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Bill Gates has had to disclose that his private Cascade Investments holds 5.01 per cent of Avista Corporation. It's a strange percentage to hold - one wonders whether he, or his investment manager Michael Larsen, particularly wanted to exceed a 5 per cent holding, and so had to make the disclosure. But, as we pointed out recently, Gates' Cascade investments haven't been doing too well at all, so it would be a foolish punter who followed His Billness' investment examples. Avista is a utility company in the US Northwest that is doing work in fuel cell technology. It also is into receiving payments for power through the Internet, and it would be no surprise if it used Microsoft software to do so. Avista put on 30 per cent yesterday, and has more than doubled since 4 January. The filing at the SEC was made yesterday, but it was not disclosed when Gates bought the shares. Merrill Lynch tipped them on 12 January, when they were about half yesterday's price. It is curious that the SEC allows high-profile investors to keep smaller holdings confidential, but leaves scope for follow-the-leader manipulation of the share price. Some people might think this to be little unfair. ®

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