What are we looking for?
European equity funds have had a rough ride over the past two years amid the euro zone debt and banking crises. Let’s see the impact on returns over a decade.
We looked for the eight leaders and laggards over the 10 years ended April 30. U.S. dollar, segregated and duplicate versions of funds were excluded.
What did we find?
A tale of two Dublin-based value managers.
Investors Euro Mid-Cap fund, which has largely avoided the troubled European financials, posted an annualized 4.1-per-cent gain. AGF European Equity Class, which once had 50 per cent in financials in recent times, suffered an annual loss of 2.8 per cent.
The Investors fund’s mid-capitalization focus, which would exclude many banks, could explain part of the returns, but not in recent years “where a lot of the banks are now small caps and mid caps,” said Martin Fahey, a manager with the Irish unit of Investors Group Inc.
While he owns Finland’s Pohjola Bank as part of his fund’s 13-per-cent weighting in financials, he has shied away from bargains as the banking crisis spreads to Spain. European equities look oversold, but “if you get more bad news on Greece or Spain, the markets could sell off further,” he said. (His large-cap Investors European Equity fund, which has posted an annual 0.6-per-cent loss over a decade, also has a little more than 13 per cent in financials.)
He tries to own companies that get a big chunk of revenues from outside of Europe. Over a decade, winners in the mid-cap fund have included names like Diploma PLC, Dragon Oil PLC, Société BIC SA and Paddy Power PLC.
Rory Flynn, a manager with AGF Management Ltd.’s value-oriented Irish unit, took over as the lead on AGF European Equity last October from co-manager John Arnold, who retired. Mr. Flynn has cut the fund’s financial exposure to 25 per cent more recently from 50 per cent last fall.
While Mr. Fahey is also a value investor, he prefers to be more “flexible” when choosing stocks. “It’s dangerous to put yourself in a box,” he said. “If one was totally valued focused, over the last three, four or five years, you might have ended up with a massive position in the banks.”