Putnam Investments

announced Wednesday it will reopen the $26 billion

(PNOPX) - Get Report

New Opportunities and launch

New Century Growth

, a tech-heavy growth fund next week.

Putnam, the $375 billion broker-sold fund giant, says that after $1 billion in sales, New Opportunities will be open to only systematic investors, while New Century Growth will close to all new investors after $1 billion. The average domestic equity fund has less than $1 billion in total assets, according to

Morningstar

.

New Opportunities will re-open to nonsystematic investors on Jan. 18. New Century growth will open to the public Jan. 21.

New Opportunities torched the competition in the early 1990s as an aggressive small-cap growth fund. A flood of new cash has forced co-managers Dan Miller and Jeffrey Lindsey to focus on larger, more liquid stocks.

Now the fund is among the 20 largest in the nation. Since June of 1997, investors have only been able to buy shares through systematic investment plans, including 401(k)s. The fund has been classified as large-cap growth for the past two years.

The fund's 32.2% average annual return over the past five years is almost five percentage points ahead of the

S&P 500

. But from 1996 through 1998, the fund trailed the index and its average peer in each calendar year. Last year, the fund returned to form, riding technology stocks to a 69.7% return.

The new fund, New Century Growth, breaks with the firm's stable equity investment style. Co-managers Charles Swanberg and Roland Gillis, who also co-manage Putnam's

(PVOYX)

Voyager and

(PVIIX)

Voyager II, focus on "new economy" sectors, including the Internet, software and telecommunications.

Launched in 1998 through incubation -- seeded and managed quietly with company and employee money -- the fund returned more than 150%. At year end more than 65% of the fund's assets were invested in technology companies.

Both funds carry a 5.75% front-end load.