'Quiet Assassin' Bolton to quit after China fund flop

ANTHONY Bolton, one of Britain's best-known fund managers, is to retire after failing to crack the Chinese market.

The 63-year-old will step down as head of the Fidelity China Special Situations investment trust next year after three difficult years trying to master the world's second-largest economy.

Nicknamed the Quiet Assassin in City circles, Bolton earned a stellar reputation as head of Fidelity Special Situations fund in the UK, making annual returns of 20% during his 28 years at its helm. He consistently outfoxed the index, meaning anyone who stuck with him would have seen a £1000 initial investment grow to £147,000 by the time he left it in 2007.

However, his move to Asia in 2010 has not worked out as expected. He invested in small to medium-sized firms, and now has around 110 stocks in his portfolio. These have proved to be riskier than large corporates, meaning that he has been hit harder than the other funds in his sector, which predominantly invest in large caps.

The China fund's share price has fallen 10.4% since its launch. Bolton will continue as an adviser to Fidelity and a trustee of its charitable foundations. He said his decision to step down had been "well-flagged". He added: "I've been pretty open about my intentions. I said it was something I wasn't going to do for the long term. The key for me is to do it when we had the right person to take over."

Bolton will be replaced by Dale Nicholls, head of the Fidelity Funds Pacific Fund since September 2003.

Patrick Connolly, financial planner at Chase de Vere said: "The Fidelity China Special Situations investment trust was launched to a huge fanfare in 2010, and it raised an impressive £460 million. The initial popularity of the trust was down to the reputation of Anthony Bolton and the positive investor sentiment in China with the average Chinese fund having returned 55% in 2009.

"However, performance in China has been disappointing since. The IMA China sector is the worst-performing of all sectors in the past three years, registering a loss of 0.6%. This compares, for example, with gains of 40% for UK equity funds, 39% for US equities and 35% for European equities."