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MFs ride mid-caps to glory

Sunil Nayanar | May 02, 2005

If there is any conclusion to be drawn from the performance of equity mutual funds over the past year, it is this - this is a stock picker's market. The only way to the top is bottom up. Times when funds would blindly select the best scrips in favoured sectors are long passť.

When it comes to picking stocks, funds are looking beyond large-caps. And mid-caps are the pack that rules the roost these days. Interestingly, the way top stocks are shuffled in the portfolios of leading performers signifies one thing - picking stocks in this market is almost as tough as finding a needle in a haystack.

When you look at the top performers for the past 12 months (as on April 20, 2005), you can see that most of them have a huge mid-cap orientation.†

For instance, the top funds in terms of returns include SBI Magnum Global Fund (one-year return of 80.35 per cent), SBI Magnum Sector Umbrella - Contra (62.10 per cent), Reliance Growth Fund (59.26 per cent), Sundaram Select Mid-cap Fund (55.49 per cent), Franklin India Prima Fund (54.02 per cent) and HDFC Capital Builder (50.93 per cent).

Mid-caps have outperformed
Most of these funds have portfolios which are heavily skewed in favour of mid-cap stocks. And when you consider that CNX Midcap 200 Index has by far been the best index performer in terms of returns (66.12 per cent) in the past 12 months, the story becomes clear. For the record, BSE Sensex managed a return of 11.02 per cent.†

How indices fared

Returns in % as on April 26, 2005

Indices

3 months

6 months

1 year

CNX Midcap 200

15.24

44.25

66.12

BSE Cons. Durables

17.83

34.87

57.36

BSE Capital Goods

21.64

37.34

43.65

BSE IT

1.06

4.13

33.41

BSE Teck

0.33

5.87

29.71

BSE Bankex

9.89

40.45

19.25

BSE FMCG

-0.03

22.22

16.17

BSE 500

4.36

16.89

14.96

CNX500

4.07

16.71

14.45

BSE100

2.87

13.42

11.77

BSE200

3.18

14.15

11.13

BSE Sensex

2.87

12.19

11.02

S&P Nifty

1.31

9.88

7.72

BSE-Healthcare

-5.04

-4.1

-0.56

BSE PSU

3.8

15.69

1.54


So fund managers are more addicted to 'the mid-cap mania' than one would expect them. This explains the launch of so many mid-cap funds in the past few months.

The list of funds launched recently includes Kotak Midcap, Magnum Midcap, Sahara Midcap, Chola Midcap, Sundaram SMILE and CanEmerging Equities, apart from HSBC Midcap Equity Fund and ING Vysya Midcap Fund.†

Exposure to CNX Midcap 200

(In %) Scheme

AUM (Rs cr)

5-Mar

4-Dec

4-Mar

Franklin India Bluechip

1650.52

NA

NA

0.15

HSBC Equity Fund

1574.78

8.29

13.8

7.06

UTI Mastershare

1338.6

6.65

5.77

5.61

Franklin India Prima Fund

1320.25

45.58

42.7

26.83

UTI Mastergain 92

1263.05

10.34

6.2

4.69

HDFC Equity Fund

1074.59

21.67

19.4

8.77

Reliance Growth

1036.58

32.57

32.61

13.52

UTI-MEPUS

886.01

4.66

3.81

3.02

HDFC Capital Builder Fund

761.34

29.07

23.41

23.79

UTI Masterplus Unit Scheme 91

668.96

4.42

5.06

2.67

Source: www.mutualfundsindia.com

According to Gaurav Narain, equity fund manager at ING Vysya Mutual Fund, there are many reasons why mid-caps will record stronger growth in the future.

"The size of these companies remains small compared to the opportunity. The average growth of revenue and profit in mid-caps is also likely to be higher, apart from margin expansion opportunities," notes Narain. But what makes mid-caps tick is the lure of superior returns.

"Mid-caps have a higher potential for earning superior returns, through sheer growth of earnings as well as a re-rating of valuations," adds Narain.

Mid-caps are defined differently by funds.

However, they broadly fall in the market cap range of Rs 100 to Rs 3,000 crore (Rs 30 billion). Needless to say, given the vastness of the mid-cap pool, what makes fund schemes stand out is their superior stock-picking ability, which ensures superior returns.

"As far as general markets are concerned, mid-caps have clearly outperformed over the past year," notes Sashi Krishnan, chief executive of Cholamandalam Mutual Fund.

"Keeping that in mind many equity diversified funds have shifted their focus to the mid-cap segment in an effort to boost their returns," he adds.

According to Sandip Sabharwal, head of equities at SBI Mutual Fund, the current tilt towards mid-caps are due to various reasons. "Post-2000, when the markets crashed, the markets became very risk-averse and moved to large-cap stocks in a big way. However, of late we have seen mid-cap counters have become more liquid and companies across market-cap segments have also done well in terms of performance".

A varied universe
A look at the portfolio of leading funds mentioned above reveals one thing - there is no one single route to the top. The portfolios reveal a varied number of stocks which have enabled these funds in their climb to the top.

Most popular stocks

Popularity index*

†Sum of market value (Rs cr)

5-Mar†††

4-Dec

5-Mar

4-Dec

Infosys Technologies

100

100

2482.43

2054.71

State Bank of India

99

98

3204.34

2849.31

Punjab National Bank

98

25

910.29

151.41

Bharat Heavy Electricals

87

91

1331.09

1224.91

Tata Iron & Steel Co

85

85

1397.93

1253.82

Tata Consultancy Services

83

77

1491.42

1311.08

Oil & Natural Gas Corp

78

85

1807.91

1159.24

Associated Cement Companies

77

91

1181.13

1419.83

Reliance Industries

77

87

2200.19

2138

Satyam Computer Services

73

83

1839.01

1325.24

Grasim Industries

69

86

1343.1

1643.51

Hindalco Industries

66

73

1206.77

1253.81

Mahindra & Mahindra

60

81

971.28

1186.73

Tata Motors

59

74

599.25

627.04

ITC

58

83

1146.7

1564.45

Larsen & Toubro

54

52

542.78

469.41

Bharati Tele-Ventures

51

61

460.15

626.62

ICICI Bank

50

48

952.27

598.1

Siemens

39

40†

1033.85†

786.02

Crompton Greaves

26

29

958.54

756.91

Source: www.mutualfundsindia.com

While Birla Midcap has Tata Elxsi, LIC Housing Finance and McDowell & Company as its top holdings, SBI Magnum Global Fund has Arvind Mills, Havells India, KEC International and Thermax among its top holdings.

Meanwhile, Sundaram Select Midcap has backed Balrampur Chini Mills, Lakshmi Machine Works and Bajaj Hindustan as its top three holdings.

Franklin Prima, among the most consistent equity diversified funds, has LIC Housing Finance, Indian Rayon, Eicher Motors and Gujarat Gas Company among its top holdings.

While it can be said that the bull run has largely been on the back of mid-caps, the variation in stock selection does point to the keen stock picking abilities of fund managers.

For example, SBI Magnum Global Fund has textile scrip Arvind Mills as its top holding as per its March, 2005 portfolio. A year ago the stock did not even figure in the portfolio.

While Arvind Mills has stayed as its top holding since December 2004, the fund did some adjustments in its portfolio during the period. The exposure to stocks like Balrampur Chini, KPIT Cummins and United Phosphorus was reduced while there was a hike in holdings of Havell's India, KEC International, Jaiprakash Industries and Mercator Lines.

Birla Midcap Fund has successfully managed to churn its portfolio to stay on top. The fund had FMCG stock Britannia Industries as its top holding 12 months ago, but as of March 2005, its leaning has changed towards Tata Elxsi.†

Stocks where MFs have increased exposure most
Stock

MF holding in (%)

Chg.

MF stake in†
(Rs cr)

Chg.

Mar 05

Dec 04

Mar 05

Dec 04

(Rs cr)

Megasoft10.190.0010.1922.450.0022.45
Century Plywood8.690.008.690.000.000.00
Kesoram Ind13.805.268.5476.0027.0548.94
Infotech Enterprises14.505.998.5159.1916.6142.59
Excel Ind6.300.016.294.120.014.12
Clariant13.667.556.1141.1425.3215.82
Jindal Saw7.371.435.9476.9913.0563.94
Orient Paper & Ind7.231.725.5114.962.2912.67
Federal Bank16.8411.495.35170.47123.7346.74
Shivvani Oil4.970.004.9715.830.0015.83
Automobile Corp of Goa5.020.094.935.600.065.54
Adlabs Films6.131.354.7817.153.4013.75
Vimta Labs13.598.964.6328.7818.4910.29
JK Ind4.590.044.5516.870.1216.75
Simbhaoli Sugar4.360.004.363.610.003.61
McDowell & Co9.825.734.09119.3337.4381.90
Savita Chemicals4.640.574.079.380.858.52
Dhampur Sugar4.040.073.9718.790.2218.57
Tata Elxsi11.097.173.9263.7034.6629.04
Valecha Engineering6.622.793.834.501.503.00


In fact, when you compare the fund's December portfolio with the current one (March, 2005), you can see a perceptible shift. While MNC pharma stocks, Glaxo SmithKline and Aventis held the top two positions in December, LIC Housing Finance and McDowell & Company were among the top three behind Tata Elxsi in March.

However, not all funds have felt the need to drastically change their portfolios in the past quarter. Funds like Franklin Prima and Sundaram Select Midcap have stayed the course with more or less the same portfolio in the past quarter.†

Stocks where MFs have decreased exposure most
Stock

MF holding in (%)

Chg.

MF stake in†
(Rs cr)

Chg.

Mar 05Dec 04Mar 05Dec 04(Rs cr)
Pennar Aluminium1.4813.43-11.950.535.16-4.62
Orissa Sponge Iron0.1610.63-10.470.116.98-6.88
Nagarjuna Construction7.5716.74-9.1768.70101.40-32.70
Dewan Housing Fin. Corp5.0013.19-8.196.2616.36-10.11
Mysore Cements3.289.44-6.165.6615.75-10.08
Jaipur Polyspin0.286.33-6.050.041.05-1.01
Mangalam Cement3.849.24-5.407.8315.60-7.76
Maral Overseas11.2416.59-5.357.8115.33-7.52
Indian Resort Hotels1.797.04-5.251.314.20-2.90
Sunraj Diamond Exports0.265.36-5.100.010.39-0.38
Energy Development Co1.816.76-4.950.863.33-2.48
JK Synthetics0.315.09-4.780.165.16-5.00
Alps Ind4.569.33-4.772.976.43-3.46
Bata India6.5511.26-4.7125.9549.82-23.87
Premier Auto0.064.69-4.630.032.69-2.66
Sintex Ind14.9919.60-4.6192.95108.20-15.25
Sunflag Iron & Steel4.298.79-4.5012.9421.24-8.30
Aarti Ind0.074.48-4.410.2419.49-19.25
Indian Seamless Tubes3.437.73-4.307.4111.82-4.41
SVC Superchem0.034.07-4.040.022.58-2.55

In the case of the former, the top two positions were held by LIC Housing Finance and Indian Rayon, though there was a minor reduction in the allocation to both these scrips in March.

It is the same scenario for Sundaram Select Midcap Fund, too. The fund has stayed loyal to Balrampur Chini Mills as its top holding in the past quarter, with the other consistent stocks in its portfolio being Wyeth Lederle, Baja Hindustan, IVRCL Infrastructure, Grindwell Norton, Lakshim Machine Works, Sesa Goa, Indraprastha Gas and Sundaram Clayton.

Follow the herd
Even when one looks at leading funds like Reliance Growth and HDFC Capital Builder apart from those already being mentioned above, one can see that funds are allocating money where the returns are.

And in a year when mid-caps ruled that is where the money has gone. While this is not to say allocations to large-caps have been cut down drastically, it can be surmised that fund managers prefer the mid-cap segment for providing a 'kicker' to their returns.†

Stocks where MF stakes have increased most in value terms
Stock

Change in MF stake (Rs cr)

MF stake in†
(Rs cr)

Change in
price (%)

MF holding
(in %)

Change

Mar 05

Dec 04

Mar 05

Dec 04

Punjab National Bank390.64592.12201.48-2.944.361.442.92
Infosys Technologies278.441499.361220.927.832.462.160.30
Satyam Computer Services234.78988.54753.76-0.347.585.761.82
TCS233.00976.77743.767.281.421.160.26
SBI228.811822.121593.300.695.274.640.63
HCL Technologies186.79468.79282.007.913.992.591.40
ICICI Bank177.06482.03304.986.001.671.120.55
Crompton Greaves140.75527.87387.1345.4423.2624.81-1.55
Siemens114.26639.15524.9028.5311.3511.98-0.63
Larsen & Toubro106.171566.751460.581.3412.1211.450.67
Canara Bank104.36147.0742.71-5.741.790.491.30
Jaiprakash Associates96.95342.64245.694.039.847.342.50
Jindal Vijaynagar Steel93.44139.5846.145.893.001.051.95
Bank of Baroda89.72126.5236.80-9.241.970.521.45
ITC88.724540.704451.972.5913.6213.70-0.08
McDowell & Co81.90119.3337.4386.039.825.734.09
Maruti Udyog80.32342.85262.53-8.772.821.970.85
ABB79.85217.99138.1418.884.463.361.10
Bajaj Auto74.11179.43105.32-4.431.640.920.72
Century Textiles72.16253.92181.7627.1012.2011.101.10

While SBI Magnum Global has increased allocation to stocks like Infotech Enterprises, SKF Bearings and Blue Dart Express apart from Arvind Mills during the March quarter, Franklin Prima has taken higher exposures to stocks like Gujarat Gas, Flextronics Software Systems and Marico Industries.

In the case of HDFC Capital Builder, higher money allocation is apparent in stocks like Avaya Global Connect, Mahavir Spinning Mills and Shree Cement, while the fund has pared exposure to such large-caps as SBI, Tata Steel and ACC.†

Stocks where MF stakes have decreased most in value terms
Stock

Change in MF stake (Rs cr)

MF stake in (Rs cr)

Change in price (%)

MF holding (in %)

Change

Mar 05

Dec 04

Mar 05

Dec 04

HPCL-582.22452.101034.32-23.614.367.62-3.26
SAIL-500.56189.81690.360.560.732.67-1.94
Indian Oil Corp-422.35368.81791.16-14.540.721.32-0.60
BPCL-412.31275.96688.28-22.892.605.00-2.40
Ranbaxy Laboratories-272.28302.30574.58-19.781.622.47-0.85
Grasim Ind-260.82732.18993.01-8.226.588.19-1.61
Hindalco-255.56745.411000.97-9.336.167.50-1.34
MTNL-243.53208.29451.83-25.892.884.63-1.75
Mahindra & Mahindra-192.17591.74783.91-8.7010.2612.41-2.15
Tata Steel-177.83923.381101.214.014.165.16-1.00
Nicholas Piramal-144.4295.37239.78-30.492.263.95-1.69
Wipro-137.41188.85326.26-10.280.400.62-0.22
NTPC-125.71169.59295.30-1.890.240.41-0.17
ONGC-118.49956.641075.137.710.760.92-0.16
HDFC-112.43113.39225.82-5.160.631.19-0.56
ACC-111.79757.94869.736.4211.7114.30-2.59
Gujarat Ambuja Cement-110.47265.81376.280.013.685.21-1.53
GAIL-104.64189.94294.59-8.151.061.51-0.45
Union Bank of India-100.93114.44215.363.862.204.30-2.10
Tata Motors-98.45363.92462.38-18.052.432.53-0.10

Is the trend likely to stay going forward? While the plethora of launches in the mid-cap segment means that there will be any number of funds which are looking at mid-caps for higher returns, the current uncertainty in the equity markets may force others to toe a cautious line - read going defensive with a higher large-cap allocation at least for the time being.

"Considering the volatility that the markets are going through currently, there is a logical reason for funds to look at large-caps as a defensive ploy. In our (Chola Mutual Fund's) Multi-Cap Fund, which has a mix of mid-caps and large-caps, we have allocated a higher percentage to large-caps," says Krishnan.

The story continues

The trend favouring mid-caps is even more evident in sectoral funds. Take for example FMCG funds, which have been the only ones to give positive returns in the past month.

Franklin's FCMG Fund has ITC as its top holding at 10.39 per cent, followed by Tata Tea and Nestle. However, in terms of highest increase in exposure in the past quarter, the stocks which come out on top are JK Investor Treading, ICI (India) and Shaw Wallace.

For good measure, at the bottom of the pile is FMCG bigwigs, ITC, HLL and Glaxo SmithKline Consumer, where the fund has reduced exposure significantly.

Meanwhile, Prudential ICICI FMCG Fund has increased exposure to Trent, Gillette and Asian Paints and Agro Dutch Industries and pared exposure to ITC, P&G and Tata Tea.

Technology funds, which were the best-performing sectoral fund category, have also been climbing down the large-cap ladder.

For example, Alliance New Millennium decreased exposure to Infosys, TCS and Bharti Tele during the December-March quarter, while Franklin's Infotech Fund has increased holdings in Flextronics Software Systems and Ramco Systems apart from Hexaware Technologies, while decreasing exposure to Infosys, Satyam and Wipro.

Similar trends can be seen in pharma funds, too, where funds have largely shunned the mid-caps like Ranbaxy, Dr Reddy's Laboratories and Cipla and instead turned to lower market capitalisation stocks like Matrix Laboratories, Unichem Labs, Aurobindo Pharma, IPCA Labs and Dishman Pharma.

According to Sabharwal, the last six months have been difficult for the pharma sector because of severe price pressures in the generic markets overseas and MRP-related taxes in the domestic markets. "However, all the negatives, including VAT, appear to be priced into the stocks and from here onwards, companies should do well," he adds.

Sabharwal's portfolio going forward would mainly comprise a mix of generic players and those doing contract manufacturing, which are mostly in the mid-cap space.



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