Citigroup Inc. is attempting to crack the European mutual fund market with three global sector mutual funds.
SSB Citi Asset Management Group, the banking company's fund management unit, began selling the three funds, which invest in technology, finance, and health care, in Germany last week and in Spain this week. They also will be sold in Belgium and Greece, said John Roberts, a Citigroup spokesman in London.
Citi joins Chase Manhattan Corp., Mellon Financial Corp., and Putnam Investments among U.S. companies that have sought recently to gain a share in Europe's burgeoning retail fund market while the market at home has matured.
Mr. Roberts said a database helps Citi to make a quantitative analysis of its sector funds by factoring in, for example, differences in two given nations' accounting methods.
The new funds mirror three that Citi introduced in March in the United States. Citi is also considering opening a telecommunications fund overseas, he said.
"Equity investing has only taken off in the last 18 months to two years" in Europe, Mr. Roberts said. Most Europeans have tended to invest locally, but that's "nonsense in this day and age," he said.
The new series is meant to complement the CitiSelect Portfolios, and each fund offers a blend of cash, bond, and equities investments.
"The idea is to get people an appropriate distribution of assets," Mr. Roberts said. Combined with one or more CitiSelect portfolios, sector funds "add a bit of spice without too much risk," he said.
Geoffrey H. Bobroff, a mutual fund consultant in East Greenwich, R.I., lauded Citi's quantitative research approach, but he questioned the appetite for sector funds overseas.
In the United States, sector funds constitute only about 7% of long-term mutual fund assets, and Europe is several years behind that, Mr. Bobroff said. "It's an interesting subset, but it's not necessarily a situation where you're going to see hundreds of millions of dollars" invested, he said.
Last year Citigroup created a retail asset management division to focus on developing, marketing, and selling mutual funds across the Atlantic. SSB Citi has about 50 employees in Europe and expects to have up to 70 by yearend, Mr. Roberts said.
Citi, which manages about $8.5 billion of mutual fund assets for European investors, sells through 300 retail branches in Germany and 80 branches in Spain, he said. It is negotiating with other outlets, including European banks and Internet fund supermarkets, and expects to begin selling funds through them by yearend, Mr. Roberts said.