The investment industry welcomed the news last week that fabled Fidelity fund manager Anthony Bolton is returning to the fray. What may have surprised many is his decision to move to Hong Kong and manage a China fund.
Bolton says China's growth story is an almost unprecedented investment opportunity. He believes that China is in the first year of a multi-year bull-run and it's that opportunity which has persuaded him to return to fund management.
He has a fantastic track record, managing the Fidelity Special Situations fund for 28 years during which he achieved an annualised return of 19.5 per cent, compared to just 13.5 per cent for the FTSE All-Share Index. Anyone who stuck with him from the start – in December 1979 – with a speculative £1,000 would have seen their cash grow to a decent £148,200.
But investors excited by the prospect of Bolton's return and eager to invest in his new fund – which launches next spring – should think carefully. Would you have invested in China anyway? The answer for many, I suspect, is no.
For that reason I would wait before backing Bolton on this occasion. One City trader compared his return to that of a prize fighter making one last comeback. While I hope that Bolton does score a knock-out, there is clearly a risk that this is one fight too far for the fund manager.
Tax amnesty extended
HM Revenue & Customs has extended its amnesty to taxpayers with offshore investments, giving them more time to come forward. The New Disclosure Opportunity, announced in this year's Budget, requires taxpayers with undisclosed overseas income to notify HMRC of an intention to disclose their income and then send in full details.
The Revenue originally gave people until tomorrow to come forward, but has extended that to 4 January. Anyone who doesn't come forward faces possible investigation and fines.
The Revenue is gathering information from 308 banks in the UK. In other words, it will soon know if you have cash in an offshore account. HMRC said its move is recognition of the fact that some people may have not yet heard from their banks. "We know that some bank customers will not be contacted in good time for the original deadline of 30 November so in the interests of fairness we have decided to extend our deadline by a month."
But I believe this helpful move comes ahead of a chilling, much harder line from tax authorities. The pre-Budget report on 9 December could include new measures cracking down on tax-evaders and 2010 is likely to see some high-profile criminal prosecutions of some of those caught.
If you have got cash tucked away in an overseas account, use this breathing space to get your tax in order. Delay and you could face severe penalties.
Housing on path to normality
House prices have climbed for five months in a row, according to Land Registry figures. Prices in October climbed 0.6 per cent over September leaving the average house price in England and Wales at £159,546.
There's been much speculation about a double-dip in the economy which could hit the fragile housing market. So the steady increase in prices over the past few months is a sign that normality is beginning to return.
Actual activity – ie sales – is still very low, which shows how far from a buoyant market we are. But a gentle growth in movement is a good sign that we are not going to rush back to the market madness of recent years.
For people thinking of dipping a toe back into the market, the signs look promising, although over the year prices are still down 3.4 per cent.