Indian funds have grabbed seven out of the top 10 spots in the league table of leading small-cap funds across Asia, thanks to some canny stock-picking amid growing investor appetite for cheap stocks with potential to deliver multi-bagger returns.
An analysis of nearly 300 Asian small-cap schemes shows DSP BlackRock Micro Cap Fund leading the charge, delivering an 82% return over the past year. Managed by Vinit Sambre, who has been with DSP BlackRock for a little over three years, this fund has also soundly beaten the 58% rise of BSE’s Small-Cap Index since August 2009. The 30-share benchmark Sensex has gained 20% during this period while the wider BSE 500 Index is up 27%.
The other six schemes — Sundaram BNP Paribas Select Small Cap, HSBC Small Cap, JPMorgan Smaller Companies, Franklin India Prima, Franklin India Smaller Companies and ING Vysya CUB — have given investors returns between 44% and 57% on a trailing 12-month basis. These schemes manage anywhere between `46 crore and `954 crore.
Four of these funds were launched during the peak of the previous bull run between January 2007 and March 2008, and investors in them have also had to endure a massive erosion in their initial investment in the downturn that followed.
Mutual fund tracking firm Value Research called the DSP fund as an impressive product in the entire “small-cap universe”, noting that the stocks held by it were “credible, known names and there is a marked absence of momentum in the portfolio”. The fund’s holding includes companies with a high return on equity and strong leadership niches in their industries.
Value Research CEO Dhirendra Kumar said the closed-ended nature of some of these funds helped them weather the market turbulence. “These funds did not face redemption pressures through the declining phase. This, in turn helped them invest for the longer term,” he said.
The DSP fund became open-ended in June this year and fund manager Mr Sambre has kept nearly 10% of his `311-crore corpus in cash to meet potential redemptions and to latch onto any opportunity in the market.
There are 10 small-cap funds in India, which manage roughly `3,450 crore in stocks. These account for just 2% of the total AUM under equity schemes.
Market experts say that as many large-cap stocks became fully priced and relatively unattractive over the past year, the rally shifted to small caps. Stocks such as cooler maker Symphony and luggage maker VIP Industries have led the small-cap charge in the market. Ahmedabad-based Symphony has surged 830% while VIP has risen 548% in the past 12 months. In comparison, top two gainers on the Sensex — Tata Motors and Tata Consultancy Services — are up 135% and 61%, respectively.
“Many small caps with excellent businesses were trading at a pathetically low valuations — many were trading below book value and at dividend yields of 5-7%,” says Deven Choksey, chief executive officer at KR Choksey Shares & Securities. “They just got purchased heavily.”
Even though small-cap funds have delivered solid returns in the past one year, experts say that investors must be cautious and have just 10-15% of their equity exposure in such funds or companies. This is largely because of the volatile nature of their stock performance.
“Investors should have a strong stomach and the ability to
withstand substantial declines in such funds,” says Mr Kumar at Value Research.