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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Forward Tweaks a Fund Thrice, as Planned

Reported by Neil Anderson, Managing Editor

The Forward International Fixed-Income Fund is dead [see profile]; long live the Forward International Fixed Fund, sort of. In February the San Francisco-based mutual fund firm swapped out the fund's sub-advisor, Pictet Asset Management, and swapped in SW Asset Management [see The MFWire, 1/18/2011], and now Forward has re-launched the fund with a new moniker (Forward EM Corporate Debt Fund) and a new strategy (investing at least 80 percent of net assets in debt from emerging markets).

According to Morningstar, the three-star fund held $17.0 million as of Tuesday. It offers Investor shares for 139 basis points, Institutional ones for 99 bps and C shares for 194 bps. Forward noted that this is its fourth recent fund introduction or re-launch.

Newport Beach, California-based SW works with $230.3 million in assets under management. Forward claimed $5.8 billion in AUM as of March 31.

Company Press Release

SAN FRANCISCO--Forward Management, LLC (“Forward”) today introduced the Forward EM Corporate Debt Fund (FFXIX), relaunching what was formerly the Forward International Fixed-Income Fund with a new name, a new strategy and a new sub-advisor. The revamped mutual fund is among the first with a mandate focused primarily on emerging market (EM) corporate debt.

Forward has selected SW Asset Management, LLC, a Newport Beach, CA-based global credit manager that specializes in emerging market corporate debt, as sub-advisor for the fund.

"This asset class has had strong adoption outside the U.S., with good reason,” said J. Alan Reid, CEO of Forward Management, who observed that EM debt securities have been outperforming EM equities for nearly the past decade while exhibiting lower volatility. “The inefficiencies in the EM corporate debt market, coupled with its strong return potential, make it an obvious choice for investment advisors."

Reid added that the EM corporate debt sector has surpassed EM sovereign debt in size, with more than $500 billion in publicly traded, dollar-denominated corporate debt currently outstanding as of March 31, 2011, up from less than $50 billion 10 years ago, based on the Credit Suisse Emerging Markets Corporate Index (CS-EMCI).

David Hinman, co-founder and chief investment officer of SW Asset Management as well as co-portfolio manager for the relaunched Forward Fund, cited several advantages of the EM corporate debt sector, including:

  • Shorter average durations than most other corporate bonds, which could translate into a higher potential investment yield per unit of interest rate risk.

  • A credit universe with a sizable proportion of privately owned companies, providing investment opportunities not available with EM equity investments.

  • A relatively uncrowded market with many bond issuers and a variety of inefficiencies on which the Forward EM Corporate Debt Fund can capitalize.

  • Bond features not usually available with U.S. high-yield corporate bonds, such as owner guarantees, direct asset security and equity-like features such as warrants or convertibility.

  • Issuance of most bonds under U.S. or English law and report under international accounting standards audited by global accounting firms.

  • Strong fundamentals, with economists forecasting rapid economic growth, stable employment and moderate inflation.

    It’s a well-kept secret that EM corporate debt offers one of the best yields in the market relative to credit rating and bond maturity,” said Hinman. “There is also plenty of activity, since sovereign debt spreads have compressed and issuance is down, making it easier for mid-level corporate issuers to fund and capitalize their growth. In our view, now is a great time to be in this market.”

    The Forward EM Corporate Debt Fund is offered in Investor Class, Institutional Class and C Class shares. It is available through Charles Schwab, Commonwealth Financial Network, LPL Financial, Matrix Clearing, National Financial/Fidelity, Pershing, Raymond James and TD Ameritrade.

    It is the fourth mutual fund that Forward has introduced or relaunched in recent months. Forward is considering introducing a long/short version of its EM corporate debt strategy later this year, Reid said.

    “Many investors are still operating with outdated asset allocation models that don’t reflect how much the global economy has changed, let alone where it is headed,” said Reid. “This is why we keep working to introduce innovative mutual fund strategies. Investors who want to stay ahead of inflation and manage risk will need to consider a widening range of investment options.”

    About Forward Management, LLC

    Forward Management, LLC, is a privately held asset management firm that uses a forward-thinking, problem-solving approach to help investors and advisors navigate a shifting, uncertain investment climate. Based in San Francisco, the firm is the investment advisor to the Forward Funds. It gives investors and their advisors access to a broad spectrum of investment and asset allocation solutions, including an evolving set of alternatives to traditional, long-only investing. As of March 31, 2011, Forward Management had $5.8 billion in assets under management in a product set including mutual funds, separate account strategies and limited partnerships. More information on Forward Management and the Forward Funds can be found at www.forwardmgmt.com.

    About SW Asset Management, LLC

    SW Asset Management, LLC (SW) is a global credit fixed-income manager primarily focused on emerging-market corporate debt securities, an area in which few established managers have capabilities. The principals have extensive institutional buy-side credit experience with leading firms, enabling them to identify imbalances in the credit market and to hedge major downside risks. The firm is based in Newport Beach, CA, and has $230.3 million in assets under management and advisement. More information on SW is available at www.sw-assetmanagement.com.

    The Forward EM Corporate Debt Fund seeks to achieve high total return (capital appreciation and income).

    A fund’s use of derivative instruments involves risks different from the risks associated with investing directly in securities, and certain derivatives may create a risk of loss greater than the amount invested. Derivatives increase volatility and transaction costs and may reduce performance.

    Foreign securities, especially emerging or frontier markets, will involve additional risks including exchange rate fluctuations, social and political instability, less liquidity, greater volatility, and less regulation.

    Investing in lower-rated ("high-yield”) debt securities involves special risks in addition to the risks associated with investments in higher-rated debt securities, including a high degree of credit risk.

    A “non-diversified” fund has the ability to invest a larger percentage of its assets in the securities of a smaller number of issuers than a “diversified” fund. The net asset value per share of a non-diversified fund can be expected to fluctuate more than that of a comparable diversified fund.

    There are risks involved with investing, including loss of principal. Past performance does not guarantee future results, share prices will fluctuate, and you may have a gain or loss when you redeem shares.

    Please consider the objectives, risks, charges and expenses carefully before investing in the fund. A prospectus with this and other information may be obtained by calling (888) 312-4100 or by visiting www.forwardfunds.com. Please read carefully before making a final investment decision.

    Sovereign debt is the total amount owed to the holders of the sovereign bonds (bonds issued by a national government).

    Alan Reid is a registered representative of ALPS Distributors, Inc.

    Forward Funds are distributed by ALPS Distributors, Inc. Separately Managed Accounts and related investment advisory services are provided by Forward Management, a federally regulated Investment Advisor.

    ALPS Distributors, Inc., is not affiliated with Forward Management, LLC; Kanter and Company or SW Asset Management, LLC.

    Not FDIC Insured | No Bank Guarantee | May Lose Value 

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