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Tech stocks take toll on tycoon Soros

Capital can be a cruel mistress

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One of the world's foremost investment gurus, George Soros, has lost billions of dollars investing in tech stocks and is reorganising his business as a result. According to a report in The Guardian newspaper this weekend, the tycoon's Quantum Fund took a severe beating thanks to "misguided investments in technology companies" - falling in value to $8 billion, from $10.4 billion in December 1999. Quantum is a hedge fund, which effectively means that its managers bet on the outcome of investing in companies and markets. The unpredictable nature of IT stocks has taken its toll on this leading light of the traditional investment community, with as much as $5 billion thought to have been lost in a single month. Recent Nasdaq turbulence is thought to have been a particular problem. Soros is now going to break up his huge hedge fund operation and two of his leading managers - Stanley Druckenmiller and Nick Roditi - are set to leave. Druckenmiller is said to have been badly bitten by Nasdaq and is quoted in The Guardian as saying: "I screwed up. I should have got out in February." Another investment guru speaking out against Internet-related investments this weekend was America's richest investor, Warren Buffet, who runs the Berkshire Hathaway investment and insurance company. Interestingly enough, Buffet has steered clear of the tech-stock investment bandwagon, but 1999 was his company's poorest years for returns. Buffet praised the Internet as an information resource but likened it to a chain letter as far as investment was concerned. "For society the Internet's a wonderful thing - but for capitalists it's probably a net negative," he said. "If you are very early in a chain letter, you can make money, but there's no money created." So, it looks as though the thousands of anti-capitalism demonstrators who rioted over the weekend have found a curious ally in their campaign to bring down the multi-national investors that control global markets and cream off millions for themselves. Despite their best efforts, it remains highly unlikely that the protestors will achieve anything other than generating a bit more work for the folk that clean up after them and giving hard pressed police officers a chance to earn a bit of over-time. Capitalism itself, though, has been the undoing (in part, at any rate) of two of the very people the rioters are targeting their actions at. Funny thing, irony. ®

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