Fidelity Contrafund manager bullish on tech, mum on Wells Fargo

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 18, 2016 9:16 AM

By Tim McLaughlin

BOSTON (Reuters) - Top Fidelity stock picker Will Danoff beat the drum for big tech stocks in his latest quarterly commentary but stayed silent on the controversy surrounding Wells Fargo & Co, one of his top holdings.

Danoff has a $2.7 billion bet on the embattled lender in his $108 billion Contrafund portfolio. The Boston-based fund is the third largest mutual fund investor in Wells Fargo, behind two index funds run by Vanguard Group, according to Thomson Reuters data for the end of August.

Wells Fargo is the only bank in a Contrafund top 10 holdings list dominated by tech companies. It dragged on Contrafund's third-quarter performance when Wells Fargo stock fell nearly 6 percent amid disclosure its branch staff opened as many as 2 million accounts without customers' knowledge.

Danoff did not mention Wells Fargo in his widely read quarterly commentary released on Tuesday. Before the unauthorized account scandal became a crisis for Wells Fargo, Danoff had 2.5 percent of his fund in the bank, according to Contrafund's August holdings report, the latest one available.

Danoff was not available to comment.

Meanwhile, his big sector bet on information technology companies, including Facebook Inc, Google parent Alphabet Inc and Inc, paid off in the third quarter as they were among his top contributors to a market-beating performance.

Contrafund, the largest U.S. stock fund run by a single manager, advanced 5.21 percent in the quarter, compared to the S&P 500's return of 3.95 percent.

"Exposure to tech increased this quarter and it remained the fund's largest sector allocation in both absolute and relative terms," according to the fund's investor commentary. "We continue to believe many top companies here have the potential for significant growth."

Danoff has about 37 percent of his portfolio in information technology companies, compared to a weighting of about 21 percent in the S&P 500 Index.

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Contrafund has been underweight in the energy and utility sectors, avoiding benchmark heavyweights such as Exxon Mobil Corp, AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc.

Danoff has been unenthusiastic about what he describes as capital intensive telecom and utility stocks.

"We continued to essentially avoid the utilities sector due to its persistent capital-intensive business models, regulatory pressure and historically slow growth," his commentary letter said. "At period end, our view was that utilities stocks traded at high price-to-earnings premiums relative to their history. Similarly, we largely avoided telecom companies, as they are capital intensive, regulated and commodity-like."

(Reporting By Tim McLaughlin; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bill Trott)