Magazine article The Spectator

My Top Tip: Buy a Time Machine

Magazine article The Spectator

My Top Tip: Buy a Time Machine

Article excerpt

About this time last month I was at a party at The Spectator, drunkenly urging anyone who'd listen to buy into this amazing share I'd discovered called Tullow Oil. I'd done exceptionally well by this little gem over the last 12 months and I wanted as many people as possible to share in my joy so that when -- as was inevitable -- it reached ten quid a share we would all have doubled or trebled or even quadrupled our money.

'But what does it actually do?'asked Martin Vander Weyer. 'Well, it's in oil, ' I said. 'Yes, but is it an exploration company or what?' 'Oh, I dunno. Drilling, exploring, that sort of caper. Based in Ireland, I think, but it doesn't really matter. The point is it's doing really, really well.' The very next day Tullow Oil announced that it had capped two of its exploration sites, one in Pakistan, the other in Gabon, having realised that there was no oil there.

Almost instantly, its share price tumbled by 10 per cent. The next day, it fell by another 10 per cent, dragged down by the markets' sudden terror of any sector that had anything to do with oils, metals or emerging economies. Which was a bit of a bummer, because these were exactly the areas I'd been investing in for the previous two years.

God, it had seemed easy when things were going well. I'd invested in funds with a high exposure to Eastern Europe, Japan, India and basic minerals, and not one of them had risen by less than 50 per cent. I looked down at all those cautious pantywaists who'd bought into property funds yielding no more than 9.5 per cent per annum, and the even more stupid idiots who'd left their money in high interest-rate bank accounts at 5 per cent. 'Ha ha, you fools!' I cackled dementedly. 'I've made more in one year than you will in ten.' What I should have realised, of course, is that until you've actually taken your profits, these supposedly massive returns exist only in the realm of fantasy. In fact, part of me did realise this. Even as my shares were climbing and climbing, a clever-clogs little voice in my head kept whispering, 'Yes, but where's your exit strategy?' 'Exit strategy? But what would I want one of those for?' the greedier and more dominant part of my brain replied. When your shares are going inexorably up, a terrible form of wishful thinking takes hold. …

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