Personal Finance

What's George Soros Telling Us About Buying Biotech?

Billionaire investing legend George Soros has never been afraid of buying individual biotech stocks, but last quarter he picked up shares in the Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (NASDAQ: IBB) , an ETF that invests in 190 different biotech stocks. Soros' purchase of this ETF may signal that the whole industry is on sale.

In this clip from The Motley Fool's Industry Focus: Healthcare podcast, healthcare analyst Kristine Harjes and contributor Todd Campbell discuss Soros' decision and what it may mean about the industry.

A transcript follows the video.

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This podcast was recorded on June 1, 2016.

Kristine Harjes: As you've mentioned to me in the past, it is a really good way to generate potential investing ideas. Maybe companies that you hadn't heard of before, or had fallen off your radar. With that in mind, let's take another look at Soros. This past 13F revealed a purchase in the last quarter of Gilead Sciences and Novavax , and also the IBB, which is a healthcare biotech ETF.

Todd Campbell: We've been following Soros a lot. There's some great content available on where you can look at it and see what he's doing quarter to quarter. I think if you look at a history lesson and follow that activity, you see that Soros is not afraid of owning biotechnology stocks and taking on that risk. More recently, though, he's been paring some of his exposure to individual biotech companies back. He's been less likely to go out and own some of these things. Yet he's still very intrigued by the industry overall. And who can blame him? Biotechnology stocks offer some of the most enticing potential returns. Biotech, as an industry, has absolutely been clobbered in the last six months.

If you look at his purchase of the IBB, which is the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index ETF, as a way of him saying, "I can get exposure to 190 stocks--"

Harjes: Wait. What I don't understand here is, this is a guy who is a specialist investor who knows biotech, has been investing in biotech forever, and is basically admitting defeat. It's like he saying, "No, I don't want to have all these smaller biopharma positions, let me just buy the broader index," which, for a lot of people, that makes sense -- get the exposure without the risk. But that doesn't seem like Soros to me.

Campbell: It's not very Soros-like, is it? Normally, he'll go out and make specific bets. In this case, it's almost like he said, "You know what? Everything got so beat up that I'm just going to buy everything."

Harjes: Yeah, it's like a white flag or something. But I will point out, he did have one smaller buy in the biotech world, and that was Novavax.

Campbell: Right, which is really interesting, because this is a company that's working on a vaccine for a respiratory virus that's really common in infants and the elderly. Phase 3 data for this vaccine could be available before the end of the year. The company just got fast-track status for that vaccine. If those trial results are good, theoretically, this vaccine could hit the market next year.

Harjes: That seems fairly promising. It's at least an intriguing company name to keep looking into.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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