eschewed the idea of launching an Internet fund, but the Boston behemoth is developing two sector funds that look to be Net-centric in practice, if not in name.
Last Friday, the Boston-based fund shop filed preliminary paperwork with the
Securities and Exchange Commission
Select Networking & Infrastructure
funds. While neither fund has "Net" in its name, it looks likely that the funds would zero in on companies that are building out the Internet and helping consumers access the Net from the beach or anywhere else.
Fidelity says the new funds aren't cloaked Net-stock portfolios. Networking & Infrastructure won't strictly focus on Internet-backbone shops, says Fidelity spokesman Jim Griffin. He adds that Wireless is "actually going to fit into our utilities area." Griffin did acknowledge that Net stocks could end up in the funds' portfolios.
One Fidelity watcher disagrees. "These are Net funds," says Jim Lowell, editor of independent newsletter
. "Bob Pozen
president of Fidelity's investment arm has been on the anti-Net fund podium with the 'You'll never see a Fidelity Internet fund' speech many times. But I think these funds are a pretty clear capitulation of that stance."
The funds, which can invest in U.S. or foreign companies of any size, are nondiversified, meaning they can make substantial investments in individual stocks. The filing indicates that at least some of those companies will focus on the Internet.
The Networking & Infrastructure fund will focus on companies that make or sell products or services that communicate information electronically. Consequently, the fund might hold stocks of companies that make Internet hardware like routers and companies that host Web sites and execute business-to-business transactions, according to the fund's regulatory filing.
The Wireless fund will focus on stocks of companies in the wireless-communications business. That includes companies involved in personal communications devices and networks, according to the filing. With wireless Net access all the rage here and abroad, it's possible the fund will play that burgeoning and volatile angle.
Grouping Wireless within the utilities funds banner isn't much of a stretch under Fidelity's broad definition. Fidelity's utilities funds can hold both large, classic utility plays and smaller more aggressive outfits.
Fidelity Advisor Telecommunications and Utilities Growth and
Fidelity Utilities both own shares of
, whose services are used to provide Net access and remote access to computer networks.
"The majority of the stocks in these funds will have their future tied to the Net," Lowell says.
If so, these won't be the first of Fidelity's seven tech and telecom sector funds to fish in the Net stock pool. Scanning the holdings of funds such as
Select Software, and
Select Developing Communications turns up Net stocks such as
, and Web-site hosting concern
The funds, whose prospectus is dated Sept. 13, are hardly launching into a hot Internet market. After an 86% return last year, the tech-heavy
is basically flat since Jan. 1, leading many to call 2000 a "stock picker's year" since tech stocks aren't charging north
. Networking bellwether
is up some 20% since Jan. 1, but wireless giant
is down more than 60% over the same time period.
Lowell says the two new funds could be a good choice for long-term investors looking to refine their Net-stock investments. Even though Fidelity's Select funds have tended to chase hot trends, he says they're a smart investment. "They're the best and most unique arrows in an investor's quiver."
Select funds, which are essentially training grounds for aspiring portfolio managers, often change managers every couple of years. Despite that rapid-fire manager turnover, the funds often have solid records due to Fidelity's deep bench of analysts. Managers for these new funds aren't named in the preliminary paperwork.
The funds will charge a maximum 3% front-end load, or sales charge, and 0.75% redemption fee on shares sold within 29 days of purchase, according to the funds' filing. Their estimated expense ratios aren't included in the filing.