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Monday, Nov 11, 2002

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UTI fund managers more vocal

Nilanjan Dey

ONE of the more interesting aspects of the revamped Unit Trust of India is that its fund managers have come out of their shells — a development that has not gone unnoticed in mutual fund circles. UTI personnel are a more visible lot these days, with some of them addressing the media more freely than before.

The situation brings us to gentlemen like Mr Vinay Kulkarni, Mr Manish Kumar, Mr Sanjay Dongre, Mr Sanjay Sinha, Mr K. Ramkumar and Mr V. Suresh, all of whom form part of the UTI fund management team. And they actually have pretty strong views when it comes to investments.

Take, for instance, Mastergain, a scheme managed by Mr Kulkarni, one that invests at least 80 per cent in equity and related instruments. The latest fact-sheet mentions how it is hedged against a falling market, courtesy a nearly 24 per cent exposure to defensive stocks in the FMCG and pharma segments.

"We remain sanguine about the prospects of HPCL and BPCL," investors are told in plain terms. The fund has investments in such diverse areas as "old economy stocks, IT stocks and value stocks". It has also initiated small exposures to hedging tools like index futures at higher market levels.

Mastergrowth (fund manager : Mr Sanjay Sinha) is another case in point. The fund has lately pared its involvement in software. Yet, it feels that the fundamentals of this sector are still "intact". As for PSUs, the plan is to adopt a stock-specific view in the backdrop of disenchantment over sell-off delays.

Or take Masterplus (Mr Sanjay Dongre), which has 75 per cent of its portfolio in the top 25 large-cap stocks that command considerable value. A "most challenging opportunity" before the fund manager comes in the shape of banking stocks, it is pointed out. Witness this: "The banking sector is a clear play on recovery and reforms... reforms are expected to re-rate the entire sector".

The Manish Kumar-managed UGS 10000 is a fund that is focussed on MNCs. It is positive on sectors such as power and pharma, and may benefit from offers for buy-back of shares likely to be made by some multinational engineering companies. Incidentally, consumer products happen to be the single-largest destination for the fund.

On the debt side of the business, it's time for investors to get acquainted to UTI hands like Mr Ramkumar and Mr Suresh, who have to handle a number of schemes, including UTI Bond Fund and UTI Money Market Fund.

According to UTI's data for October, the former manages around Rs 2,320 crore under Bond Fund, G-Sec Fund and Retirement Benefit Unit Plan. The latter supervises Rs 1,200 crore under US 95, Children's Career Plan, Mahila Unit Scheme, Money Market Fund and Regular Income Scheme.

Here is a short take from Mr Suresh's most recent commentary: "We expect the interest rates to remain soft during the next quarter. Investments are being made in a phased manner to take opportunity of the volatility in the markets."

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