Jean-Marie Eveillard is thrilled about the likelihood that his mutual fund outfit's new corporate parent will funnel more investors' money into his portfolios.
As long as it's not too much more money.
Mr. Eveillard, a French-born fund manager widely respected for his prowess in picking international stocks, wants new investments to increase by 10% a year, no more.
"I told them, 'Look, we don't want too much money coming in too fast,'" he said.
More than that and it would be hard to find places to put it all, he said. The issue typifies the conservative approach to investing that has distinguished the 58-year-old Mr. Eveillard during two decades of prominence as a fund manager.
American Banker recently caught up with Mr. Eveillard in his New York office, which is cluttered with small towers of newspapers, company reports, and paperwork.
The slide in foreign stock markets has hurt Mr. Eveillard and most other portfolio managers. Nodding toward the eight Business Week covers on his wall saluting the "Best Mutual Funds," he frets that none of them is from a recent year.
But the track record Mr. Eveillard has racked up with longtime colleagues Elizabeth Tobin and Charles de Vaulx persuaded Liberty Financial Cos. to buy his firm from Societe Generale for $216 million. The deal is to close in December.
Liberty plans to widen the SoGen Funds' distribution to include banks and more financial intermediaries; the four funds are currently sold through nonbank brokerages and financial planners.
Mr. Eveillard says he is confident that the small- and medium- capitalization European stocks in which he invests heavily will reverse a slide that burned up 20% of their value since mid-July. What will the catalyst be?
"My attitude is: Sometimes you don't need a catalyst-things just change," he said.
A value-style investor, Mr. Eveillard sees bargains in Japan, despite a 10-year bear market.
"Japan is not Indonesia," he said. Eight percent of his International Fund's holdings are in Japan, and 20% of its Overseas Fund's.
He also sees value in developing East Asian nations, where the stock prices of sound companies have been driven down.
Mr. Eveillard reassures investors by reminding them that "practically my entire financial savings is invested in my own funds."
"For the past three or four years circumstances have been extremely hostile to our investment style. By definition that will not last forever."
And because of relatively large positions in cash and bonds, SoGen Funds have not suffered as much as most of their peers.
"That's where our caution has helped a little bit," he said.
The cautious style should make the SoGen Funds popular with those who invest through banks, Mr. Eveillard said.
In fact, a regional bank was among the fund company's suitors, he said.
Good news has come from an unlikely quarter in recent weeks: SoGen's gold fund has rallied as the precious metal has begun pulling out of a long slump.
"It's an acknowledgement that gold may do well not just in times of inflation but in a time of upheaval and uncertainty in the world financial system," Mr. Eveillard said.
The SoGen Gold fund, with almost $30 million of assets, was down 24.95% from December to September, but posted a 22.51% gain in September and has continued to surge this month.
Meanwhile, SoGen International, a $3 billion asset fund, was down 15.10% from January through August and the $800 million Overseas Fund was down 14.68% over the same period.
With Liberty taking over distribution and administrative tasks from the SoGen Funds, Mr. Eveillard will have more time to do what he enjoys most.
"There will be more time for investment, and I like that," he said. "I don't particularly enjoy being involved in administrative matters or crisscrossing the country making presentations."
The fact that the firm is so closely associated with him gave Mr. Eveillard-who with his colleagues owns 20% of the company-clout in choosing a buyer. Liberty got his blessing because the company does a minimum of meddling in its subsidiaries, he said.
"We liked the idea that we would not disappear into a single large firm," he said.