NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The worry over Europe's debt crisis is creating great buying opportunities, says Oliver Pursche, manager of the GMG Defensive Beta Fund (MPDAX), who owns shares of drugmaker Novartis (NVS) and consumer-goods company Unilever (UL).The mutual fund, which was started in August 2009, has returned 5.3% over the past year, compared with 1.1% for its peer group in the alternative asset-allocation category. This year, the GMG Defensive Beta Fund is down 5.4%, twice that of its rivals. The fund has in its top 10 holdings three commodities exchange traded funds as well as International Business Machines ( IBM), Caterpillar ( CAT) and Apache ( APA). With all the negative headlines surrounding Europe's economy, why are you growing more positive on European stocks? Pursche: The European story is a little bit overdone. You have to bifurcate between southern Europe and northern Europe. Everything is being dragged down as a result of the Greek debt crisis. That's going to play itself out in the coming weeks and we are finding some pretty attractive values in Europe as a result of the overall sell-off. U.S. health-care stocks have done tremendously well in the first half. Why are you going overseas and buying Swiss-based Novartis instead of loading up on a domestic name? Pursche: Novartis isn't facing some of the patent-expiration issues that some of the American players are facing. Also, you are getting a little higher dividend yield which is very, very important to us from a total-return perspective. And, additionally, as a result of the European sell-off, there's just some great values there and we look at Switzerland, in particular, as truly being insulated from the entire European debt crisis. The fact that we are talking about the Swiss franc, and not the euro, is great because you get that extra layer of protection. There is clearly a lot of pressure on consumers right now. They might be getting away from brand names. What does that mean for Unilever? Pursche: Unilever is a name that's very well-diversified. It goes back to our overall theme in this environment that we think the uncertainty is going to persist. We want to stick with high-quality names that are well-diversified in their businesses, have strong cash flow and have a history of raising dividends. Unilever is one of those companies that fits that profile. What advantages in the energy market do you see Total (TOT) having? Pursche: Total has done a great job at managing their margins. In an environment where margins are fluctuating for oil companies and distribution companies, Total has been very steady. That's very impressive to us and it shows real strength in management.
Staying in energy, what's attractive to you about Royal Dutch Shell (RDS) right now? Pursche: Royal Dutch Shell is very well-positioned right now. It's been sold off, just like everything else in the European market right now. It's just an attractive value overall. And we do think that oil companies in general are going to perform well for the next 12 to 18 months. -- Reported by Gregg Greenberg in New York.
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