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US fund firm to seek star role in UK pensions

US fund manager Legg Mason is hitting the acquisition trail with a view to becoming a world leader in the investment fund-based pension market.

The group has already set its sights on becoming a key player in the UK market through its subsidiary LeggMason Investors, formerly Johnson Fry.

Chief executive Chip Mason claims that the company is looking to “follow the 401(k) trail around the world”.

He says Legg Mason has been much busier looking for potential mergers and acquisitions to develop this strategy this year than when it acquired Johnson Fry last year.

Legg Mason bought Johnson Fry for £41.9m last December, renaming it LeggMason Investors in June.

Mason says the key to success in the UK will be placing LMI at the forefront of the race to develop Britain&#39s equivalent to Amer-ica&#39s 401(k) plan.

Legg Mason head of asset management Ed Taber says the company is specifically on the lookout for strong matching acq-uisitions. He says: “We want a situation where one plus one will equal more than two.”

As part of a persistent programme of organic growth, LMI is set to launch an American-invested investment trust in September, which will encompass the skills of Legg Mason&#39s star US fund manager, Bill Miller.

Miller, who manages Legg Mason&#39s $13bn (£8.8m) Value fund, has outperformed the S&P 500 index for the past nine years. Last year, he was named fund manager of the decade by ratings outfit Morningstar.

The fund will be managed in the UK by LMI&#39s head of investment trusts Alan Kerr.

Chase de Vere investment adviser Justin Modray says: “There is going to be so much business up for grabs and it will be a very competitive market. I think the fact that Legg Mason comes from a brokerage background will stand it in good stead.”

As the 2000 Premiership season kicks off, football fans can test their faith in their club by investing in Singer & Friedlander&#39s football fund.

The three-year-old fund has returned 17 per cent over the last year and, according to S&F sources, is set to become a solid investment over the medium to long term as more clubs float on the markets.

It invests in UK and Continental clubs as well as companies that are involved in the industry.

It has about a 30 per cent exposure in UK clubs, with its biggest holdings in current Premier league champions Manchester Utd and BSkyB, the sat-ellite TV station which broadcasts Premiership matches.

As far as the current season is concerned, an S&F source predicts Man Utd is the club the rest of the league will be trying to catch in terms of its performance on the field and in the markets.

Man Utd got off to a comfortable start in their first Premiership match of the season on Sunday, beating Newcastle 2-0 (left).

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