Pax World reports big ’05 growth

Pax World Funds, the Portsmouth-based father of socially responsible mutual funds, grew to more than $2 billion last year, a more than 30 percent increase, according to its annual report.

Pax World Balanced Fund, the largest of the firm’s three funds, had a total return of 5.39 percent, higher than comparable indexes, and was in the top 34 percent of balanced funds last year, according to Lipper Analytical Services. (It stands at 19 of 177 funds tracked by Lipper over the last ten years.)

The fund added PepsiCo, Chicago Bridge and Iron and Toyota Motors Credit Corp. to its portfolio, selling such stocks as Tribune Co., DIRECT TV, People’s Energy and Avon Products, for economic reasons. It sold its holdings in Starbucks Corp. and Exeter-based Fisher Scientific because the companies no longer fit the fund’s socially responsible investment screens.

Pax had previously announced that it was reluctantly selling Starbucks shares because the company had started to serve alcohol in some of its coffee. It did not give a reason for pulling out of Fisher Scientific. Calls were not returned by Pax by deadline.

Total return on the Pax World Growth fund was 7.19 percent, slightly lower than the index of that class. It recently added Apple Computer, which has been performing well, and dumped Pentair and Walgreen.

Pax’s High Yield Fund had a return of 2.32 percent, lower than comparable indexes. Its largest loss was due to holdings in an auto supply firm.

Pax’s filing repeated, but did not update or elaborate, the disclosure that the Securities and Exchange Commission is looking at Pax World Management Corp.’s “retention of corporate records,” which could have an impact on ability to manage the high-yield fund. Apparently, that issue – which related to market timing – has yet to be resolved. – BOB SANDERS

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