Blake Goldring is miffed that AGF Management's story is not well understood.
"I believe our growth strategy is right on track, but [AGF]stock is undervalued," AGF's chief executive officer complained after the firm released fourth-quarter results that swung to a profit from a year-ago loss. See story.
While AGF is continuing to suffer from net redemptions in its mutual funds and there are concerns about last week's departure of high-profile manager Christine Hughes, the investment firm is not getting enough credit for its institutional business that brought in $4-billion in net sales during fiscal 2009, he told analysts in a conference call.
"I am clearly not happy that our long-term net flows on the retail side were down $720-million in 2009," he said. "If we were to add institutional sales [which have similar margins to segregated fund mandates] the picture changes dramatically. Our purpose is to grow assets under management and improve the overall profitability of AGF. Our trust and institutional businesses are growing."
AGF opened a Boston office last year to drum up institutional mandates, and will soon open another in Hong Kong.
On the mutual fund side, Mr. Goldring said AGF has a strategy to turn net redemptions back into net sales by "aggressively promoting funds with the greatest opportunity for short term net sales."
They include AGF Elements portfolios with balanced, growth and income investment strategies, and also mutual funds like AGF Emerging Markets, AGF Global Resources Class and AGF Canadian Conservative Inflation Managed Income Fund, he said.
Clearly, Mr. Goldring has a big job ahead to convince analysts. According to Bloomberg Financial Services, there are three "buy" and six "hold" ratings on AGF. That's after RBC Dominion Securities analyst Geoffrey Kwan downgraded AGF stock on Monday to "sector perform" from "outperform", and slashed its one-year target to $17 a share from $19.
"We now see less valuation upside in AGF's shares in the near term relative to peers, reflecting net redemption trends that appear to be worsening and fund performance relative to peers has weakened," he wrote. "The 2010 RRSP season is more challenging following the departure of award-winning portfolio manager Christine Hughes. She managed the AGF Canadian Balanced Fund, which was by far AGF's best-selling fund in 2009." See Fund Watch blog.