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Fund Times: Doors Closing at Stellar Large-Value Fund

Plus, new offerings from former Citigroup bond star, and more.

Morningstar Analysts, 03/26/2007

Allianz NFJ Dividend Value PNEAX will close to new investors on April 23. Since the fund's late-2001 inception, it has outpaced 94% of its large-value rivals. The fund's four-member management team, now headed by founding partner Ben Fischer after former lead manager Cliff Hoover left for Dreman Value Management, has proven adept at finding cheap, dividend-paying stocks. The fund's returns are also helped along by its low expenses.

On the surface, the fund's closing might appear puzzling; after all, the fund focuses mostly on mega-caps and has a manageable $6.4 billion in assets. However, NFJ runs a little more than $20 billion in this strategy overall. While many firms run a lot more than that, we're pleased to see the managers here take early action to slow asset flows. That helps ensure the fund will stay flexible in years to come.

Ex-Citigroup Manager Plans to Reclaim Old Turf
Stone Harbor Investment Funds, headed by former Citigroup bond manager Peter Wilby, filed to launch two high-yield and emerging-markets bond funds on March 16. The funds will be managed by Wilby and a number of other highly experienced professionals who left Citigroup Asset Management shortly after the firm sold its asset management business to Legg Mason in late 2005. The managers had considerable success running high-yield funds at Citigroup. Wilby's 10 years at Legg Mason Partners Global High-Yield Bond SAHYX (formerly called Salomon Brothers High-Yield Bond) made that fund a long-term top performer in the high-yield category, for example.

Evergreen Fills Open Management Slot
Evergreen Investments named Robert Junkin as managing director and lead portfolio manager of Evergreen Health Care EHABX on March 19. Junkin will succeed Walter McCormick, who acted as an interim manager after long-time skipper Liu-Er Chen bolted to rival Delaware Investments in September 2006. Junkin has some big shoes to fill. The fund posted strong returns under Chen, who had medical training and experience in the medical-devices and pharmaceutical industries. Junkin's previous charges included John Hancock Health Sciences JHGRX and John Hancock Large Cap Equity TAGRX.

Fund Merger at DWS
DWS plans to merge DWS International Equity BTEQX into DWS International SCINX. Shareholders will vote on the consolidation on April 18. Should the merger garner approval, shareholders in the tiny International Equity will benefit from lower expenses in the surviving fund. It remains to be seen whether they'll also benefit from better returns, however. Manager Matthias Knerr, who runs both funds, is relatively inexperienced.

Goldman Sachs Adds Assets by Acquisition
Pending shareholder approval, Goldman Sachs will merge three Signal funds into existing offerings. Signal Large Cap Growth SLLAX will fold into Goldman Sachs Structured Large Cap Growth GLCGX, Signal Income SLAGX into Goldman Sachs Core Fixed-Income GCFIX, and Signal Tax-Exempt Income SLTAX into Goldman Sachs Municipal Income GSMIX. Signal shareholders will vote on the three mergers on April 27. At the very least, the Signal shareholders will be paying less: Each of the three Goldman Sachs funds charges much lower expense ratios.

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