New Face

Sometimes good funds go unheralded for arbitrary reasons. Although the portfolio underlying STI Classic Small Cap Equity Fund opened in 1994, a change in its name and structure last year makes it appear in many databases to be just one year old, a period too short to draw much attention. Yet in the three years ended on Dec. 31, the $369 million fund posted an annual average total return of 32.6%, vs. the 22.4% recorded by the Russell 2000 small-cap index. BUSINESS WEEK Senior Writer Robert Barker spoke with fund manager Brett Barner:

Q: What is your fund's focus?

A: It's a small-cap value approach. The thing that sets us apart is we require a dividend yield from all the securities.

Q: What have you bought lately?

A: Norrell, the temp-services firm. They announced they were going to miss [analysts' earnings estimates for] the quarter. The stock got clobbered. To me, it's a 9- to 14-month flu.

Q: What about Sotheby's Holdings? Do you expect a takeover?

A: That's always overhanging, but I wouldn't say I'm in Sotheby's for [that]. The art business, which has been in a slump since the early '90s, is picking up.

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