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Soros takes €70m stake in Fanning's San Leon

Legendary billionaire investor George Soros has taken a 22.6 per cent stake in Oisin Fanning's listed resources company San Leon Energy.

San Leon's share price has doubled since late November and the AIM-listed company is now valued at more than €300m. Fanning owns a 7.5 per cent stake in the gas and oil firm, which is worth more than €23m.

Giant investment group Blackrock also owns a 10 per cent stake in the company, with blue chip investors also buying in during a hugely oversubscribed €70m share placing last year.

It is understood that San Leon made a pitch to the Soros Group in New York late last year. Following the fund raising, Soros continued to buy shares on the open market, bringing its share up to 22.6 per cent last week.

The Soros deal, through the billionaire's Quantum fund, marks an extraordinary turnaround in the fortunes of Fanning. Two years ago, the businessman was fighting to keep hold of his Kildare home as Anglo sought to repossess it over €8.6m in loans he had taken out to fund an investment in his company, Smart Telecom.

Fanning was ousted from Smart when investor Brendan Murtagh took control of the company. Smart subsequently imploded after a debt crisis. It wasn't the first time Fanning had found himself jobless, as he had headed up stockbroking firm MMI, which went into liquidation in 1998.

But the "comeback kid" dusted himself down after Smart, set up San Leon and floated the company on London's AIM market in 2008, before launching a series of lightning acquisitions to bulk up the firm.

San Leon now has major gas and gas shale interests in Morocco and Poland. The company is planning to use the bulk of the €70m raised to fund a major drilling programme.

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