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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Franklin India Savings Plus

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Despite concern over a high expense ratio, the fund has enough merit to qualify for a Morningstar Analyst Rating of Bronze.

This fund has undergone several changes in the past. In March 2014, it was rebranded as Franklin India Savings Plus Fund from Templeton Floating Rate Income Fund. Then in April 2014, Umesh Sharma took over the wheel from manager Pallab Roy as part of the realignment of the team internally. Although the fund's fact sheet and other documents still show Roy as the lead manager, we were informed that Sharma is in fact the lead. He is a skilled manager and is the corporate bond specialist in the team. 

The fund's investment strategy also underwent a makeover in 2014. While taking credit bets (that is, investing in sub-AAA rated securities) was a part of the early strategy, the focus shifted towards securities with high credit quality. Hence, following the change in strategy the manager predominantly invests in AAA rated securities. The investment approach is research-intensive in nature, which involves acquiring an in-depth understanding of companies and their operations. Sharma mainly scouts for securities from the corporate bond segment that are mispriced and available at attractive yields. The fund's mandate requires the manager to invest at least 65% of assets in securities with maturities not exceeding 182 days. The manager has the flexibility to take duration bets, with the remaining 35% depending on the interest rate scenario, which could provide an additional kicker to the portfolio. This gives the fund an edge over its competition as not many funds in the ultrashort bond category are run with such flexibility. Overall, the fund's average maturity is maintained in the range of 6-12 months. 

The biggest challenge continues to be the high expense ratio (or TER). In the previous review, we highlighted how the high TER may be a headwind to performance and, as expected, the fund's showing in a peer-relative sense since then has been muted. However, we still believe that the fund has the means to deliver and hence re-affirm its Bronze rating.

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