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Morningstar Joins Hedge Fund-Data Crowd

Advisors looking for more information on hedge funds can now turn to Morningstar.

Advisors looking for more information on hedge funds can now turn to Morningstar.

The Chicago-based research firm that is widely known for its mutual fund coverage has added hedge fund information to its line-up, and it’s available to advisors through its Advisor Workstation.

“With more than 100,000 licensees for Advisor Workstation, it is our largest advisor product, having overtaken Principia over the last year,” said Joe Mansueto, chairman and CEO of Morningstar, speaking at the company’s annual investment conference in Chicago last week. In fact, advisors now account for 32 percent of Morningstar’s revenue Mansueto told the more than 1,000 attendees.

Subscribers to Morningstar Advisor Workstation Office Edition will be able to view the strategy, risk/return metrics, performance, fees, management background and purchase requirements on the 3,500 hedge funds in its database. Hedge fund research reports will be available on Morningstar Direct, its institutional site. The company began assembling the database two years ago and plans to expand its capabilities on a rolling basis.

Morningstar enters an increasingly crowded field that includes competitors like Lipper, CSFB/Tremont and the Hennessee Group in providing individuals and professionals with information on hedge funds. The number of companies offering research has grown with the number of hedge funds, now generally estimated at exceeding 8,000.

“With more than $1.5 trillion in assets, hedge funds have fast become a significant vehicle for investment,” said Mansueto, who has a 74 percent stake in Morningstar. “Despite their growth, there is a lack of information on hedge funds, making research difficult and oftentimes expensive. We hope to bring more transparency to the hedge fund industry to help investors better evaluate and compare these investments.”

Meanwhile, investors looking for mutual funds with hedge-like strategies can now find them all under one category, the long-short category, which Morningstar unveiled in March. Previously, long-short funds were split into two categories: moderate allocation or conservative allocation. But having long-short strategies residing in the same universe as funds that have a mix of stocks and bonds made it difficult for investors to track them down. And with more and more long-short funds coming to market in recent years, it made sense to establish a new category, says Morningstar senior analyst Dan McNeela. In order to meet the criteria, a fund must have a significant shorting component, roughly 20 percent of total assets as a general guideline, he says.

Morningstar went public in May 2005 at $18.50 a share. Since then the stock has more than doubled, to $41.15 as of yesterday’s close, bolstered by a strong quarterly earnings report earlier this month. With the help of the IPO, the company brought in $226 million in revenue in 2005, up 26 percent from 2004, Mansueto said. Morningstar serves 185,000 financial advisors and more than 750 institutions and provides coverage of 145,000 investment offerings. It also completed its $83 million acquisition of Ibbotson, an asset-allocation and research-services provider that serves 70,000 advisors and 700 institutions, in March, he said.

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