More Fund Managers Snatching Up Bargains

Money has been flowing out of mutual funds at an incredible rate in the past year, but three well-known fund managers see opportunity in the flight from stocks, BusinessWeek’s Tara Kalwarski writes. Kalwarski interviewed John Rogers of Ariel Fund, David Herro of Oakmark International Fund, and Tom Marsico of Marsico Focus Fund, and found that all are responding to big losses last year by doing quite a bit of bargain hunting right now.

Rogers’ fund is worth half of what it was a year ago, but he has a track record of emerging strong from crises; in the year after the 1987 crash, his fund nearly doubled the S&P 500 return. Now, he says the stocks his fund owns are trading at a 55% discount to private market value — the biggest discount he’s ever seen. Rogers likes beaten down financial, consumer, and media stocks, according to Kalwarski, who adds that Rogers is lightening up on expensive stocks to buy better bargains.

Herro’s fund has also been beaten up in the past year or two, but he’s also loading up on bargains now. Kalwarski says Herro is focusing on companies that will emerge from the crisis with greater market share: “The way to make money, he says, is on a stock-by-stock basis, with companies that have strong balance sheets and proven business models.” Two he mentions are BMW and LVMH.

Marsico says stocks are as cheap as he’s seen in his three decades in the financial world. He likes big companies that have major market share in industries with high barriers to entry, like McDonald’s, Kalwarski writes, noting that all three managers’ picks are longer term plays.

Perhaps the most interesting comment in Kalwarski’s piece comes not from the fund managers she interviewed, but from Russel Kinnel, director of mutual fund research at Morningstar: “Many managers expect a horrible one to two years, says [Kinnel]. But, he adds: ‘Even the most skeptical, bearish managers are saying this is one of the best buying opportunities they’ve ever seen.”