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Nominees for International-Stock Fund Manager of the Year

This year's list contains the 1998 and 2008 winners of the award. 

Gregg Wolper, 12/14/2012

In Thursday's column, the nominees for Morningstar's Domestic-Stock Fund Manager of the Year were unveiled. Next up are the nominees for International-Stock Fund Manager of the Year.

As with the awards for the other fund areas, these nominations not only reflect performance and portfolio decisions in 2012 but also consider long-term records. We want to reward managers who not only had topnotch returns this year, but who have demonstrated their abilities over time as well. In addition, we considered not just the managers' largest fund but others that they run too, when applicable. 

The Fixed-Income Fund Manager of the Year nominees will be posted on Monday, Dec. 17, followed by the Alternatives and Allocation categories on Tuesday, Dec. 18, and Wednesday, Dec. 19, respectively. All of the winners will be announced in the first week of January.

There are four nominees for 2012 International-Stock Fund Manager of the Year. In alphabetical order, they are:

George Evans of Oppenheimer International Growth OIGAX
Year-to-Date Return Through Dec. 12, 2012: 20.3%
Category Rank (Percentile): 15

Evans looks for companies with promising five-year growth prospects and tends to hang onto them: The fund's annual turnover rate is typically around 20%. He's willing to buy plenty of small- and mid-cap companies along with the big ones, and that flexibility has helped the fund over the years. In 2012, the fund has benefited from the huge gains posted by a diverse group of picks, including Europe-based giants such as SAP SAPDiageo DEO, Inditex, and Roche RHHBY, as well as lesser-known companies such as United Kingdom industrial firm Bunzl and Spain-based medical-products company Grifols. These stocks also outperformed during 2011's downturn, helping the fund land in the top quartile that year.

Evans usually has the bulk of the fund invested in the industrials, technology, consumer, and health-care sectors, and that can hold it back in rallies driven by financials and commodity-related fare. But his patient process paired with strong stock-picking have delivered over the long haul. Since its March 1996 inception, the fund has outpaced its typical rival and the MSCI EAFE Index by healthy margins.

Rajiv Jain, Virtus Foreign Opportunities JVIAX (YTD return: 21.1%; rank: 8)
and Virtus Emerging Markets Opp. HEMZX (YTD return: 19.2%; rank: 18)

Jain, who works for subadvisor Vontobel Asset Management, is an unconventional manager whose portfolios don't look much like those of indexes or his peers. Although he favors growth companies, and his funds' portfolios lie deep in the large-growth corner of the Morningstar Style Box, he tries to take a careful approach to this strategy. He wants steady growers with dominant positions in their fields rather than the most rapid growers, for example. He also wants to see straightforward, understandable business plans. He has found many of his picks in the tobacco and food-and-beverage industries, and his weighting in India has been much higher than average. By contrast, he's been very light in Japan and China.

In 2012, Jain's funds have benefited from an absence of stocks suffering significant losses (outside of a few mining companies) as much as the presence of big winners. Certainly, investor preference for defensive types of companies helped the funds' returns for much of this year, given Jain's giant consumer-goods stakes, but his addition of some exposure to European banks also paid off later in the year. More important, these funds also have outperformed in other environments. They do lag, though, when investors are more willing to accept risk and to own less financially stable companies.

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

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