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Saturday, December 4, 2021

City Spy: Ebullio - the worst performing hedge fund of the year?

Date: Friday, March 19, 2010
Author: London Evening Standard

Ebullio Capital Management, based in Southend, has admitted its commodity fund fell 96% in the first two months of 2010 as it made heavy losses in copper, nickel and tin.

In a newsletter to investors, company founder Lars Steffensen said: “February was the worst month in the history of the Ebullio Commodity Fund. Some extraordinary circumstances forced the Ebullio Commodity Fund to liquidate and/or cancel parts of the physical book and to liquidate some long held speculative positions.

“Most managers would probably try to hush this up, but we have always been about transparency and having broadcast our winning months, we are going to do the same with our, albeit quite a lot more spectacular, losers and take the heat that comes with the territory.”

...but they are still confident!

So just how bad was February for Ebullio? The fund fell 86% during the month. Even more embarrassing, perhaps, was that the fund also fell nearly 70% in January — far worse than the 1.1% decline initially reported.

“The moment we knew the actual January loss, we brought that up to our investors immediately,” said Steffensen.

All is not lost, however. In the newsletter, Steffensen says “the good news” is that it is “business as usual” and “we view the future with confidence”. The fund has, “as a token of confidence in the future”, also decided to waive its 2% management fee for 2010.

“We like to sleep at night and our commitment to the strategy is unwavering,” explains Steffensen.

He signs off: “Despite our very upbeat view on the future and performance of the Ebullio Commodity Fund, we have obviously had a tough couple of months and have certainly come to realise with Bad Blake — played by Oscar winning Jeff Bridges — in Crazy Heart: You don't see it coming, until it's gone...'”

The Latin “ebullio” means to produce in abundance...


Next up... a seat in the Cabinet?

Is Next chief executive Simon Wolfson about to enter government? City Spy only asks after reading the latest tome from the Right-wing think-tank Policy Exchange, called “Renewal of Government: A manifesto for whoever wins the election”.

The still-youthful Wolfson, 42, has written the introduction and what a spectacular rant it is.

“We must staunch the flow of regulation, make it easier and cheaper to build, and reduce the cost of energy and climate policies,” he writes. “We need to sort out our schools and universities and break the anti-work, anti-achievement culture which squashes people's aspirations and opportunities.

“We need bold reforms that will help people currently trapped on benefits escape into work.

“And we need to free the public sector — now a huge part of our economy — from the bureaucratic burdens and mismanagement it is currently labouring under.”

Phew. At last some real passion. Don't vote Cameron, vote Wolfson. If the Next boss is this fired up, it seems hard to believe he won't be tempted by ermine and a ministerial job...


Lord Ashcroft's Belize love affair

Just why does Tory backer Lord Ashcroft so love Belize? Well, how about incredibly relaxed corporate governance rules.

Ashcroft is chairman of AIM-listed BCB Holdings with 45.7 million shares. BCB runs three banks —Belize Bank, British Caribbean Bank International and British Caribbean Bank, and a food oils business, Numar. BCB is incorporated in Belize. Why so?

How about there's no requirement under Belize company law for an annual meeting of shareholders to be held; directors are not subject to retirement by rotation; the share capital of the company may be increased and reorganised without the prior approval of shareholders; there's no minimum paid-up capital requirement; and accounting need not be kept or filed in Belize.


PM hands out top advice

David Smith dodged a bazooka. At a Treasury party back in 2004 Chancellor Gordon Brown sought out the Sunday Times economics editor and author. GB suggested to Smith that his next book should be called The Great Stability. Had Smith followed that advice it would have appeared in 2007 just as the financial universe was beginning to implode. Smith's Age Of Instability, a very different book from the one the PM wanted, is published this week.


Household hindsight and HSBC

Liar's Poker author Michael Lewis takes aim at the subprime loan catastrophe in his new book, The Big Short. Lewis records the verdict of doomsayer Steve Eisman on Household, bought in 2002 by HSBC for £11 billion — a sum subsequently written off.

“This wasn't just another company,” says Eisman, “this was the biggest company by far making subprime loans. They should have taken the CEO out and hung him up by his f**king testicles. Instead they sold the company, the CEO made $100million.”

As then HSBC chairman Sir John Bond said optimistically at the time: “This is a great opportunity for us to strengthen both HSBC and Household's businesses in a way that benefits both sets of shareholders and is consistent with HSBC's strategic objectives… It is an extremely good match.” Blah-blah, kaboom!


Bermudan country garden

Lloyd's insurer Hiscox gets a vast amount of premium income from folk living in the shires, in large, art and antiques-filled houses.

Its likeable chairman Sir Robert Hiscox, who lives in one such stately home, is as English as Eton mess. The company has been based in London — in and around Lloyd's — since 1901. Its shares are listed on the London Stock Exchange.

But woebetide anyone who calls Hiscox “British”. In response to an article describing it as such, an angry flunky calls: “Hiscox is now based in Bermuda. It is a Bermudan company and does not like being called British.” Eh?