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Why Does Artisan Have Three Separate Global-Stock Funds?

This trio is worth a closer look.

Gregg Wolper, 09/11/2012

The Artisan fund family offers only 12 mutual funds. Interestingly, three of them are global-equity funds, meaning the portfolios contain stocks from around the world, including the United States. What might appear as redundancy, though, is actually variety. The three funds--Artisan Global Equity ARTHX, Artisan Global Opportunities ARTRX, and Artisan Global Value ARTGX--are run by three different teams using strategies that are quite distinct from one another.

With that in mind, it's surprising that two of these funds are at the very top of the category so far this year, and the other also lands in the top third. More typically, when one approach is in favor, different styles can struggle. So, what's going on here?

Artisan's business model explains why the funds follow markedly different strategies. The firm has distinct investment teams, often in different locations, and leaves them alone to manage in their own way. Below, we look at each one in more depth.

Artisan Global Equity ARTHX
Artisan Global Equity, which came out in March 2010, is run by lead manager Barry Dargan along with Mark Yockey. Although the fund is young, the managers have plenty of experience. Before joining Artisan, Dargan ran MFS International Growth MGRAX, racking up a strong record from 2001 to 2010. Meanwhile, Yockey has been managing the successful Artisan International ARTIX and Artisan International Small Cap ARTJX offerings since their inceptions in 1995 and 2001, respectively.

Artisan Global Equity's portfolio lands in the large-growth section of the Morningstar Style Box, which is no surprise. Dargan's MFS fund landed there throughout his tenure, and Yockey's funds have bounced between the large-blend and large-growth boxes. (They're currently in the latter area.) What's most noticeable is a decided sector tilt. In the most recent portfolio, Dargan and Yockey are heavily overweighting consumer-defensive stocks, with 28% of assets in that sector versus 12% for the MSCI World Index. Conversely, they have an underweighting in the technology sector (8% of assets versus 15% in the index).

The fund is enjoying a tremendous 2012 so far. It has gained 22.8% through Sept. 7, the second-best showing in the world-stock category. This result illustrates how it can sometimes be misleading to explain performance by citing sector-based factors, for in general, technology and consumer-defensive names have neither strongly outperformed nor lagged this year. Rather, the fund's showing owes to the sharp climbs of a number of individual choices, including well-known holdings such as Nestle and Walt Disney DIS as well as a few more-unusual companies such as Japanese food maker Calbee. The fund has also had very few losers this year.

Although the fund also outperformed, to a lesser extent, in its first calendar year of 2011, investors have yet to notice. It has just $14 million in assets.

Artisan Global Opportunities ARTRX
Artisan Global Opportunities, launched in September 2008, isn't the youngest of the three Artisan global funds, at least on the surface. But its history as an avowedly global fund is brief. Only in January 2011 did it replace its U.S.-focused benchmark with the globally oriented MSCI All Country World Index, and not until May 2012 did the former Artisan Growth Opportunities change its name to reflect its growing tilt toward foreign stocks in the portfolio.

Gregg Wolper is an editorial director and senior mutual-fund analyst at Morningstar.

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