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It's horses for courses; Midshires adds spice to a flutter.

Fancy a punt on the Footsie without risking your stake? If you do, Birmingham Midshires is happy to be your bookie.

The Wolverhampton-based former building society that is now owned by Halifax is about to launch the limited-edition Speculator Bond.

The bond will allow adventurous investors to back their hunches on which way the key FTSE-100 stock market index will move in a given period, while guaranteeing that their original investment will be returned if they call wrongly.

It mixes the excitement of spread betting with the safety of Premium Bonds.

Birmingham Midshires, which claims the Speculator Bond is the first product of its kind, will pay up to a massive 60 per cent gross - more than eight times higher than current best-buy interest rates - on a one-year investment.

The catch is, to earn that sort of money you have to bet correctly on the Footsie growing by at least 30 per cent.

And on any given day since 1986 the market has registered that sort of annual growth only 8.5 per cent of the time.

Investors in the Speculator Bond will be able to estimate the likely rise or fall of the Footsie in bands of ten per cent, each with its own linked rate of return.

Guessing correctly that it falls by ten per cent or more, for example, pays 25 per cent.

A fall of less than ten per cent earns 30 per cent.

A correct hunch that the market remains static or grows by less than ten per cent, or that it grows by at least ten per cent but less than 20 per cent pays 22 per cent in both cases.

Speculating that it grows by at least 20 per cent but less than 30 per cent gets you 30 per cent.

Investors can improve the odds by splitting their funds across a number of bands.

For instance, half could be linked to the 'FTSE remains static/grows by less than ten per cent' band and the other half to the 'FTSE grows by at least ten per cent but less than 20 per cent' band.

Anyone who did that would earn 11 per cent gross if the market was ahead between 0-20 per cent.

Mr David Taylor, head of investing products at Birmingham Midshires, stressed that the Speculator Bond is not meant to be a home for someone's life savings.

It is, however, 'a serious way of spicing up a savings portfolio'.

He said: 'The Speculator Bond is a new concept aimed at savers who are relatively clued up about the stock market, have done their homework and are willing to take a punt.

'Unlike spread betting, however, there is no risk of losing your initial stake and unlike Premium Bonds there is a degree of skill involved.

'If you guess wrong, you get your money back and if you get it right you are in like for one of the best rates you're ever likely to get from a bank or building society.

'While this product won't suit everyone, we expect a good take-up, particularly from the more sophisticated investors and those looking for something a little bit different.'

Speculator Bond goes on sale on Friday September 1 and the minimum investment is pounds 1,000.

Savers can pre-register for further information by phoning Birmingham Midshires on 01902 302832.
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Author:Cranage, John
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Aug 26, 2000
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