Janus manager Blaine Rollins sticks with the style that made the fund famous.
The migration of Janus toward a value-oriented investment focus has been picking up steam in recent months.
After gaining a reputation as the premiere destination for growth stock investors in the late 1990s, the fund family dipped a toe in the value pool with the introduction of Janus Strategic Value Fund in 2000 and the Janus Global Value Fund in 2001. The shift in strategic direction went into full throttle in December 2002, when the firm announced plans to take a 30% ownership stake in value manager Perkins, Wolf, McDonnell and Co., which manages approximately $5 billion worth of small- and mid-cap value funds for the Berger family. Pending approval from Berger shareholders, Janus will bring three of those funds into its own line-up, complementing two of its own brand-new value offerings launched in December.
In the midst of all this re-tooling, most people still view Janus as a growth shop and its flagship Janus Fund as the cornerstone of that investment philosophy. The question now is whether today's more conservative market climate, and the introduction of several new value funds, will leave a mark on the large-company growth strategy that helped make Janus Fund a household name.
In some ways, the fund that re-opened its doors on December 31, 2002, looks quite different from the one that closed to new investors in September 2000. To avoid heavy-bet mishaps such as AOL Time Warner, 35-year-old manager Blaine Rollins says he will try to limit individual stock positions to no more than about 5% of assets. (His largest holding, Comcast, accounts for 6% of the portfolio.)
He also has adjusted to the tepid economic climate by going beyond technology bets to more mundane companies whose mid-teens growth rates would have barely put a blip on his radar screen three years ago. And, he believes that he can leverage the knowledge that Perkins, Wolf, McDonnell and Co. bring to the table to benefit the Janus Fund. "I hope to work with them to identify value companies because sometimes they re-emerge as growth stories," he says.
Even with these changes, Rollins makes it clear that Janus Fund remains a bastion for investors who believe that despite recent setbacks, growth stocks will dust the competition over the long haul. "I want to own companies that are gaining market share and have great franchises because they are capable of generating better long-term earnings growth than the overall market," says Rollins. "Right now, we're seeing some opportunities to buy some great growth franchises."
Few fund companies put those words into practice as well as Janus did during the late 1990s. Its managers' penchant for rapidly growing companies, especially in the technology sector, helped catapult Janus Fund and other funds in the Janus family to the top of the performance charts. But internal turmoil accompanied investment success. In late 1999, Janus chief investment officer Jim Craig announced he would step down as manager of Janus Fund. He left the firm the following year amidst controversy surrounding Janus' widely-publicized disagreement with parent company Kansas City Southern over the terms of a spin-off with the railroad's other financial service units.
Rollins, who joined Janus in 1990 as an analyst and had managed Janus Balanced Fund and Janus Equity Income Fund since 1996, made few changes to Janus Fund when he first took over in January 2000. He maintained the heavy weighting in technology and telecommunications stocks established by his predecessor, even as those sectors began falling victim to the nascent tech wreck in the spring. Though he established marginal positions in more defensive consumer-oriented stocks such as Colgate Palmolive later in the year, it was not enough to offset the heavy losses sustained by the more aggressive side of the portfolio.
Still, money poured in at such a rapid clip in 1999 and 2000 that almost half of the family's funds closed to new investors during that time. By the time Janus Fund closed, it had swollen to about $50 billion in assets, accounting for a sizable chunk of the $318 billion in all Janus mutual funds.
They remained closed until the beginning of this year, when four funds-Janus Fund, Janus Worldwide Fund, Janus Global Life Sciences Fund and Janus Global Technology Fund-reopened their doors. Rollins characterizes the years Janus Fund was shuttered as "a challenging investment environment that was reflected in the performance of the fund."