Janus to Reopen Four Funds, Including Flagship

Updated from 9:29 a.m. EST

At the height of its fame and glory, Janus closed its doors to new investors who had been clamoring to get in. After two years of woeful returns and massive fund redemptions, it's opening the doors again. Will investors come knocking?

The Denver fund firm's CEO elect, Mark Whiston, announced Friday morning that, effective Dec. 31, it will reopen to new investment four funds that have been closed since 2000: the flagship ( JANSX) Janus fund, the ( JAWWX) Janus Worldwide Fund, ( JAGTX) Janus Global Technology fund and ( JAGLX) Janus Global Life Sciences fund.

Along with these openings, Janus will close ( JTWOX) Janus Fund 2 -- while not quite a clone, it shares a near-identical portfolio DNA with the flagship fund -- today and fold it into the flaghip fund Feb. 28. The firm will also close ( JASSX) Janus Special Situations fund and merge it with the ( JSVAX) Strategic Value offering Feb. 28, giving it a new name: Janus Special Equity fund.

The openings and closings mark the latest in a series of sweeping changes at Janus. The erstwhile white-hot, erstwhile growth-only shop's fate has been closely tethered to the technology sector in the late 1990s and early 2000s: Its returns and asset base soared as big bets on heady growth stocks paid off, but weak performance and massive redemptions ensued as the bubble burst. The fund company restructured a month ago when it wrested control from its parent company, Stilwell Financial ( SV). The reorganized Janus has moved quickly to diversify beyond the actively managed growth funds that have hobbled it in recent years.

"We're reopening these funds because our portfolio managers are finding greater investment opportunities today than they did when we closed the funds in 2000," Whiston said in a statement. "And because the funds' asset bases are smaller than they were two years ago, the additional cash will help the portfolio managers take advantage of those opportunities." The fund mergers, meanwhile, will help Janus eliminate "redundant operating expenses" and focus its investment team's resources, the fund family said.

While Janus hopes for a cash influx, it remains to be seen whether new money will be forthcoming.

"In the short-term, people probably aren't going to be lining up at the doors," said Emily Hall, senior mutual-fund analyst at Morningstar. "For better or worse, inflows tend to follow performance. There's not likely to be a party because the funds are reopening."

Fund industry watchers will be paying close attention. The redemptions at Janus were epic in scope. As of July 30, Janus had net 2002 outflows of $9.7 billion -- more than any of the other top 25 fund families. The fund shop has about $130 billion under management; back in its heyday, assets stood at about $300 billion.

The firm was hindered by having several of its most prominent offerings closed to new investments. Investors will be eager to see if the firm puts any new money to work into some of its substantial existing holdings. As of its April 30 statement, the company's top 10 firm-wide holders were: Viacom ( VIA), AOL Time Warner ( AOL), Microsoft ( MSFT), Liberty Media ( L), Maxim Integrated Products ( MXIM), ExxonMobil ( XOM), United Healthcare ( UHC), Comcast ( CMCSK), Citigroup ( C) and Medtronic ( MDT). (Its annual investment report for the fiscal year ended Oct. 30 is due in the coming days, and that will detail its latest holdings.)

The four funds reopening were all closed back in 2000. The $1.4 billion Janus Global Technology fund, managed by Mike Lu, closed in January of that year. Two were closed in May: The $13.8 billion Janus Worldwide fund, co-managed by Helen Young Hayes and Laurence Chang; and the $1.3 billion Janus Global Life Sciences Fund, managed by Tom Malley. The $17.1 billion-in-asset Janus fund, run by Blaine Rollins, closed to new investors in September 2000.

In merging a few funds out of existence, the fund manager ranks will change a bit. Janus 2 skipper John Schreiber will become assistant portfolio manager of ( JAMRX) Janus Mercury fund and other funds run by Mercury skipper Warren Lammert. The other two merging funds, Special Situations are Strategic Value, are both managed by David Decker. Decker will manage the merged fund, and plans to continue "focusing on large to mid-sized companies with attractive valuations and favorable risk-reward opportunities," Janus said.

Three Janus funds -- Twenty, Overseas and Venture -- remain closed to new investments, a company spokeswoman said.

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