It's an old story: a fund does great, finds itself inundated with cash, closes to new investors, doesn't do as well and gets hit by redemptions. Four well-regarded foreign-stock funds that just went through that cycle have reopened to new accounts. All emphasize undervalued companies, and their managers see a lot of buying opportunities. For fund investors, this could be a buying opportunity, too. Expenses are modest, ranging from 1.37% to 1.45%.
Third Avenue International Value gained only 3% in 2007. Adhering to the philosophy of Third Avenue founder Marty Whitman, Amit Wadhwaney targets what he calls "safe and cheap" companies. He loves stocks that are widely out of favor, meaning investors may have to wait three to five years to see his picks translate into superior returns. When the fund (symbol TAVIX) closed almost three years ago, half its assets were in cash. But redemptions lowered the cash portion to 10%. Wadhwaney has high hopes for 2008. "The gumming-up of capital markets historically provides tremendous opportunities," he says.
Oakmark International Small Cap I holds a compact portfolio of 40 to 60 stocks. Last year was a bummer: The fund (OAKEX) lost 8%, hurt by sluggish health-care and media holdings. Now assets are down almost 40% as it reopens. Bear in mind that from 2002 through 2006, the fund produced above-average returns each year.
Its large-company counterpart, Oakmark International (OAKIX), which had been open only to direct investors, fully reopened. It lost 0.5% in 2007. David Herro, who runs International and co-runs Small Cap with Chad Clark, attributes their poor results to holding too many financial stocks and not enough energy companies. "A value investor should be looking at what hasn't done well," he says. "And, as usual, we were a bit early."
More resilient than its peers in the choppy markets of 2007, Tweedy, Browne Global Value earned 8%. The fund (TBGUX) had closed in May 2005 when cash holdings built to 20% of assets because management couldn't find enough attractively priced stocks. The fund buys companies of all sizes and can invest up to 20% of its assets in U.S. stocks. A policy of hedging foreign-currency exposure has limited the fund's recent gains.