Best and worst: Big show from smaller firms

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SAVE & PROSPER was promoting investment in smaller company funds long before the recovery in small-company shares got under way. But people who bought into S & P's Smaller Companies Growth Fund could have done better in funds offered by other investment companies. S & P's 18 per cent profit before charges doesn't look bad value, but it pales against nearly 50 per cent by some of its peers over the last six months.

Michael Ashbridge was recruited from the investment management arm of Lloyds Bank last year to run the UK unit trust desk at S & P, and a new manager, Peter Testa, has been appointed from within S & P to run the smaller companies fund. Mr Ashbridge said the fund's investments had been reorganised, away from very small companies, and is showing improvement. 'In November, 8 per cent of the holdings were companies with market capitalisation of more than pounds 100m; now 30 per cent is in companies of this size. And previously 55 per cent of the fund was in companies with market capitalisations of less than pounds 25m, and that has been reduced to 28 per cent.'

Allied Dunbar's smaller companies trust also has a new manager, Simon Pilkington, who said: 'The main problem with this fund is that it is too concentrated in too few holdings. It has just over 50, whereas similar funds have about 65 holdings.'

John Sweet, manager of Perpetual's smaller companies fund, limits his holdings in any one company to 2.5 per cent of the portfolio. Dorling Kindersley, the publishing company floated last year, has been his star performer.

----------------------------------------------------------------- BEST & WORST: SMALL COMPANY FUNDS ----------------------------------------------------------------- The best % rise 1 Brown Shipley Smaller Companies 49.4 2 Perpetual UK Smaller Companies 48.1 3 Granville Smaller Companies 46.2 4 Edinburgh UK Smaller Companies 46.1 5 Royal Life UK Emerging Companies 41.1 The worst 63 GT Smaller Companies Div 22.3 64 Allied Dunbar Smaller Companies 21.9 65 AES Smaller Companies 20.9 66 Capital House Smaller Companies 20.2 67 S&P UK Smaller Companies Growth 18.6 ----------------------------------------------------------------- Percentage increase in unit price over six months to 1 April, offer to offer, income reinvested Source: Finstat -----------------------------------------------------------------