Massachusetts Financial Services has begun offering two classes of shares in most of its mutual funds, in a move that the company said would provide investors with more choice.

The creation of class A and class B shares will provide increased flexibility, according to company officials. At the same time, the Boston-based mutual fund company is streamlining its entire fund group.

"We had too many funds and too many names," said David Zigas, manager of media relations.

The company has consolidated its MFS Family of Funds and MFS Lifetime Investment Program into one family by merging comparable funds from each group.

The whole industry is adopting this approach of offering different classes of shares, Mr. Zigas said.

Class A shares carry a front-end sales charge and a low annual distribution fee. B shares have no initial sales fee, but charge a higher annual distribution fee plus a deferred sales charge for redemptions of principal made within six years. That charge declines over time.

Banks generally favor funds that do not charge an up-front sales charge because they are easier to market.

Fund companies that charge front-end loads have a harder time competing in the bank environment, said Avi Nachmany, a partner with Strategic Insight, a New York consulting firm.

While B shares do appeal to bank customers, Mr. Zigas said the decision to convert funds was geared toward "investors of all stripes."

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