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Fund Times: Big Changes Coming for a Former Analyst Pick

Plus, BlackRock fund to close, Evergreen manager retiring, and more.

Morningstar Analysts, 06/18/2007

Eaton Vance Utilities EVTMX will soon have a new name and a new look. The firm plans to change this fund in mid-August into a diversified dividend fund named Dividend Builder. It will own stocks in other industries and may also put up to 20% of assets in fixed-income securities. Many other utilities-focused funds have gone the same route in recent years. Shareholders here have reason to be disappointed: This fund was formerly an Analyst Pick in the utilities category because we admired its low fees and its experienced, successful manager, Judy Saryan. 

Successful BlackRock Fund to Close Soon
Investors will soon be out another strong sector fund, but for good reason. BlackRock Health Sciences Opportunities SHSAX will close to investors on July 1. Manager Erin Xie is worried that her high-turnover, multicap strategy will be difficult to execute well if strong asset inflows continue. Specifically, she believes it could hinder the fund's ability to buy small- and mid-cap stocks, which have helped the fund to a top-decile performance among health-care rivals over the past five years.

Veteran Manager Retires from Evergreen
Evergreen International Equity
EKZAX has lost its longtime manager. Gilman Gunn retired earlier this month and was replaced by Francis Claro of the more-aggressive Evergreen Global Opportunities EKGAX. International Equity's older B shares enjoyed a 10-year annualized gain of 8.7% under Gunn, besting 80% of foreign large-blend rivals. That success was due in large part to Gunn's conservative style, which protected capital better than most during foreign large-blend stocks' last bear market. Claro ran Global Opportunities in a more aggressive style, but he has outpaced the world-stock category by a significant margin since joining Global Opportunities more than seven years ago. Investors should consider whether International Equity is still right for their portfolios, given Claro's higher risk tolerance.

More Upheaval in Store for Oppenheimer
Just two weeks after OppenheimerFunds veteran Bill Wilby announced his retirement from Oppenheimer Capital Appreciation OPTFX, more changes are in store for this family's equity fund lineup. David Poiesz, leader of Oppenheimer's growth investing team and manager of Oppenheimer Growth OPPSX, and John O'Hare, manager of Oppenheimer MidCap OMDAX, are leaving the firm. Also departing are three analysts with whom they worked closely.

Marc Baylin, who has comanaged Capital Appreciation with Wilby since late 2005, will now run that fund solo and take the reins at Oppenheimer Growth and two other funds as well. Richard Royce takes over the MidCap fund, after joining the firm from JP Morgan JPM about one month ago. He'll manage the fund more aggressively than O'Hare, whose growth-at-a-reasonable-price strategy hadn't fared well in recent years. Neil McCarthy will oversee all growth investing at Oppenheimer.

Newest Calvert Fund Now in Business
Calvert Global Alternative Energy
fund is now available. Managed out of Dublin, Ireland, by KBC Asset Management International's Jens Peers and Treasa Ni Chonghaile, its socially responsible mandate focuses on renewable energy providers and companies developing renewable energy technologies. For investors interested in funds with this type of theme, we'd look elsewhere. This fund's expense ratio of 1.85% is too steep.PAGEBREAK

Aston Plan Liquidation of High-Yield Fund
Aston/ABN Amro High Yield Bond
AHBNX will liquidate on June 18. After four years in the business, it had drawn only $22 million in assets, and its trailing three-year return lagged more than 80% of rivals. Shareholders will have two good options to pursue on their own: Seek an inexpensive high-yield alternative with a proven manager, or shift assets into more a more-conservative bond fund in an investment-grade category, as junk bond funds have rallied strongly in recent years.

Vanguard Adds Subadvisor
Vanguard has added a seventh subadvisor, AXA Rosenberg Investment Management, to the gang of firms running its Vanguard Explorer VEXPX small-cap growth fund. The firm also gave AXA Rosenberg half of Vanguard U.S. Value's VUVLX portfolio to run.

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