Practice English Speaking&Listening with: How Soros Made A Billion Dollars And Almost Broke Britain

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George Soros: a man shrouded in political controversy and yet one of the most successful

investors of all time.

While many today are familiar with his political endeavors, there is a much more interesting

story that has in comparison avoided the public spotlight.

In this video, were going back to the decade before the euro, where the wild west of European

currencies allowed George Soros to almost break the Bank of England and to make a billion

dollars in the process.

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In the aftermath of the Second World War, the nations of Europe decided that the only

way to prevent the same sort of destruction from ever happening again was by banding together

and forming a closely integrated union.

The idea was that if the European economies all depended on each other theyd be unlikely

to start another war.

The ultimate expression of this integration is, of course, the Euro, but before the single

currency was introduced in 1999, Europe had another system to manage its currencies.

Back in 1979, the countries of the European Community werent ready to give up their

national currencies just yet, but they did agree to link them all together at a fixed

rate, effectively removing the exchange rate fluctuations you usually have to consider

when doing business across borders.

This new system, known as the Exchange Rate Mechanism or ERM, sounded good on paper and

did make things easier for a lot of people, but it also made the national banks of these

countries very vulnerable.

You see, people buy currencies every day in vast volumes to fund imports or exports and

these transactions have a significant effect on the actual exchange rate you can get from

the market.

So once a country became a part of the ERM, it had to constantly monitor the markets and

intervene if their exchange rate started to deviate too much.

If too many people were buying, the national bank would start to sell and if everyone was

selling, it would go in to buy.

Without going into too much detail, the ERM was flawed because every country is unique:

it has to constantly balance interest rates, inflation and economic growth, which it cannot

do if its currency is artificially chained to others.

Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister of the UK at the time, understood this very well,

which is why she opposed it and why Britain wasnt a part of the ERM when it first began.

However, as the British economy worsened towards the end of the 1980s, Thatchers eurosceptics

lost ground to the more pro-European members of the Conservative Party.

By October 1990 Thatchers power had diminished so much that Britain joined the ERM despite

her opposition, thanks to the political power of John Major, the Chancellor of the Exchequer

at the time.

Less than a month later, Thatcher had resigned and Major was selected as prime minister,

hailing the ERM as his victory.

All my adult live Ive seen British governments driven off their virtuous pursuit of low inflation

by market problems or political problems.

I was under no illusions when I took Britain into the Exchange Rate Mechanism.

I said at the time that membership was no soft option.

The soft option, the devaluous option, the inflationary option, in my judgement that

would be a betrayal of our future at this moment and I tell you categorically: that

is not your governments policy.

But while November 1990 might have been the start of a very successful political career

for John Major, it was just the beginning of Britains economic problems.

You see, when the UK joined the ERM, it was already in a recession.

Now, when an economy is in a recession the central bank, in this case the Bank of England

wants to cut interest rates to prop things up, but because of the ERM it could no longer

do that.

The British pound was already a very weak currency, with the UKs inflation rate being

three times higher than Germanys.

If the Bank of England cut rates, it would help the British economy, but it would devalue

the pound so much that Britain would have to leave the ERM, which of course John Major

would never allow.

And so between 1990 and 1992 the British economy suffered.

Of course, just keeping interest rates high wasnt enough to maintain the pounds

value and so throughout these two years the Bank of England would frequently go to the

market and start buying up pounds by the millions, using up its foreign exchange reserves in

the process.

Even that didnt really help though, since the pound continuously weakened during this

time, just barely within the limits of the ERM.

Pretty much every currency speculator understood that eventually the British pound would have

to devalue, but the billion-dollar question was, when would that happen and the man with

the answer was George Soros.

He had been running his hedge fund since the 1970s and his specialty was predicting and

sometimes forcing the catalysts to big market events.

He knew that almost everyone was ready to bet against the British pound if only there

was some sort of bad news that could trigger a stampede big enough to overwhelm the Bank

of England.

Starting in August 1992, Soros and his fund began building a position against the pound

and heres how he did it.

Hed go to a big bank or another hedge fund and hed borrow pounds from them, with the

promise of repaying them with some interest on top.

Then, hed go to the foreign exchange market and hed sell those borrowed pounds to buy

G You can expect my next video two weeks from

now, and until then: stay smart.erman marks instead, the idea being that when the exchange

rate drops hed be able to buy back those pounds cheaper, earning the difference as


By the end of August Soros had slowly built up a position equivalent to $1.5 billion dollars

against the pound, but the exchange rate had barely moved.

He needed some sort of news to really start increasing his position and luckily for him,

on September 16th the President of the Bundesbank held a seemingly innocent interview that Soros

could nevertheless use.

The Bundesbank President said that hedoesnt rule out that some currencies might come under

pressure,” which in and of itself is a very vague and unconvincing statement, but Soros

decided that it was good enough for him.

That same night, while Europe was fast asleep, Soros called up any international bank or

company or really anyone that had British pounds and he tried to borrow them with great


By the time the British woke up, Soros had sold the equivalent of $10 billion worth of

pounds on the open market.

Unsurprisingly, the Bank of England was in complete chaos.

After an emergency meeting with John Major, the Chancellor of the Exchequer began a desperate


At 8:40 AM on September 17th, he authorized the purchase of one billion pounds from the

market to no effect.

By 9 AM he had purchased another two billion pounds, at which point he dialed John Major

again to request permission to increase the interest rate, which of course because Britain

was in a recession would be devastating to the economy.

Initially, John Major refused because he thought it would be political suicide, but as Soros

and the global currency market continued selling pounds, by 11 AM Major conceded and Britain

made a surprise announcement that it was increasing its interest rates by two percent, which is

a very big increase.

By the end of the day, Britain had purchased 27 billion pounds and had increased its interest

rate a second time to 15%, but just Soros alone had sold about half as many pounds and

by that point the entire world was following suit.

At 7:30 PM the British government accepted defeat with the following news conference.

A unique day in Londons financial markets ended with the Chancellor announcing that

the pound was being suspended from the ERM and that the second of two dramatic interest

rate rises during the day was after all cancelled.

Today has been an extremely difficult and turbulent day.

Massive speculative flows continued to disrupt the functioning of the Exchange Rate Mechanism.

As chairman of the Council of European Finance Ministers I have called a meeting of the Monetary

Committee in Brussels urgently tonight to consider how stability can be restored to

the foreign exchange markets.

In the meantime, the government has concluded that Britains best interests are served

by suspending our membership of the Exchange Rate Mechanism.

Over the next few days, as the foreign exchange markets were left to their own devices, the

British pound fell by 15% against the German mark and by 25% against the US dollar.

Soros and his fund pocketed a nice $1 billion from their trade, while the estimated cost

to the British taxpayer was over 3 billion pounds.

Heres the funny thing though: in the aftermath of Black Wednesday, as they called it, the

Bank of England was once again free to control the British pound, which it did and over the

next few years it steadily cut interest rates and actually restored the British economy

to high levels of growth.

By 1997 the British pound was actually more valuable than it had been during the ERM and

the UK was on its way to 16 consecutive years of economic expansion, so much so, that some

people actually call that day White Wednesday.

So in the end, Soros mightve actually done the British a favor, even though he pocketed

about $15 for every man, woman and child in Great Britain.

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