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Fund Times

Funds on Warren's Wavelength

Funds that benefited the most from Berkshire's purchase of Burlington Northern, and more.

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A lot of funds can say they invest like the Oracle of Omaha. This week Warren Buffett announced  Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) was buying the 77.4% of  Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation (BNI) that it didn't already own for $100 per share in cash and stock.

Click here for a look at some of the funds that benefited on Tuesday when Burlington shares shot up about 30% on news of the deal.

Obvious winners were funds that track transportation indexes, such as  iShares Dow Jones Transportation Average (IYT), which had 11.2% of its assets in Burlington as of Oct. 31 and advanced 5.31% on Wednesday compared with 0.24% for the S&P 500 Index.

 Davis Real Estate (RPFRX) was an unlikely winner. What's a real estate fund doing with a large stake in a railroad company? Well, Burlington owns about 32,000 miles of rights-of-way running through more than half of the United States. This real estate is very valuable not only to Burlington but also to power and utility companies that often use it.

 Hodges (HDPMX) could have been a bigger winner, too. The father and son management duo of Don and Craig Hodges recently said they started buying railroad companies in 2004 because they thought the companies' increasing pricing power wasn't reflected in their share prices. Burlington is up more than 100% over the past five years while the S&P 500 is flat. Between Sept. 30 and June 30, they had cut their Burlington Northern stake by 40%, but the fund still increased 2.50% on Wednesday.

Here are other funds that may have benefited from the deal. The list includes offerings with more than $100 million in assets, at least a 2% position in Burlington as of recent portfolio disclosures, and a better return than the S&P 500 on Wednesday.

Concentrated Shareholders

Name Portfolio Date % in BNI Return 11/3/09 Total Ret YTD Star Rating ING Corporate Leaders Trust Series (LEXCX) 6/30/09 14.61 4.29 8.57 5 Davis Real Estate (RPFRX) 6/30/09 4.10 2.31 16.34 2 Hodges (HDPMX) 9/30/09 3.28 2.50 22.08 2 Van Kampen Amr Franchise (VAFAX) 6/30/09 2.45 0.64 23.22 4 Liberty Street Horizon (LSHAX) 7/31/09 2.43 1.39 25.85   Vanguard Industrials Index (VINAX) 7/31/09 2.36 1.76 12.76 3 Ave Maria Catholic Values (AVEMX) 9/30/09 2.22 1.34 29.47 3 DFA US Large Cap Value (DFLVX) 7/31/09 2.14 1.38 22.14 2 Tweedy, Browne Value (TWEBX) 9/30/09 2.09 0.41 18.21 4 S&P 500   0.28 0.24 18.25  

Return data as of 11/4/09.

Recent buyers, such as several American funds and  Van Kampen American Franchise (VAFAX), caught the party, too.  Growth Fund of America (AGTHX) is the largest mutual fund shareholder of the company, but its stake barely makes an impact on performance for the $150 billion fund. American Franchise not only has a large stake, it also was one of the biggest buyers.

Funds That Were Buying

Name Portfolio Date % Change % in BNI Return 11/3/09 Total Ret YTD Amer Funds Gr Fund of Amer (AGTHX) 9/30/09 22.82 0.74 0.55 25.98 Amer Funds Inv Co of Amer (AIVSX) 9/30/09 17.48 0.78 0.16 19.33 Eaton Vange Large-Cap Value (EHSTX) 6/30/09 16.28 1.448 0.76 10.87 Amer Funds AMCAP (AMCPX) 9/30/09 21.55 0.43 0.39 29.65 Amer Funds Amr Mutual (AMRMX) 9/30/09 6.10 1.19 0.42 17.28 Van Kampen Amr Franchise (VAFAX) 6/30/09 n/a 2.45 0.64 23.22 S&P 500 TR     0.28 0.24 18.25

Fidelity Puts Analysts in Charge of More Funds
Fidelity is turning  Fidelity Stock Selector (FDSSX) into an analyst-run fund. James Catudal, who recently took over  Fidelity Growth & Income (FGRIX) , is out, and select fund managers Bob Lee and Ben Hesse, who lead the firm's consumer staples and financials coverage, respectively, will replace him. The fund will be sector neutral for the most part, but Chris Sharpe and Geoff Stein have the flexibility to make moderate sector bets.

This theme continues at  Fidelity Small Cap Independence (FDSCX). Richard Thompson remains, but he's being joined by several new managers who will each manage the fund according to their sector specialty. Fidelity rolled out this management structure for the target-date funds earlier in the year. This isn't an analyst-run fund, per se, but it's another example of Fidelity divvying up a fund by sector.

This isn't the first time Fidelity has put sector specialists in control of funds. They installed this setup a few years ago at one of Fidelity's variable annuity portfolios, though with different sector specialists. In 2008, Fidelity put the group in charge of the equity portion of  Fidelity Balanced (FBALX), and more recently, it was given a slice of the Freedom funds.

Fidelity has indicated there would be more examples of this sector-based, team-managed model. While it is too early to declare the era of the eclectic star manager dead at Fidelity, this definitely runs contrary to Fidelity's tradition.

John Hancock Modifies Target-Date Retirement Glide Paths
John Hancock will change the glide path of its target-date funds, according to filings. The biggest change is that the firm is extending the funds' post-retirement glide path. Previously, the funds ended at a static asset mix at their respective retirement date. Now the funds will take another 20 years to reduce their equity weightings. John Hancock also will moderately reduce overall stock exposure beginning with the Lifecycle 2030 fund. Even with these changes, Hancock still has one of the more aggressive glide paths in the industry, said Morningstar senior fund analyst Josh Charlson.

Legendary Internet Fund Gives Up on Internet
 Munder Internet (MNNAX), the largest of the five remaining funds with "Internet" in their name, will be changing its name to Munder Growth Opportunities by January. While the fund's new strategy may broaden its investment options, a substantial chunk of assets will continue to be invested in Internet-related companies. Ever since the fund's assets grew to more than $10 billion back in March 2000, Munder Internet has suffered from outflows nearly every month as the fund has a trailing 10-year loss of 7.5% annualized. The average investor did even worse as assets peaked right when the bubble burst, and the Investor Returns for the trailing 10 years is a brutal negative 14.33%. The four remaining "Internet" labeled funds have less than $100 million in assets under management.

Third Avenue to Offer New Share Classes 
Third Avenue plans to roll out new investor share classes of its existing funds at the beginning of 2010 that will include 12b-1 fees and cost 10 to 20 basis points more than the existing share classes. The new share classes will carry a $2,500 investment minimum, and the existing share classes will have their minimum investment levels raised to $100,000. Existing shareholders will be grandfathered into these new institutional share classes.

Now, Schwab clients can purchase Schwab ETFs with no commissions. Because their ETFs already have some of the lowest fees around, shareholders can now dollar-cost average into some of the most popular indexes at a lower cost than Vanguard or Fidelity mutual fund or ETF shareholders.

Value Line, Inc. (VALU) and the Securities and Exchange Commission have announced that Value Line's previously reported offer to settle an SEC investigation begun in 2005 has been accepted by the Commission. The SEC order is available here, and it details the overcharges paid by mutual fund shareholders on brokerage commissions and also that Value Line deceived the independent directors about the arrangement.

RiskMetrics is buying KLD, a leading provider of socially responsible indexes. KLD indexes are used by numerous SRI mutual funds, including  TIAA-CREF Social Choice Equity (TICRX).

Evergreen has added three portfolio managers to its municipal-bond team. Robert Miller will comanage Evergreen Intermediate Municipal Bond (ESTVX), Evergreen Pennsylvania Municipal Bond (EKVAX), and Evergreen North Carolina Municipal Bond (ENCMX). Lyle Fitterer will comanage  Evergreen Municipal Bond (EKEAX) and Evergreen Short-Intermediate Municipal Bond (EMUAX). Lastly, Stephen Galiani will comanage Evergreen California Municipal Bond (EOCAX).

Kevin Booth joined the management team of RS High Yield Bond (GUHYX).

Alex Peters and Matt Quinlan join the portfolio management team of John Hancock Income (JINAX).

Lee Montag replaces Nick de Peyster as comanager of UBS PACE Large Company Growth Equity (PLAAX).

Aaron Balsam and Andreas Koester are the newest portfolio managers to be added to UBS US Allocation (PWTAX). The other member of the team, Curt Custard, was hired in April 2009.

Jeffrey Geffen replaces Kathleen Bramlage as sole portfolio manager of Value Line Tax-Exempt (VLHYX).

James Welch replaces Douglas Gaylor as primary portfolio manager of Dreyfus Short-Intermediate Municipal Bond (DMBAX).

Michael Crowe is off the management team of Transamerica Partners Small Value (DVSVX).

Kevin Chan is off the management team of JP Morgan China Region (JCHAX).

Shareholders of First American Arizona Tax-Free (FAAZX) are being asked to vote on a merger into  First American Tax-Free (FJNTX).

Neil Robson is no longer a comanager of Pioneer Global Equity (GLOSX), leaving Piergaetano Laccarino as the sole portfolio manager.

Shareholders of Dreyfus Discovery (FDIDX) are being asked to vote on a merger into Dreyfus/The Boston Company Small/Mid Cap Growth (DBMAX).

Director of mutual fund research Russ Kinnel, senior fund analyst Chris Davis, and fund analyst David Falkof contributed to this report.


Ryan Leggio does not own (actual or beneficial) shares in any of the securities mentioned above. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.