Seeking Value, and Finding It, at Seligman

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Neil Eigen, a managing director of mutual fund company J. & W. Seligman, feels pretty upbeat these days.

Little wonder: Two mutual funds that Mr. Eigen manages are sizzling, drawing in investor dollars and posting solid returns.

The Seligman Small Cap Value Fund, which has snapped up $145 million in investor dollars, is up 36 percent this year; the Seligman Large Cap Value Fund, with $31 million, is up 25 percent.

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Both funds carry an up-front sales charge of 4.75 percent on class A shares and were established April 25. (Minimum investment: $1000. For an individual retirement account: $100, followed by nine monthly payments of at least $100. 800-221-2783.)

Eigen uses a "bottom-up" investment approach, looking for specific companies instead of sectors or groups. His portfolios are deliberately small, with 30 companies in the large-cap fund, and 50 companies in the small-cap fund. He seeks firms with low price-earnings ratios, where "something is happening," such as a major restructuring. And he is patient, allowing the stock to grow in value and reach its potential.

The large-cap fund, for example, includes financial firms, manufacturers of capital goods and drugs, and retailers. Companies include Ford, General Motors, Summit Bank, Travelers, and Dole Foods.

The small cap firms tend not to be household names, with exceptions such as Jack-in-the-Box, which Eigen bought at $6 a share. The fast-food chain is now at $20.

Eigen scours the landscape for what he calls that "unique" company that will appreciate in value, no matter what happens to the US economy.

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