The Janus Fund Seeks to Balance Risk and Reward. And, Largely, Does

While some growth managers seek companies that are reporting the most rapid earnings gains, Janus Fund (JDGAX) avoids the highflyers. Instead, the fund favors predictable blue chips. The aim is to find dominate businesses that can grow steadily for years—and avoid outsized losses.

Lunch with Registered Rep. Another in a series of quick sketches of fund managers who come to Registered Rep.’s New York headquarters to chat with RR Mutual Fund Editor Stan Luxenberg.

While some growth managers seek companies that are reporting the most rapid earnings gains, Janus Fund (JDGAX) avoids the highflyers. Instead, the fund favors predictable blue chips. The aim is to find dominate businesses that can grow steadily for years—and avoid outsized losses.

The fund’s biggest holding is Anheuser-Busch InBev. “Beer consumption is unlikely to go up 20 percent in the next year, but it is unlikely to go down 20 percent either,” says Jonathan Coleman, one of the Janus Fund’s portfolio managers, over sandwiches during the East Coast’s blizzard this past Wednesday.

The Janus Fund, the flagship of the Janus Capital Group (Ticker: JCG), is celebrating its 40th year and the Janus Fund is one of only 19 in existence with a track record of forty years.

To limit risk, the Janus managers only pay moderate prices, and the portfolio typically has a price-earnings ratio that is lower than the average figure for the large/growth category. The cautious approach has served the fund well. In four of the past five years, Janus has outdone most of its competitors.

Now market conditions could be favorable for the blue-chip fund’s cautious style. In recent years, investors have preferred shaky small stocks. Meanwhile, many reliable giants have languished. “There are companies with incredible global franchises that are trading for less than the market multiple,” says Dan Riff, a co-manager of the fund.

A favorite Janus holding is IBM, which trades for 12 times earnings, a modest price at a time when the S&P 500 has a multiple of 16. Coleman says that the market fails to appreciate IBM’s potential for solid growth in the emerging markets. “When an Indian financial services company wants to expand, it calls on IBM, not some local supplier,” says Coleman.

Some of the cheapest blue chips now are big industrial companies with long histories of profitable growth, says Coleman. The group includes Emerson Electric, a maker of motors and machinery. The recession has hurt sales, but the company has cut costs and should report strong earnings gains as the global economy recovers.

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