productivity will go way down.”

And that has happened.

“Not in the ISS experience,” says Thirsk, “but in other space stations in the past, crews have become territorial on board their station. They’ve also rebelled with mission control on the ground.

“In at least one case, crews had to be brought home early because the work just wasn’t getting done due to behavioural problems on board.”

A gentler style

If conflicts among astronauts emerge, then the commander has to step in, Bowersox says, but that doesn’t happen very often.

“On the space station typically you’ll see a bit of a gentler leadership style and that’s kind of universal amongst all the different teams whether you end up with a Russian commander or a Canadian commander or a U.S. commander.”

Bowersox knows first-hand how the ISS commander has to be ready for anything.

While he was on the station in 2002-2003, the space shuttle Columbia broke apart during re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. Seven astronauts died.

The space shuttles were grounded, and along with dealing with the emotional impact of the disaster, the astronauts on the ISS no longer had access to their regular way home. (They ended up coming back in a Soyuz vehicle and landing in Kazakhstan.)

Bowersox says he’s really proud of how the team on board the station handled several unexpected events, including the Columbia incident.

“We managed to keep working and stay productive despite the emotional affects of the accident,” Bowersox says.

Avoiding mutiny

Bowersox looks back on his 5½ months as commander and sees one way he might have done things differently as leader.

“There were times when the space station and the environment can bring out emotions that in a team environment may not be productive,” he says.

Sometimes, the on-board atmosphere of the space station has carbon dioxide levels that are a bit higher than on Earth, and that can make a person feel more irritated.

“I remember one day in particular I was ready to yell at somebody on the ground and … you’d like to avoid that if you can,” says Bowersox.

“One of my crewmembers saw that I was feeling irritated and he wouldn’t give me the microphone. So we had a little mutiny. I said give me the mircophone. He goes, ‘No, I’m not giving you the microphone,’ and that was really a great support.”

Chris Hadfield waves as he boards the Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan ahead of his launch on Dec. 19, 2012, for the International Space Station.Chris Hadfield waves as he boards the Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan ahead of his launch on Dec. 19, 2012, for the International Space Station. (Dmitry Lovetsky/Reuters)

Bowersox and Chiao have few words of wisdom for Hadfield — just that they wish him well.

“Enjoy every minute of it because as long as it may seem, the mission is going to come to an end and you’re going to be back on the ground and you’ll have those memories,” says Bowersox.

“It’s fun and … when you think about it, it is really a pretty rare opportunity. There aren’t that many people who have had the privilege of doing that job and I think Canada should be really proud of Chris.”

Cardinals return to Sistine Chapel for more voting

Cardinals have returned to the Sistine Chapel for another day of voting as they try to select Benedict XVI’s successor as leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

The cardinals failed to come to an agreement on who should lead the church during the first vote yesterday. The indecision was revealed to the world when a puff of black smoke emerged from the chimney of the historic chapel around 7:40 p.m. local time.

The 115 cardinals will vote up to four times a day until a new pope is selected. When a single candidate wins the support of at least two-thirds of the cardinals, white smoke will billow out from the copper chimney, followed by the ringing of bells.

Tuesday’s drama unfolded against the backdrop of the turmoil unleashed by Benedict’s surprise resignation and the exposure of deep divisions among cardinals grappling with whether they need a manager to clean up the Vatican’s dysfunctional bureaucracy or a pastor who can inspire Catholics at a time of waning faith and growing secularism.

“Cardinals believe that divine inspiration helps them choose a pope, but there is also sizing up candidates, subtle persuasion and voting in blocks — all of it in secret,” CBC’s Susan Ormiston said late Tuesday, after the first round of voting.

Live social media on the ground at St. Peter’s square
View the online conversation happening right now outside the papal conclave

Speculation about who will become the next pope continued after the first ballot failed to produce a winner.

Ormiston said Cardinal Angelo Scola, 71, of Milan and Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer, 63, of Brazil have both been mentioned by many as likely candidates for the top post in the Catholic Church.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec is also cited by many Vatican observers as a possible contender to become the next leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.

Faithful and nuns react as black smoke rises from the chimney above the Sistine Chapel, indicating that no decision has been made after the first day of voting for the election of a new pope. Voting continues later today.Faithful and nuns react as black smoke rises from the chimney above the Sistine Chapel, indicating that no decision has been made after the first day of voting for the election of a new pope. Voting continues later today. (Eric Gaillard/Reuters)

“But they caution that conclaves can push up surprises, especially when there isn’t a strong candidate going in —not like back in 2005 when Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict,” Ormiston said about Vatican watchers who observed the pre-conclave proceedings

John Allen Jr., a Vatican journalist with the National Catholic Reporter, told CBC’s Curt Petrovich that there is no clear front-runner.

“That’s the towering difference between 2013 and 2005,” Allen said.

The conclave is also drawing some protest — on Tuesday a group held a “pink smoke” protest to speak out about women’s equality in the church and the lack of women in the Catholic priesthood.

Interactive: A glimpse inside the papal conclave
The Vatican ritual, designed for discretion, where next pope will be chosen

“Why aren’t our voices there? If we’re all one in the body of Christ, why is it that those men have taken seats of privilege?” said Therese Koturbash, of the Catholic Network for Women’s Equality.

The cardinals, chosen by either Benedict XVI or John Paul II, swore an oath of secrecy ahead of the conclave, and anyone who communicates details about the process risks excommunication.

For more than a week before the voting, the cardinals have met privately to try to figure out who among them has the stuff to be pope and what his priorities should be. But they ended the debate with questions still unanswered, and many cardinals predicting a drawn-out election that will further expose the church’s divisions.

The conclave proceeds in silence, with no formal debate, behind closed doors.

With files from The Associated Press

Aviva chief shows faith with £480,000 share purchase

The 46-year-old risked not only his reputation but his fortune on the under-fire group, which last week posted a £3bn loss, a 44 per cent dividend cut and the scrapping of bonuses for senior directors.

Mr Wilson acquired 150,000 shares at 321.113p each, according to a regulatory filing, worth £481,667.

The former AIA boss has vowed to restore the fortunes of Aviva following years of underperformance under its previous chief executive, Andrew Moss, who resigned last May.

Mr Wilson has already claimed that the group has “not lived up to its potential” and has “disappointed shareholders” over the past few years. Although he only joined the company in January, he finds himself under pressure due to its poor share price performance, down 13 per cent so far this year.

“I joined Aviva because I believe there is significant potential to be unlocked,” he said last week. “This is a turnaround story. It is clear to me that the company has not articulated why investors should buy or hold Aviva shares.”

Aviva parted company with Mr Moss following an investor backlash at the annual meeting lasy year. He was criticised for repeatedly changing its strategy while shares tumbled. Since then, the insurer has sold businesses and put others on the block to slim its structure.

Last week, Mr Wilson said pay would be frozen for 400 senior staff at the company while it was overhauled and would not rule out further jobs cuts among its 36,000 employees. These include about 18,000 in the UK.

Mr Wilson said there was no doubt what needed to be done over the next 12 months. “The insurance sector has made an industry out of complexity. We need to be simple and as predictable as a Swiss clock. That is my promise.”

Aviva shares rose 1.8p to 324p.

Hibu’s woes get worse as it fires ‘buyout plot’ US chiefs

Mr Pocock told staff that Jim McCusker, US president, and Mark Cairns, chief publishing officer, had been “dismissed” after “a thorough investigation into conduct by them that the company considered to be disloyal and against the interests of its employees and other stakeholders”.

Hibu declined to comment on suggestions that Mr McCusker and Mr Cairns were trying to buy out the US business. But one observer expressed surprise that the pair should be dismissed as both were long-standing employees.

Mr Pocock joined in 2011 in a bid to turn around the company, which has seen revenues plunge because of the internet. Hibu is set to miss payments on some of its £2bn of loans and a debt-for-equity swap with its banks looks all but certain.

The beleaguered company may fear that a management buyout would cut its value even more.

RBS to sell another stake in Direct Line for £500m

The bank, which is 81 per cent owned by the taxpayer, said it was offering 229.4 million shares in Direct Line, which has seen its price surge since it was listed on the London Stock Exchange in October.

If all the shares being offered are sold, RBS would still retain a 49.9 per cent share of the insurer. The stake sale accounts for 15.3 per cent of Direct Line’s shares.

European regulators had forced RBS to dispose of Direct Line as a condition of its 2008 bailout.

Its smaller rival Esure, which is run by Direct Line’s founder, Peter Wood, is on track to float over the next few weeks. It will use the £50m it raises from the float to pay down debt and expand market share.

Last week, Paul Geddes, Direct Line’s chief executive, said: “There is no room for complacency as we face a competitive market, particularly in UK motor, where there are also expected to be significant legal reforms. Our transformation plans target further benefits and we have made substantial progress on our target to achieve £100m of annual cost savings in 2014.”

British Land off on £1bn acquisitions trail

The country’s second largest property company tapped its shareholders for £500m through a share placing and sold Ropemaker Place in the City for £472m.

“It’s very good news for London,” said Chris Grigg, chief executive of British Land. “We’ve got a lot of interest in the share placing and confirmation from shareholders that this is exactly the type of thing they want to see British Land doing.”

The company said the share placing would be used to fund £123m of deals it has already done, a further £150m which are in advanced negotiations, and the rest on a “growing pipeline of opportunities”.

British Land shares dropped 25.5p to 555p as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and UBS went about placing the 90 million new shares being offered. That represents 9.9 per cent of British Land’s existing share capital.

Ropemaker Place was completed in 2009 and is home to a number of City firms including The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, Markit, Liberum Capital and Macquarie Group. It yields £24m a year in rents, rising to £27.5m at the next reviews.

Mr Grigg said: “This is a very large building even by London standards. This sale is absolute confirmation that we see continued good demand in the London office market. For prime London property we’ve been out of the recession for some time.”