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Mutual Fund News

Seamark clients jump ship as stock plunges

Canadian Press

HALIFAX -- Seamark Asset Management Ltd., once the star of Atlantic Canada's infant investment management industry, said yesterday it continues to suffer an exodus of clients as its stock plunged to a four-year low.

In a conference call, chief executive officer Peter Marshall said he's hopeful that an intense headhunting effort to find a new president will help stem the flow of assets out the Halifax firm's door.

He also said he'll be reminding investors, mutual funds and pension funds that his firm has a solid 10-year track record, and that with time its investment record will rebound.

Seamark's revenue for the quarter was $6.8-million, down from $7.3-million for the same period last year. Year-to-date revenue is $20.5-million, compared with $21.8-million for the first nine months of 2004.

The decline in profit reflects a continuing departure of clients, said the report on quarterly earnings.

While saying "we will not be rushed," Mr. Marshall said the board is hopeful it can appoint a new CEO within three months.

"Business conditions remain challenging for Seamark," he said.

"Many of our clients are waiting to find out who our next CEO will be. Some unfortunately have chosen to close their accounts with us in the meantime."

Investors did not display much confidence yesterday as the company's shares dropped $2.12 to $14.15 in thin trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Assets under management were at $10.2-billion as of Sept. 30, down $100-million from the beginning of the quarter. Last year, in the same quarter, Seamark was handling $10.7-billion in pensions, wrap funds, private client accounts and mutual funds.

And the departure of major institutional clients could continue, said the quarterly report. The outlook section notes "the net asset outflow from institutional clients during the third quarter has continued so far in the fourth quarter."

The firm, which started as a boutique firm under the leadership of Mr. Marshall, grew to become a rarity in the East Coast business world -- a locally based manager of pensions, mutual funds and big institutions that could attract clients from anywhere in North America.

It grew steadily over the past two decades to become one of Canada's largest independent investment and fund managers.

© 2007 The Globe and Mail. All rights reserved.

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