Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Fund manager sell-outs

A snippet from Paul Myners' latest speech:
In 1990, the Economist compared shareholding to gambling.

The writer said that shares were little more than betting slips, bought at a low price, with the hope that the bet will come good. Shareholders studied the markets much like a gambler might study a form guide, they backed what they hoped would be the winner, then simply sought to extract their ‘winnings’ as quickly as possible.

The author observed that the notion that a shareholder owns part of a company “makes as much sense to a shareholder as it would to the average gambler to imagine that he owns part of Lady Luck, running in the 2.30 tomorrow afternoon” .

Nowhere is this more evident than when fund managers accept the bounce in a share price that comes with a takeover, rather than saying to their clients “we rejected that bid; we know that the share price will fall when the offer lapses, but we take a long-term view and we believe in the company, its strategy and its future. It is always hard to find good companies in which to invest and we don’t intend to sell out of this one simply because an opportunistic bidder appeared. We know that you, our clients, have chosen us to manage your fund for this reason and we know that your interests are focussed on long-term returns rather than a single quarter’s performance”.

I wager that few fund managers feel comfortable in speaking in such a way to their clients.

Absolutely. If only there were a test case to see if asset mangers were willing to change their approach. Like a bid for a big name UK-listed company that they could challenge for example. Hmmm.....

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