Sextant Growth (SSGFX), January 2007

By Editor

. . . from the archives at FundAlarm

These profiles have not been updated. The information is only accurate as of the original date of publication.

January 1, 2007

FundAlarm Annex – Fund Report

Objective

The fund seeks long-term growth by investing in common stocks, as well as convertible and preferred shares. While Morningstar classifies it as a mid-cap growth fund, the firm claims to follow a “value approach to investing” in looking at stocks with favorable potential over the next one to four years. They list a variety of predictable factors (revenue growth, p/e and p/b ratios, industry position and so on) in their selection criteria. No more than 5% of the fund may be invested in foreign companies.

Adviser

Saturna Capital. Saturna oversees four Sextant funds, the Idaho Tax-Free fund and two Amana funds. The Amana funds invest in accord with Islamic investing principles and were recognized as the best Islamic fund manager for 2005.

Manager

Nicholas Kaiser. Mr. Kaiser is president and founder of Saturna Capital. He has degrees from Chicago and Yale. In the mid 1970s and 1980s, he ran a mid-sized investment management firm (Unified Management Company) in Indianapolis. In 1989 he sold Unified and subsequently bought control of Saturna. As an officer of the Investment Company Institute, the CFA Institute, the Financial Planning Association and the No-Load Mutual Fund Association, he has been a significant force in the money management world. He’s also a philanthropist and is deeply involved in his community. By all accounts, a good guy all around. Morningstar must think so, too, because he’s a finalist for its 2006 Domestic Manager of the Year award.

Inception

December 30, 1990, though its name was then Northwest Growth Fund. Morningstar insists that the Growth Fund was launched in 1987. Saturna claims 1990, either October or December, for its predecessor fund and 1995 for the fund under its current configuration.

Minimum investment

$1,000 for regular accounts, $100 for IRAs.

Expense ratio

1.24% on an asset base of about $14 million. There’s a considerable performance adjustment built into the fee: management fee will change by as much as .3% based on performance in the trailing year. There’s also a 2% redemption fee.

Comments

This seems like a wonderfully admirable little fund. It should, in principle, do well. Expenses are quite low for such a tiny fund and management has linked its compensation to a solid performance fee. Its base management fee is 0.60% and the performance fee of up to 0.30% can cut the manager’s profits by half if he screws up. The fund holds stocks across all market capitalizations and ranges from deep value to growth holdings. The portfolio is pretty compact at 55 names, the manager is tax-sensitive and turnover is virtually non-existent. Morningstar reports 4% turnover, Saturna reports 0% for the year ending in May 2006. The fund reports virtually no frictional loss to taxes; that is, the annual tax cost on unsold shares trims less than 0.20% from the fund’s pre-tax returns. Finally, the manager, his employees and their families own nearly 40% of all outstanding shares. Which is good, since Mr. Kaiser’s pay is remarkably modest: $81,360 in total compensation for calendar 2005.

Happily, principle is aligned with practice. Sextant Growth has compiled a remarkable record for consistent excellence. It is one of just a tiny handful of equity funds that seems always above average, at least as measured by Morningstar’s metrics. Sextant Growth currently qualifies as four-star fund, but has also earned four stars for the preceding three-year, five-year and ten-year periods. For every trailing period, Morningstar gives it “above average” returns and “below average” risk.

Sextant Growth ranks in the top 15% of mid-cap growth funds over the long term, but the comparison is not terribly meaningful since the fund does not particularly target mid-caps (or, for that matter, growth stocks). It has returned 11.6% annually over the past decade and has substantially led the S&P 500 for the preceding three, five and ten years. It does tend to lag, but perform well, in growth markets: for example, it had a bottom decile rank in 2003 but still racked up gains of 26% and a bottom third rank in ’99 with returns of 41%.

Bottom line

The “Growth” name and “value” claim notwithstanding, this strikes me as a really solid core holding. The manager is experienced, the fund has prospered in a wide variety of market conditions, and the management firm seems highly principled. Kind of like a tiny little version of T. Rowe Price. It’s well deserving of substantially greater attention.

Company link

Sextant Growth Fund

Fact Sheet