Richard Whittall, fund manager of Save & Prosper Japan Growth fund, has resigned from the group to r...
Richard Whittall, fund manager of Save & Prosper Japan Growth fund, has resigned from the group to run a hedge fund for Boyer Investment Management in London.
Whittall, who has run S&P Japan since 1998, also leaves the running of the JF Japan investment trust.
Joining the group to run both portfolios is Mark Wood, the former executive director of Japanese equities at Talcef Global Asset Management in Hong Kong. Prior to that Wood was head of Japanese equities at HSBC and ran the group's Japan Growth fund and the HSBC GIF Japanese equity fund.
Wood joins at the end of September and as Whittall is leaving at the beginning of the month, Simon Jones, chief investment officer for Jardine Fleming in Tokyo, will run the fund in the interim.
Also joining Flemings is Richard Aston from the Japan desk at Chase Asset Management. He will be based in the London office.
Adam Matthews, product manager for Japan at S&P, said: "Mark's bottom up stockpicking style fits very well with the fund. This is a growth portfolio and it is important to get someone who fits in with that style.
"S&P Japan Growth has developed a reputation as a top performing fund over the 30 years it has been going. The performance has always been there; it is not just the result of one man."
While Matthews said there are no planned changes in the operation of the fund, he did add that alterations have been made already under the direction of Whittall.
While the £542.5m fund has returned 97.6% over three years to 9 August, offer to bid, ranking it third out of 69 funds in the Japan sector, its three month performance has faltered. Over the three months to 9 August the fund fell 17.9% and is ranked 70 out of 79, bid to bid.
Matthews said: "We had a more difficult second quarter because the market direction and sentiment changed towards old Japan and its most heavily indebted sectors such as marine transport. That sector has an industry debt equity ratio of 500, compared with the Topix average of 179. Old Japan is not an area we feel comfortable in."
As such the group has broadened the portfolio and upped the cash weighting to 12%, from 3-5%. S&P Japan Growth typically holds between 45 and 50 stocks but at the moment is running close to 74 in an effort to bring the fund's tracking error more in line with the index. The tracking error, historically at 15%, will be closer to 6-7% looking forward.
Matthews said: "We have reduced our active bets heavily, especially in technology, media and telecom stocks, and rather than buy into the value bounce story we have re-invested more into higher quality blue chip Japan stocks. New Japan is not an area we are abandoning, but we have taken profits from a lot of holdings and built up our cash positions as part of a slightly cautious strategy going forward."
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