Asset managers feel the pain

Sun Feb 17, 2008 11:31am EST
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By Lynne Olver

TORONTO (Reuters) - No quick turnaround is in sight for the shares of Canadian fund-management companies, which have been pounded in 2008 as sliding stock markets hurt assets under management and slowed mutual fund sales.

Canadians usually sock money away at this time of year for their retirement savings. But the annual RRSP season, as it's known, is off to a weak start, and skittish investors are opting to park their cash in money-market funds until there is some semblance of market stability.

Not surprisingly, the independent companies that create and sell mutual funds have been poor performers in early 2008.

"It's going to be fairly difficult for the large-cap players to dig themselves out of the hole they're in right now," said Dundee Securities analyst John Aiken. "It's not that anybody's doing anything wrong, it's just that we've had a moderating outlook."

The stocks of AGF Management and CI Financial have tumbled by 21 percent and 19 percent, respectively. That far outpaces the 4.4 percent year-to-date decline in the broad Toronto Stock Exchange composite index .GSPTSE, and a 7 percent drop in the S&P/TSX Financials index.

At IGM Financial -- the country's largest fund company with C$119 billion ($118 billion) in assets under management -- shares are down 13 percent.

IGM is really two fund companies under one roof, Investors Group and Mackenzie Financial, and numerous analysts consider it to be the most defensive name in the sector.

IGM "should have the least downside risk relative to its closest peers," Genuity Capital analyst Gabriel Dechaine said in a note on Friday entitled: "Sometimes boring can be beautiful."   Continued...