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Even though the indices are having a tough time finding their way into positive territory this year, some mutual funds haven't. Take the John Hancock Focused Relative Value Fund, for instance. It's a new fund that has started off, at least, on the right foot.

Tim Quinlisk, portfolio manager on three of John Hancock's value funds, including the Focused Relative Fund,(800-225-5291) is an aggressive, opportunistic kind of manager who has to like a business before he'll invest in it even if it's share price is attractive. "We're relative value investors. Which really means that cheapness alone isn't enough."

So, when Quinlisk looks for value companies, he's not necessarily looking in places where one might find the classic value opportunities. Like in financial or retail, auto parts or basic materials " If growth is on sale in 2001," says Quinlisk, "I think value managers should be looking there."

Because the fund will keep only a couple of dozen names in its portfolio,it's not designed to be a core holding. Instead, consider it riskier than those more broadly diversified because of its concentrated sector bets (currently focused on telecommunications, computer and health care companies) and limited track record ( the opened Nov. 1, 2000), and eneded last year down 9.8 percent).

Here's more about how Quinlisk manages the John Hancock Focused Relative Value Fund:

Q: Will you manage the Focused Relative Value Fund similarly to the way you manage both the John Hancock Large Cap Value Fund and Small Cap Value Fund?

Quinlisk: Yes. But because there will only be 25 to 35 different names in this fund's portfolio it will be a more flexible fund and, in essence, will incorporate some of our best ideas out of the small-cap portfolio as well as some of our better names out of the large-cap one, too.

Q: Tell me about a couple of your holdings and why you like the companies.

Quinlisk: Parametric is an interesting software company that has its core business grounded in software designed for engineers. They are a leader in their market but the stock had gotten crushed. So, the price was attractive, I was getting a very good software business and I love good businesses, and so I was buying a good business and a company that was transforming itself.

Another is Pegasus Communications, which is actually our largest holding now. They have over 1.5 million subscribers and basically have marketed successfully, in rural markets, their satellite direct TV services.

We like this business because there is a fair amount of recurrent revenue. Once you get a customer on the network, you have a pretty good sense of predictability of keeping them. It's like a cable subscriber ---things would have to get very tough before they are going to turn the TV off.

Q: When looking for value companies to invest in, do you expect the fund's holdings to double or triple in price?

Quinlisk: Basically, the doubles and triples are very hard to come by. What we are really trying to do is buy good businesses that are undervalued. If we are right on our valuation, then we can own that business for a long time and every year the business will grow.

Q: How about portfolio turnover. What's it likely to be?

Quinlisk:Because the Focused Relative Value Fund is smaller, it's more nimble and we're really going to be aggressive in terms of taking advantages of the opportunities out there. So I don't want to give you the impression that it wont' have a high turnover, it definitely will.

Q:Is there a cycle to value investing?

Quinlisk: Yes, absolutely. The reality is, if you look over the long-term, investors should have allocation in both growth and value. They do go in cycles but you can't make any generic kinds of statements, like each lasts two or three years.

Q: Is there anything you think that's misunderstood about this kind of fund by the average investor?

Quinlisk: Someone asked me what percentage of the fund was in growth stocks, and I realized that he didn't understand what we were doing in the management of this fund.

Stocks aren't growth or value stocks, stocks are stocks and value and growth are in the eyes of the beholder. So who says there can't be value in telecommunications or telecom services companies. There can be at times.

Q: Value stocks then aren't carved in granite. A company might be considered a value one today and at another point in time considered a growth or momentum stock.

Quinlisk: Precisely. It's all very tricky which is another reason why investors should diversify across all investment styles.


SYMBOLnone yet
TOP HOLDINGSAs of Jan. 31, 2001, top holdings included: Pegasus Communications; Parametric Technology; General Motors; Sprint Corp.; and Computer Associates.
PERFORMANCEThe fund was started on Nov.1, 2000, and ended last year down 9.8 percent. Through Feb. 22nd, 2001, it was up 14 percent.

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