Janus Deal Euphoria Likely to Prove Fleeting: Street Whispers

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) --Its performance is mediocre, its clients are fleeing, and yet its shares are up 19.53% over the past month.

The company in question is Janus Capital Group ( JNS), shares of which got a big pop following the announcement of a major investment by Japan's Dai-ichi Life Insurance, but it could easily have been a host of other middling active money managers.

Janus has seen steady outflows as investors increasingly shift to index-oriented money managers like Vanguard Group, which charge lower fees. Two of Janus' largest funds - Perkins Mid Cap Value and Overseas funds - "have posted ongoing redemptions for the past 13-15 months," according to JPMorgan, which sees "risk of accelerated redemptions based on the duration of poor relative performance for each fund." Fewer than 20% of Janus's equity mutual fund assets under management are in the top 50% in terms of performance over the past three years, according to Sandler O'Neill. Janus's shares are down 70% over the past five years.

Still, Janus was not about to give away the store in striking its deal with Dai-ichi. The life insurer will have an option to buy up to 14 million shares at $10.25--a more than 33% premium to Janus's closing price ahead of the deal's announcement--over the next year.

It is hard to believe Dai-ichi will have to pay that much. Analysts raised price targets following the announcement, and at least one--Sandler O'Neill's Michael Kim, upgraded his recommendation to hold from sell, but they remained pessimistic about Janus's ability to reverse outflows unless it can performance around.

Dai-ichi will give Janus access to Japanese markets, meaning the deal provides more than just a large committed shareholder. Still, a partnership with a far-off partner from a vastly different culture hardly seems like the best way to turn around a company that cannot perform in its home market.

But turning around performance is far from a sure bet, and skepticism about active money management abounds--so even if Janus can earn a couple of percentage points more, it isn't clear how much that will move the needle in drawing in new business.

Luring in a clueless foreign buyer seems like a safer way to boost the share price--except that it is rooted in cynicism and short-termism. Disregard any talk of access to new markets and strategic global partnerships. It seems unlikely this arrangement will end well.

-- Written by Dan Freed in New York.

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