In A Big World, Few Open Doors
COLUMBIA ACORN INTERNATIONAL FUND Z (ACINX)
5-yr. avg. annual total return: 22.2%*
Expense ratio: 0.94%
From their perch in Chicago, managers Zach Egan and Louis Mendes are buy-and-hold investors who search the planet looking for companies with above-average growth rates and strong balance sheets. As a result, their $4.8 billion no-load portfolio has an eclectic mix of 189 stocks, including UrAsia Energy, a Kazakhstan-based uranium miner. You'll pay a 2% redemption fee on shares held fewer than 60 days.
FORWARD INTERNATIONAL SMALL COMPANY (PISRX)
5-yr. avg. annual total return: 25.0%*
Expense ratio: 1.60%
Pictet, a Swiss asset manager, runs this fund using quantitative analysis and bottoms-up research. More than 42% of the $300 million fund's assets are in European companies, such as Premiere AG, a German broadcaster. The no-load fund's expense ratio is usually 1.66%, although it has been temporarily cut to 1.60% to entice new investors.
JANUS OVERSEAS FUND (JAOSX)
5-yr. avg. annual total return: 22.0%*
Expense ratio: 0.91%
Manager Brent Lynn is a fan of fast-growing companies with seasoned management teams and high returns on capital. But what makes this $7.9 billion no-load fund stand out is a well-balanced mix of large-company stocks (Sony and Samsung are top holdings) with mid- and small-company holdings. Lynn also takes concentrated country bets: Right now the fund is focused on Hong Kong, Brazil, India, and Japan. With a low expense ratio, it's also one of the cheapest foreign funds to own on our A-list.
OPPENHEIMER INTERNATIONAL SMALL COMPANY (OSMAX)
5-yr. avg. annual total return: 31.0%*
Expense ratio: 1.20%
Fund manager Rohit Sah has bulked up the $2.6 billion fund with investments in Asia and Canada, and nearly 40% of the fund is invested in Canadian energy and mining stocks. That hasn't left much room for European companies, which make up less than 15%. Sah is also a fan of young companies that have gone public within the past five years. Only serious investors should apply: The minimum investment is $50,000. The fund has a front-end load of 5.75%.
T. ROWE PRICE INTERNATIONAL DISCOVERY (PRIDX)
5-yr. avg. annual total return: 25.9%*
Expense ratio: 1.24%
Nearly half of this $2.7 billion growth fund is invested in Europe, with an additional 25% allocated to the Pacific Rim. London-based lead manager Justin Thomson looks for growth companies like Financial Technologies, an Indian outsourcer of specialty financial software. Other top holdings include Austar Communications, an Australian satellite-television company, and SGL Carbon, a German manufacturer of carbon, graphite, and composite materials.
* Pretax returns through Apr. 30
By Lauren Young