Virtus closes its emerging-markets opportunities fund to new investors, Franklin closes its remaining insured muni funds to new investors, and a high-ranking executive leaves Vanguard.
On Jan. 2, Southeastern Asset Management rolled out its first U.S. open-end fund since 1998 and its first global mutual fund ever available in the United States. The new fund is Longleaf Global LLGLX, a concentrated fund that invests at least 40% of its assets outside the U.S. A version of the strategy already is available in Europe.
Mason Hawkins and Staley Cates, who received Morningstar's Domestic-Stock Fund Manager of the Year award in 2006, manage the fund. Like other Longleaf funds, the portfolio targets holding between 15 and 25 companies. The fund will have an unconstrained portfolio that invests in companies of all market capitalizations and geographies. Its expense ratio is capped at 1.65%.
Sibling funds Longleaf Partners LLPFX and Longleaf Partners Small-Cap LLSCX receive Morningstar Analyst Ratings of Gold while Longleaf Partners International LLINX is rated Bronze.
Quant Leader Departs Vanguard
Vanguard announced that the firm's principal and head of equities, Sandip Bhagat, will be leaving the firm to pursue other interests. Bhagat, 52, joined Vanguard's quantitative equity team from Morgan Stanley in January 2009 when he was recruited by Vanguard's then-chief investment officer Gus Sauter (Sauter has recently retired from the firm, as previously announced). No replacement has been announced yet for Bhagat.
Virtus Emerging Markets Opportunities Closes After Strong Inflows
Virtus announced it will close Virtus Emerging Markets Opportunities HEMZX to new investors on Feb. 1. The Silver-rated fund has collected strong inflows in recent years, ending 2012 with more than $6.8 billion in assets. Manager Rajiv Jain was named Morningstar International-Stock Fund Manager of the Year for 2012, following a superb year driven in large part by strong stock-picking in India. In three of the past five calendar years the fund has outpaced more than 95% of its peers (it landed in the bottom decile of its category for 2009, despite a 48% return for the year, and placed in the top half of the category in 2011).
Franklin Closes Insured Muni Funds
Franklin Templeton has announced that it will be closing its two remaining insured muni funds, Franklin Insured Tax-Free Income FTFIX and Franklin California Insured Tax-Free Income FRCIX. The funds will close to new investors on Jan. 18 and to additional investments from existing shareholders on March 1.
The company has not said what it has in mind next for the two funds, which are among the very last insured muni strategies still on the market. It already merged two other insured muni portfolios, a Florida and a New York fund, into existing offerings in 2008 and 2010, respectively.
The challenges of running a successful insured muni portfolio have multiplied since the 2008 financial crisis, which felled all but one of the market's seven major bond insurers and sapped public confidence in the value of muni insurance. With Assured Guarantee the only insurer left in town, sourcing insured bonds is increasingly difficult; the fraction of new muni issuance sporting an insurance wrapper has shrunk to roughly 5% from more than 50% in precrisis days. Besides the two Franklin funds, Morningstar's database lists just one other insured muni strategy left on the market--the $8 million Shelton California Insured Intermediate CATFX.
For fans of these funds wondering where to turn next, there should be some comfort in knowing that the teams behind them also run several highly rated, noninsured strategies: Franklin Federal Intermediate-Term Tax/Free Income FKITX carries a Morningstar Analyst Rating of Silver, while Franklin California Tax-Free Income FKTFX sports a Bronze.
Calamos Growth & Income Reopens
Bronze-rated Calamos Growth & Income CVTRX has reopened to new investors. Despite a lackluster return in 2012, the fund has a strong long-term record, beating 99% of its peers during the trailing 15-year period through December 2012. In August 2012, Calamos announced that lead manager and firm co-CIO Nick Calamos would be leaving the firm. Gary Black, former Janus CIO, joined the management team as his replacement.
Scout Manager Departs Fund
Larry Valencia will be removed as comanager on Scout Stock UMBSX effective Jan. 31. James Reed will continue to lead the fund.
ASTON/River Road Fund Announces Soft Close, Again
Effective Jan. 18, ASTON/River Road Independent Value ARVIX will close to new investors. The fund just reopened to new investors last September. The firm decided to close the entire strategy at roughly $1 billion in assets. (As of Monday, Jan. 7, the entire strategy had about $1 billion in assets.) The fund was launched in late 2010 and is managed by Eric Cinnamond, whom River Road hired from Intrepid Capital Management.
Torray Institutional Fund Liquidates
On Dec. 21, the large-blend fund Torray Institutional TORRX liquidated. The fund was the institutional version of the $337 million Torray Fund TORYX, which is a fund that had been covered by Morningstar for more than a decade until recently.
Torray started the Torray Fund in 1991. As mutual funds gained popularity, Torray found that there was demand for a fund that was managed with the same strategy but not expressly for tax-efficient returns. As such, Torray Institutional was managed similarly to the Torray Fund but not identically--the only difference in the prospectus was that Torray Institutional was not required to be managed in a tax-efficient way.
After the departure of a large client comprising the bulk of the fund's assets, Torray Institutional was left with less than $20 million in assets, much of which was employee assets, and the firm decided to liquidate the fund.
Manager Change at Lazard U.S. High Yield
Effective Jan. 2, the $189 million Lazard U.S. High Yield LZHYX replaced J. William Charlton, who had been on the fund since November 2002, with David R. Cleary. Cleary, who has been with Lazard since 1994, is responsible for the oversight of the firm's U.S. fixed-income teams and has been a portfolio manager and analyst on various Lazard portfolio management teams.
Fee Waiver Removed at Virtus Alternatives Diversifier Fund
Effective Jan. 1, Virtus removed the voluntary annual 0.20% expense cap for the $153 million fund of funds mutual fund Virtus Alternatives Diversifier PDPAX.
Management Team Change at DWS Latin America Fund
On Jan. 2, a new portfolio management team took over the $569 million DWS Latin America Equity SLANX. Luiz Ribeiro, Thomas U. Petschnigg, and Danilo Pereira now are running the fund, replacing Rainer Vermehren and Robert Kalin.
Senior fund analysts Gregg Wolper and David Kathman and fund analysts Michelle Canavan, Robert Goldsborough, Shannon Kirwin, Kailin Liu, and Kathryn Spica contributed to this report.