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Big in Japan: 5 turbulent years, 5 excelling funds

We reveal the Japanese equity managers that have delivered the biggest returns over the past five years.

The best performers in Japanese equity

Fund managers plying their trade in Japanese equities have had plenty to contend with since the market low around five years ago. The devastation of the tsunami in 2011 again shook an economy already ravaged by the persistently high value of the yen and the aftermath of the nation's 'lost decade'.

Nonetheless, in euro terms the best managers have managed to deliver strong returns, even though the Topix benchmark declined 7.26% in TR euro terms over the period. In the following five slides we take a look at the best performers.

The following graphs show fund performance from 31/12/2007 to 31/12/2012 against the nominated Citywire benchmark. Returns are shown in euro terms.

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Fund: Amundi Fds Equity Japan Target - IJ (C)

Claiming the number-five spot is Amundi's Equity Japan Target fund, which has returned 21% since the end of 2007.

Managed by Hiromitsu Kamata, the fund has at least 67% of its total assets in shares of Japanese companies that the manager believes have undervalued assets or undervalued growth potential, or have potential for a turnaround.

The fund's three biggest holdings are IT business Amano Corporation (2.2%), Kissei Pharmaceutical (2.1%) and accounting software maker Japan Digital Laboratory (2.1%).

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Fund: BSI-Multinippon I

Just missing out on a podium finish is Banca della Svizzera Italiana's BSI-Multinippon fund, which has delivered a 22% return over the five years to the end of 2012.

Michele Malingamba, the fund had 96.5% of its total assets in Japanese equities at the end of December.

Its three biggest holdings at the end of 2012 were Nissan Motor (4%), leisure and tourism corporation Oriental Land (3.8%), and electronics and ceramics manufacturer Kyocera (3.6%).

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Fund: ValueInvest Lux Japan A Cap

The first of the top three funds is ValueInvest's Lux Japan vehicle, which has returned 24% over the period shown in the graph above.

Four managers share control of ValueInvest Lux Japan A Cap: Jens Hansen, Klaus Petersen, Claus Juul and Denis Kostyukovich.

Large-cap Japanese companies are the quartet's focus and their value-driven systematic investment process leads them to search for undervalued companies with high earnings stability and low net debt. Portfolio construction is entirely bottom-up and without benchmark constraints.

The fund's biggest holdings at the end of January were technology firm Konica Minolta (5.35%), brewer Kirin (5.15%) and Nippon Flour Mills (5.10%).

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Fund: Invesco Japanese Equity Advantage

The second strongest performer among Japanese equity funds is Invesco's Japanese Equity Advantage with a total return of 25% in the period covered in the graph.

Citywire Euro Stars AA-rated Tadao Minaguchi manages the fund, which focuses on Japanese firms that make advantageous use of both their capital and their intangible assets.

At the end of 2012 the fund's three biggest holdings were imaging and electronics company Ricoh (4.8%), traditional medicine business Tsumura (4.8%), and steel products maker Toyota Tsusho (4.6%).

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Fund: Fidelity Funds - Japan Advantage A-JPY

The strongest performer over the past five years is Fidelity's Japan Advantage fund, which has returned almost 38% in euro terms.

The fund is now managed by Mark Buffett, who took the reins after Ronald Slattery stepped down in August last year. The fund seeks undervalued equities listed on regional stock exchanges in Japan and on the Tokyo over-the-counter market.

At the end of December the fund's three biggest holdings were Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group (6.5%), Mizuho Financial (5.2%) and optical goods maker Canon (5.0%)

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