Fund Times: 16 - 20 March

BlackRock’s Birch to take sabbatical; Barclays’ iShares up for grabs; Fund mergers at Rathbone; River & Mercantile poach O’Reilly from Newton; Steer to replace Paterson on Artemis UK Growth; Morningstar qualitative ratings and reports issued this week.

Muna Abu-Habsa 20 March, 2009 | 2:36PM
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BlackRock’s Birch to take sabbatical
BlackRock veteran Graham Birch will be going on sabbatical next month to the end of the year. Birch heads the firm’s natural resources team and has been at the firm for 15 years. Currently under his helm are BGF World Gold , Blackrock Gold and Generaland investment trust Blackrock World Mining Trust. Evy Hambro, who manages BGF World

Mining and is comanager on World Gold and World Mining Trust will take over all four offerings during Birch’s leave. Hambro joined Merrill Lynch Investment Management in 1994 (MLIM merged into Blackrock, Inc in 2007) and has been managing natural resources mandates since 1997. He has a tough act to follow as Birch’s Gold and General fund has produced stellar returns over the last 3, 5 and 10 years. However, Hambro boasts an equally strong record on board BGF World Mining. The fund’s returns fall in the top quartile over the last 3 and 5 years and reside in the top percentile over the last 10 years, with annualised returns at 18.4% per year.

Barclays’ iShares up for grabs
Barclays stunned the ETF (exchange-traded funds) community this week by announcing that it is considering the sale of all or part of its iShares division in order to raise up to £4 billion in much-needed cash. We don't think that a sale would have an immediate effect on the ETFs currently supported by iShares. iShares creates, markets, and administers the funds upon their release, but it is not the market maker or clearing house for these ETFs. That happens on the exchanges. Overall, we feel confident that the unit is easily detachable from the bigger Barclays organisation. You can read more about this here.

Fund mergers at Rathbone
Rathbone Unit Trust Management has this week announced its plans to merge Rathbone Special Situations into Rathbone Smaller Companies. The fund will then be given a new objective and renamed Rathbone Recovery. We aren't that keen on either of the funds being merged (you can see our qualitative rating and report on Rathbone Smaller Companies here) but the relaunch does smack a bit of marketing given current conditions, and it's unclear that investors in Marina Bond's small-cap growth fund need or want an all-cap fund investing in a recovery theme. They may prefer to sell up and go elsewhere for small-cap exposure. Standard Life also launched a UK Equity Recovery fund last week.

The firm will also merge Rathbone High Income into its newly renamed Rathbone Blue Chip Income and Growth fund. Rathbone High Income has a short track record which limits a meaningful assessment of performance. Blue Chip Income and Growth has been managed by Julian Chillingworth since August 2002, and over his tenure the fund has delivered 3.6% per year annualised versus a 1.7% for the Morningstar UK Large-Cap Value Equity category norm. The fund’s volatility was also in line with the average for the category.

River & Mercantile poach O’Reilly from Newton
Newton’s Alex O’Reilly will be joining River & Mercantile Asset Management. This follows last week’s announcement that Alex Stanic, also of Newton, will be joining the firm as head of global equities. River & Mercantile was founded in 2006 and launched a UK equities division which to-date runs six strategies: UK Equity, UK Equity High Alpha, UK Unconstrained, UK Smaller Companies, UK Long Term Recovery and UK Equity Income). The hires are in line with the firm’s plans to extend its line-up into global equities this year.

Steer to replace Paterson on Artemis UK Growth
Tim Steer will be taking over Artemis UK Growth from Adrian Paterson when he joins the firm this year. Steer is currently at New Star running New Star UK Alpha and UK Gemini hedge fund, but will be leaving to Artemis at the completion of the Henderson acquisition next month. Paterson has run UK Growth since September 2002, however, returns over his tenure have fallen short of the fund’s FTSE All Share benchmark. You can view our current rating of the fund and read the full rating report here.

Morningstar qualitative ratings and reports issued this week
Morningstar issued new qualitative ratings and reports on a number of funds available to UK investors this week, including Fidelity Funds – Global Industrials, Legg Mason US Equity and First State Global Growth. Click here to see the full list.

The information contained within is for educational and informational purposes ONLY. It is not intended nor should it be considered an invitation or inducement to buy or sell a security or securities noted within nor should it be viewed as a communication intended to persuade or incite you to buy or sell security or securities noted within. Any commentary provided is the opinion of the author and should not be considered a personalised recommendation. The information contained within should not be a person's sole basis for making an investment decision. Please contact your financial professional before making an investment decision.

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About Author

Muna Abu-Habsa  is a senior investment research analyst at Morningstar

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