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Fund Pick: ICICI Prudential Balanced Fund

The average assets under management were Rs 344.23 cr for the quarter ended September 2012

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Launched on November 3, 1999, is an equity-oriented hybrid fund with average (AUM) of Rs 344.23 crore as of September 2012. Unlike the category, whose assets have decreased by close to 2% over the past year, the fund’s has grown by nearly 20%. The fund has been ranked CRISIL Fund Rank 1 (top 10 percentile of the CRISIL Mutual Fund Rankings) in the past quarter and in the top 30 percentile since March 2011. Yogesh Bhatt (since February 2012) and Avnish Jain (since January 2011) manage the equity and the debt portion of the fund, respectively.

Investment approach
The objective of ICICI Prudential Balanced Fund is long-term capital appreciation and income generation through investments in equity and debt securities. The fixed income component in the fund helps reduce the overall risk of the portfolio. The fund aims to invest 65% to 80% of its corpus in equities and equity-related securities and the balance in debt and money market instruments. For tax purposes, balanced funds (with a greater than 65% equity holding) are treated like equity-oriented funds wherein dividends and long-term capital gains are tax free.

Performance
As on November 30, 2012, the fund has outperformed its benchmark (CRISIL BalanceEX) across all time frames (six months, one, three, five, seven and 10 years). Although the fund has underperformed the category in the five-, seven- and 10-year periods, the performance has improved in the recent periods. In the three-year time frame, the fund has outperformed with 11.9% returns compared to the benchmark’s 6.2% and the category’s 8.7%.

The fund has also outperformed the S&P CNX Nifty across one-, three-, five- and 10-year time-frames.

Further, Rs 10,000 invested in the fund since April 1, 2002 would have grown to around Rs 58,353 (CAGR of 17.9%) as on November 30, 2012. A similar investment in the benchmark and S&P CNX Nifty would have grown to Rs 38,707 (CAGR 13.3%) and Rs 51,716 (CAGR 16.6%), respectively.

A Systematic Investment Plan (SIP) investment in the fund would have resulted in double-digit returns, greater than a similar investment in the benchmark, across one-, three-, five-, seven- and 10-year time frames.

The fund has delivered higher returns at a lower volatility. Over a three-year period the fund has an average volatility of 12.8% vis-à-vis the category’s 13.3%. The fund’s Sharpe ratio (which measures the excess returns over the risk-free rate per unit of risk taken) is 0.8, which is higher than that of its category’s 0.4.

Asset allocation
Over the past three years, the fund has maintained its average equity exposure at 70%, debt exposure at 27% and rest in cash and cash equivalents.

On the equity front, the fund has invested in a blend of large and mid-cap stocks. In terms of market capitalisation, the fund holds 64% of its equity portfolio in CRISIL defined large cap stocks as on October 31, 2012, while the rest is invested in small and mid-cap companies.

Portfolio analysis
Over the past three years, top five sectors (banks, software, consumer non-durables, auto ancillaries and pharmaceuticals) constituted 57% of the equity portfolio vis-à-vis 46% by the category.

Over the past three year period, compared to the S&P CNX Nifty, the fund was overweight on banks, consumer non-durables, auto ancillaries and pharmaceuticals. During the same period, the representative indices for these sectors – CNX Bank, CNX FMCG, CNX Auto and CNX Pharma – gave superior annualised returns of 10.3%, 28.1%, 15.4% and 17.9% respectively, against 5.3% annualised returns by the S&P CNX Nifty as on November 30, 2012.

Over the past three-year period, the fund has held 33 companies, on an average, in its portfolio vis-à-vis 44 for the category. Nonetheless, the fund’s exposure towards top 10 stocks is comparable to that of the category.

On the debt side, the fund has actively managed its duration (portfolio maturity) or interest rate risk as well as, maintained the portfolio liquidity in the three-year period. The fund increased the maturity of the portfolio when long-term yields fell and reduced it when they hardened. Also, it moved across cash and debt while, maintaining the average equity exposure at the same levels. Average maturity of the debt portfolio over three year period ending October 2012, is 1.8 years which is almost in line with the category’s 1.6 years.

The fund has had an average 64% exposure of its debt portfolio to government securities and highest rated papers (AAA/A1+) in the past three years. Also, since June 2011, the fund has invested an average 55% (as a percentage of the debt portfolio) in (AA+/AA/AA-) papers.

CRISIL Research

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