x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Monkey at the top of his game ... and missing

Suspicion surrounds the disappearance of Herr Nilsson, a toy, stuffed monkey that has helped build a winning portfolio.

Herr Nilsson has gone missing. Last week's readers will recall I used him, a stuffed monkey owned by my seven-year-old son, Leo, to help me build a portfolio of shares with a fictional £15,000 (Dh85,895). The thinking behind this was that a monkey would be as good as most fund managers I have ever met, and would charge a whole lot less. The proof has already paid dividends. With just one exception, every stock picked by Herr Nilsson is in positive territory. In fact, there are no losses. Shares in Sainsbury - no doubt the little monkey wants to ensure that he can always get his hands on some bananas - remains unchanged. All the others have leapt in value.

The two insurance companies, Admiral and Old Mutual, are up by 6 per cent and 11 per cent respectively. No doubt they are doing a fine job not reimbursing people for their losses. So much the better for greedy shareholders like me! Pearson, publisher of the pink paper and Penguin books, has surged by 11 per cent. Doubtless somebody, somewhere knows why this occurred. It always amazes me how stockmarket journalists always claim to know why the market moved. It is either "robust earnings give fillip" or "consumer confidence falls" or "non-farm payrolls", whatever they may be, that are responsible for the rise or fall of the exchanges.

I have always thought the reason is probably more basic than that. If prices fall, it is because lots of people are selling. If they rise, it is because many are buying. It is really that simple, but I guess a stockmarket reporter who wrote that on a daily basis would soon be out of a job, another "non-farm payroll" casualty. Rio Tinto was another good performer, up 11 per cent. It has probably the most romantic name of all the shares on the FTSE 100. The name comes from the Tinto River in Huelva, Spain. A consortium of investors bought a mine complex there in 1873 and the company has grown by leaps and bounds. It is now one of the world's leaders in mining and commodities, producing aluminium, iron ore, copper, uranium, coal and diamonds. Doubtless Herr Nilsson knew all this.

Standard Chartered has also strengthened by 9 per cent. This does not surprise me. Its management is top drawer, even if their top man in the UAE has a rather dodgy second serve. I had the pleasure of opposing him on the tennis court the other day. Despite his charming demeanour, he showed a certain ruthlessness in returning with great force directly at my female partner at the net. His cries of "sorry, terribly sorry" might have placated us, but hinted at a certain "win-at-all cost" streak that one must have as a banker in today's globalised world. The only thing holding him back from victory was that he had my wife as partner. While she looks very fetching in a pink tennis dress, her second service is even more sketchy than his.

Rolls-Royce has powered its way to a 2 per cent increase, with Royal Dutch Shell inching a 1 per cent gain. BP would have increased even more, but I do not regret selling them. The more I read about the company, the less I like it. I am pleased, however, that they got rid of Tony Hayward. He bears an uncanny resemblance to Tony Blair. In fact, both of them look like that actor Michael Sheen. If I were to continue with this investing lark, I would make it a rule never to invest in a company with a chief executive who looks like Michael Sheen. I have seen all his films and they always end badly.

Yes, you might regard Herr Nilsson as a small cuddly toy whose only function on earth is to cuddle up to my son in his pyjamas, but I think he will come to be regarded as one of the finest stock pickers of his generation. He is the George Soros of monkeys, a veritable inspiration to investors everywhere. The only stock apart from Sainsbury that did not go up is Reckitt Benckiser, my pick. Obviously it is embarrassing to be outperformed by a monkey, but the bigger problem is to find Herr Nilsson. He has either been stolen by a Russian mafia gang, a London hedge fund, or Leo has left him somewhere. He must be found.

rwright@thenational.ae Rupert Wright, an assistant business editor of The National, is our guest columnist while Jonathan Gornall is on leave.