Hold tight for a hair-raising ride

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Michael O'Hara is the manager of the pounds 37m Murray European Fund. He also looks after the other European investments for Murray Johnstone, the Glasgow unit and investment trust group, and UAM, its Boston parent company.

"My wildest extravagance was to buy a car that I fully intended doing up. It wasn't a vintage car, just a good-looking motor," says Michael O'Hara. "Some years ago I purchased a Karmann Ghia for pounds 5,000 that I was going to restore and then sell on for a profit. But almost immediately after I bought it, my company sent me to the US for a couple of years, so the car had to go into storage. Since my return, and taking the car back home, I never seem to have the time to get round to doing the work on it that's required."

Other than the car, he feels that he is a fairly typical small investor. "I don't feel that my investments are anything out of the ordinary, in fact I would call them plain vanilla flavour," he says. "Most of my investing is done on a regular basis through various savings plans."

For the past 18 months he has been putting money each month into Murray Emerging Economies, the group's investment trust that specialises in emerging markets.

"It's been a fairly hair-raising experience. But with funds like this you have to accept high risks. If you watch the share price too much, you fall in and out of love with the emerging market story with every rise and fall. But for someone of my age, and I'm taking a 30-year view, there is a place for such a high-risk fund in a portfolio.

"I don't recommend that anyone puts more than 20 per cent of their money in emerging markets - in my case it's nearer 10 per cent," he comments.

Among all the investments he looks after, his fav- ourite share is a French company called Equant.

"It provides a seamless data transmission service across national borders for multinational companies. Instead of going to the expense of buying and setting up their own systems, these companies sub-contract their data transmission to Equant," said Mr O'Hara.

The company was originally an airline-ticket booking system provider. Just over 18 months ago, the data transmission business was spun off and floated on the French stock market.

"However, we bought the shares at launch in America at $30 a share, investing some pounds 2m in the issue. We decided to buy on Wall Street as we felt that the Americans understood the story better and there would be greater demand for the company across the Atlantic. And we have been proved right as the share price has gone up some 300 per cent since flotation," he says.

"There are some crazy estimates around about the likely growth of data transmission but nonetheless, it is likely to be massive. I will certainly hold the shares for another 12 or 18 months at the least."

However, whether he will hold on to his Karmann Ghia for the same length of time is a moot point. "The car is driveable but if I sell it now, I probably won't make much, if any, profit.

"With a bit of work and restoration, I could probably get between pounds 8,000 and pounds 10,000. So I have to decide whether to do it up or sell it."


n Aged 29.

n Studied economics at Strathclyde University.

n Joined Murray Johnstone as a trainee seven years ago.

n Began work on Murray Johnstone's European desk before being sent to UAM, the group's parent company in the US.

n He returned to the UK four years ago. Two months ago he was made head of European investments where he is in charge of a three-man team responsible for some pounds 1.3bn.