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Fund Times

Fund Times: Oppenheimer Restricts Access to Two Hot Funds

Plus, new Waddell & Reed managers, Third Avenue closing, more.

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Oppenheimer Funds will close  Oppenheimer Developing Markets (ODMAX) on March 6, 2006, to new omnibus accounts, such as 401(k) plans and brokers who do not have existing accounts with the fund. A lot of hot money has poured into emerging markets, according to George Evans, head of the global equity research group. Since manager Mark Madden took over from Rajeev Bhaman in December 2004, the fund has grown from $2.5 billion to $9 billion. To further reduce hot money from entering the fund, the advisor raised the minimum investment to $50,000.

Also,  Oppenheimer International Small Company (OSMAX) is closing at the same time in the same manner and is also raising its minimum investment to $50,000. Given the fund's focus on small- and even micro-cap stocks (it has the lowest average market cap in the foreign small/mid-growth category), we're concerned about its ability to execute its strategy with a $1.5 billion asset base. Other foreign small-cap managers have told us that once a fund's asset base tops $500 million, it gets harder to consistently execute an international small-cap strategy. This fund is also very heavy on emerging markets (Korean stocks consumed 18% of assets as of Jan. 31, 2006, Indian equities 6.4%, and Chinese stocks 2.7%), as these regions have been very hot over the past few years.

Waddell & Reed Shuffles Its Farm System
Waddell & Reed is making a variety of manager changes at many of its smaller namesake offerings, as well as at some funds at its Ivy subsidiary. Chace Brundige will replace Barry Ogden at Waddell & Reed Advisors Tax Managed Equity (WTEAX), Erik Becker and Gus Zinn will step in for Jim Wineland at Ivy Core Equity (WTRCX), and Bryan Krug will replace Louise Reike at Ivy High Income (WRHIX). John Maxwell will join Thomas Mengel as comanager of Ivy International Value (IVIAX).

Though not all of the new managers have run funds before, all of them have been with Waddell & Reed for a number of years. The moves seem consistent with the philosophy of developing and rewarding younger in-house talent by providing management opportunities at smaller funds within the family. At the same time, the managers being replaced are free to concentrate on their bigger charges. It's encouraging to see that Waddell & Reed is cultivating its own talent, as long as this particular approach--new managers captaining smaller funds--isn't considered a training-ground for new stars, which could lead to higher manager turnover in those funds.

Third Avenue Small-Cap Value Closing
 Third Avenue Small-Cap Value (TASCX) will close to new investors on February 28, 2006. "We have experienced tremendous cash inflows and we want to responsibly control the growth of the fund," said David Barse, Third Avenue president and CEO in a press release. With assets of $2.3 billion, this small-cap blend fund is more than twice as large as typical rivals, which might make it harder to deploy the fund's assets in a manner consistent with its investment strategy. Moreover, 39% of the fund's assets sit in cash and cash-equivalent investments.

Also, effective March 1, 2006, the minimum initial investment for  Third Avenue Small-Cap Value (TASCX),  Third Avenue Real Estate Value (TAREX), and  Third Avenue International Value (TAVIX) will increase to $10,000 for new regular accounts and $2,500 for new IRAs. The previous minimums were $1,000 for taxable accounts and $500 for IRA accounts.

Name Dropping
TCW Galileo funds have dropped the "Galileo" moniker this week to maintain a more consistent brand with the firm's institutional portfolios.

Dieter Bardy does not own (actual or beneficial) shares in any of the securities mentioned above. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.