2009: Good for investors, tough on MFs

Investors got the upper hand in 2009, while fund houses struggled to cope with regulatory changes and upheavals in the economy, even as the industry shrugged off recession blues with its assets hitting an all-time high of Rs8 lakh crore, reports PTI.


The year was particularly significant as market regulator SEBI acted in favour of the investors and eased norms making it easier for them to invest in mutual funds. The key changes include abolishment of entry load on purchase of schemes and allowing mutual funds (MFs) to be traded on the stock exchanges.


"Even though these are early days, both (regulatory changes) have deep potential for a positive impact. The abolition of entry load is a significant game-changer as it completely transforms the business model of the fund distribution industry. For fund companies as well as distributors, it throws up a challenge of managing a big change if they have to flourish," MF tracking firm Value Research's chief executive Dhirendra Kumar said.


According to market analysts, the move for introduction of MFs on exchanges as well as an improvement in the state of the economy would increase reach of MFs across the country.


With high volatility in the stock market during the year, investors looked for avenues of mutual gains and lesser risk to reap returns on their investments. This was evident with the average assets under management (AUM) of the industry hitting an all-time high of Rs8,07,546 crore, an increase of Rs3.86 lakh crore at the end of November, according to latest figures available on the Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI) website.


Analysts believe that the improving economic conditions and relatively good performance of the Indian stock markets show the promise that lies ahead for the MF sector and 2010 should be a better year.


"The total AUM should definitely climb in 2010 and I believe an increase of 20%-25% in industry AUM is possible by end-2010," global financial research firm Celent analyst Anshuman Jaswal said.


During 2008, the industry had incurred heavy losses when the fund houses became poorer by about Rs1,50,000 crore, which left the industry shattered with a huge liquidity crunch. At present, the industry, considered a safe haven for investors, consists of 37 fund houses.


Despite a rebound in the performance of fund houses, equity schemes continued to lag compared to debt and other liquid schemes as investors preferred to park money with funds promising assured returns, although analysts are upbeat that equity MFs would perform better going forward in 2010.


Equity schemes have recorded inflows to the tune of Rs2,104 crore so far this year, while income funds have witnessed investments of Rs2,87,500 crore.


However, Mr Kumar sounded a note of caution, saying that flush with excess funds, investors are only parking money for the short-term with MFs.


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