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New fund offer

A new fund offer (NFO) is the first-time subscription offer for a new scheme launched by a fund management company, in which investors may purchase units of a closed-end mutual fund. A new fund offer occurs when a mutual fund is launched, allowing the firm to raise capital for purchasing securities.

In other words, it is an invitation to investors to subscribe to the units of a newly launched fund. During the New fund offer period, investors can buy the fund units at the base net asset value (NAV) of Rs 10 per unit. In the case of closed-ended funds, they stop accepting subscription requests once the NFO period is over. In an open-ended fund, units can be purchased and sold on a continuous basis even after the initial offering.

A new fund offer is similar to an Initial public offering. Both represent attempts to raise capital to further operations. New fund offers are often accompanied by aggressive marketing campaigns, created to entice investors to purchase units in the fund. However, unlike an initial public offering (IPO), the price paid for shares or units is often close to a fair value. This is because the net asset value of the mutual fund typically prevails. Because the future is less certain for companies engaging in an IPO, investors have a better chance to purchase undervalued shares.

One of the biggest misconceptions among investors is that units are available at a cheap price during the New fund offer period and, hence, it is better to invest at a lower NAV.

However, investors must thoroughly analyse the new scheme before rushing to invest money as soon as an NFO opens. It is the growth rate of NAV that matters rather than the value of NAV. Not all new fund offers (NFO) merit investment. Most are clones of existing schemes, but there are some that stand out. Here are some common guidelines on how to evaluate NFOs:
  1. A novel theme

    Check if the NFO offers a new theme or something that existing schemes don't offer. For instance, when ICICI Prudential US Bluechip Equity Fund got launched in July 2012, it offered a chance to invest in US equity markets, in some of their large and well-managed companies. Not only was the scheme unique, it also tied up with Morningstar, one of the world's largest investment research firms, to zero in on the stocks. Although the scheme wasn't fit for a first-time investor, it appealed to those who are thoroughly invested in Indian equity markets and would do with some foreign diversification.
  1. Good fund manager track record

    Sometimes, soon after a new fund manager (who comes with, say, a good track record) joins a fund house, it launches an NFO to leverage on the fund manager's name and track record. Though, we would generally advise caution in such cases, sometimes such NFOs offer a promising future.

    However, many fund houses get their new fund manager to try and resurrect their old schemes (if they haven't been doing well) and think of launching New fund offers only after the new fund manager settles in and grasps the existing schemes. For instance, when the fund management of Canara Robeco Asset Management Co. Ltd changed in 2008 and fund managers Anand Shah and Ritesh Jain came on board, the fund house launched few new schemes to capitalize on the prowess of the new fund team. The fund house itself restructured in 2007 after Robeco, a Netherlands-based AMC, acquired 49% stake in Canbank AMC (now Canara Robeco AMC).
  2. A new feature

    This one's a rarity these days, but a few years back, there were occasional NFO with a unique feature. For instance, in 2005, Sahara Asset Management Co. Ltd launched an equity scheme with variable pricing mechanism. Called Sahara Wealth Plus Fund, it aimed to charge AMC fees (the portion of total expense ratio that goes directly to AMC as fees for managing your money) based on its performance. As per its website, it takes into account its benchmark index's (S&P CNX 500) returns. Depending on the returns, the AMC fees will be either nil, half of "maximum permissible AMC fees" or "maximum permissible AMC fees". As per Value Research, the "variable pricing" option has marginally outperformed the "fixed pricing" option over the past three and seven years.
  3. What should you do?

    The above points are broad guidelines that nudge you to take a closer look at New fund offers. However, not all NFOs, despite one or more of these features, merit investment. Keep reading Pure Money Making for detailed New fund offer analysis as and when they get launched.

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