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Fund Times: A Socially Responsible Fund Shop Sells Out

Plus, manager moves, changes at PIMCO, and more.

Morningstar Analysts, 11/19/2007

Sentinel Investments, advisor to the Sentinel funds, said on Wednesday it would buy Citizens Funds, a socially responsible fund shop founded in 1992. Sentinel, which has not had any socially responsible funds in its lineup until now, plans to create two new funds which will adopt the social screening process and proxy voting guidelines of the Citizens funds. Large-cap offering Sentinel Responsible Investing Core Opportunities will absorb Citizens Core Growth WAIDX and Citizens Value MYPVX, while mid-cap fund Sentinel Responsible Investing Emerging Companies will absorb Citizens Emerging Growth WAEGX and Citizens Small Cap Core Growth CSCSX. The other four Citizens funds will merge into existing Sentinel funds. The new funds are expected to be managed by Dan Manion of Sentinel Common Stock SENCX and Paul Kandel of Sentinel Mid Cap Growth SNTNX and will be cheaper than the existing Citizens funds--A shares will cost 1.16% for Core Opportunities and 1.25% for Emerging Companies.

Longtime Manager Leaves Torray Fund
Douglas Eby is leaving large-blend Torray Fund TORYX to focus on his own institutional asset-management business. Eby has been this fund's comanager since 1992 alongside founder Bob Torray. While shareholders remain in good hands with Torray still at the helm, it'd be a stretch to say this isn't a loss for the fund: Eby and Torray's temperaments complemented each other well. Both dig in to assess stocks that others think have lost a step--newspaper companies are one such example--and neither can stand losing money. Thus, a significant reason for the fund's above-average long-term record is that this team preserved capital much better in the last bear market. All in all, this fund remains a suitable core holding.

PIMCO Raises Ceiling on Emerging-Markets Exposure
Bond-giant PIMCO has modified prospectus rules for seven funds to allow their managers more flexibility to own emerging-markets debt. The change raises the emerging-markets caps from 10% of assets to 15% of assets on funds such as PIMCO Global Bond PADMX and PIMCO Foreign Bond PFUAX and their hedged siblings. It also raises the caps of some domestic-focused funds, such as PIMCO High-Yield PHDAX, though that fund currently holds less than 5% of assets in foreign bonds. The changes don't concern us, especially because PIMCO emerging-markets guru Michael Gomez is likely to assist these funds' managers with any ventures into developing economies.

Longleaf Reopens Large-Blend Fund, Sort Of
Citing compelling new opportunities to buy stocks at less than 60% of their fair value estimates, the managers of Longleaf Partners LLPFX have reopened the fund to current shareholders. In a letter to shareholders, Mason Hawkins and Staley Cates--Morningstar's 2006 Domestic-Equity Fund Managers of the Year--outline a plan to reduce the portfolio's average price multiple by buying up to $2 billion worth of a handful of stocks they believe are great bargains. They also argue this action will set the stage for the next decade's worth of returns without requiring them to sell other stocks they believe are still underpriced. Should Longleaf fail to raise $2 billion in capital from current shareholders, it plans to open the fund for a limited time to new investors.

Aston to Reopen One of 2006's Best Funds
Aston/River Road Small Cap Value ARSVX will reopen to new investors on a limited basis beginning Dec. 1. The advisor will allow purchases via registered investment advisors and retirement plans, the main channels through which this fund has traditionally been sold. Aston initially closed the offering after a great 2006--the fund finished ahead of every other small-value rival with a 30.8% gain--to prevent an avalanche of inflows. The fund currently has $300 million in assets. For those seeking access to small-cap fund that has potential, this looks to be a good opportunity.

Northern Trust Plans a Slew of Thinly Sliced ETFs
Northern Trust is the latest entrant in the growing-like-gangbusters ETF market, with its new NETS-brand funds. The firm filed to launch 19 foreign-stock-focused ETFs, most of which will cover single-country indexes ranging from Malaysia to Ireland and many countries in between. Some of the funds, such as that focused on Belgium, will track as few as 20 stocks. Northern Trust has yet to announce these funds' expense ratios.

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