INVESTOR PROFILE-Jupiter's De Blonay aims to mix things up

Tue Jun 15, 2010 8:05pm IST

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* Adds stock-picking expertise to colleague's macro stance

* Sees good opportunities in U.S. and emerging markets

By Raji Menon

LONDON, June 15 (Reuters) - The last time Guy de Blonay was readying for an IPO, he was one of the high-profile pin-ups around whom New Star Asset Management built its marketing campaign to retail investors for its share offering in 2005.

Now, the Swiss-born manager is hoping he can bring some of the excitable spirit of his brash former employer to Jupiter Asset Management, as the firm prepares to test investor appetite for an IPO which could value it at up to 748 million pounds ($1.2 billion). [ID:nLDE65E0VD]

De Blonay was hired in October last year to co-manage one of Britain's most successful financial sector funds -- the 1.2 billion pound Jupiter Financial Opportunities Fund -- alongside Philip Gibbs. [ID:nLI73781]

Under the stewardship of Gibbs, the fund LP60010210 was one of the only financial funds to turn a profit during the financial crisis. It has returned 792 percent since launch in June 1997, according to Lipper data. [ID:nLDE60B26R]

Financial advisers are watching to see how the two stars, with their differing investment styles, work together. De Blonay said he would add his stock picking expertise and enthusiasm to Gibbs's ability to pinpoint broader macro-economic trends.

"Maybe it is true that I am more aggressive and during more favourable environments, I get more excited, perhaps more inclined to get the odd story that can do much better than the market," he told Reuters in an interview. <^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

For Reuters Insider interview with De Blonay, click on: here

For a profile of Gibbs double click on [ID:nLDE60B26R] ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^>

CHATEAU DE BLONAY

Industry watchers note the different personalities of the two -- the quietly spoken Gibbs, who tends to shy away from media attention, compared with smooth-talking, French-accented De Blonay who seems to revel in the spotlight. He is personable enough to whip out a photo of his one-month old son when conversation turns to his home life.

While Gibbs is even reluctant to talk of his love of Somerset Cricket Club, De Blonay -- who speaks German as well as English and French -- is happy to point out he plays golf off a not-unimpressive handicap of six.

He is less comfortable when attention falls on his monied background. His family still owns a 12th century castle outside Geneva called Chateau de Blonay, which even has its own railway station between Vevy-Blonay and Les Pleidades.

The law graduate from the University of Geneva is adept at steering the conversation back to his funds and is quick to lionise Gibbs, who he says was his biggest rival while running the New Star Global Financial Fund.

"I have known Philip Gibbs for quite a while now and he has been someone that I have looked up to in terms of skills and performance," he said.

But he has arrived at a time when the performance of the fund has slipped as Gibbs took a cautious stance and, at one point, even moved over 50 percent into cash. [ID:nLDE62S0PH]

In the year to date, the fund has underperformed rivals in the financial sector by a little under 1 percentage point, while over the 12 months to the end of May it has lagged by nearly 8 percentage points, according to Lipper data.

"[Gibbs] was a bit early in being cautious back in February, but rightly so because the concerns he put forward then are now taking centre stage," De Blonay told Reuters Insider.

"We have had a bit of underperformance ... but I don't think that's going to be for too long. And although we are relatively cautious about what is going on in the world, especially in the euro zone, we still believe there are some very good opportunities emerging in the U.S. and the emerging markets."

FAMILY FRIEND

De Blonay must be hoping Jupiter's second attempt at life as a public company will trump New Star's experience. The firm had been founded by industry veteran John Duffield after first setting up Jupiter, and raised over 600 million pounds ($874 million) in its 2005 IPO, making millionaires of even its receptionists.

The end came last year as New Star was sold to Henderson (HGGH.L) for 107 million pounds after being hit by poor performance, hefty client outflows and debt.

Rejoining Jupiter at end-2009 completed a circle for 39-year-old De Blonay. He kicked off his career at the firm in 1995, given a leg-up by family friend Duffield whom he had first met while toddling around in nappies as a one-year old.

Duffield later sold a majority stake to Commerzbank (CBKG.DE) as Jupiter's first period as a listed firm came to an end and De Blonay was alongside his father's pal again as a splinter group departed to set up New Star in 2000 following a spat with the new owners.

De Blonay has fond memories of the time he spent at New Star working with Duffield, who recruited him fresh from a year of military service with the Swiss army.

"I am very sorry for what happened with New Star, but my time there was the best that I have had in my working life," De Blonay said. "I was very lucky to work with John Duffield -- it was truly an experience." (Editing by David Holmes) ($1=.6823 Pound)

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