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Topic: Growth Stocks

T. Rowe Price Group, Inc. $37 – Nasdaq symbol TROW

T. ROWE PRICE GROUP, INC. $37 (Nasdaq symbol TROW; Aggressive Growth Portfolio, Finance sector; WSSF Rating: Average) sells and manages over 80 no-load mutual funds. The company also provides wealth management, brokerage and other financial services. It currently oversees assets worth roughly $293 billion.

The company prefers to sell its funds directly to investors with no commission fees. That helps keep its management expense ratios down, which gives it an advantage over funds sold through brokers.

T. Rowe Price earned $0.42 a share (total $116.7 million) in the three months ended March 31, 2006 (all per-share amounts adjusted for a 2-for-1 split in June 2006).

New accounting rules forced the company to account for employee stock options and other awards, and added $14.8 million to its first quarter costs. It did not have to recognize these expenses in the year-earlier quarter, when it earned $0.35 a share ($94.3 million). Revenue rose 20.2%, to $429.3 million from $357.1 million.

The company’s wide variety of funds puts it in a good position to profit from the shift away from traditional company pension plans, to plans where employee retirement benefits depend on the performance of the underlying securities.

Four years ago, the company launched a new series of mutual funds called “Retirement Funds”, which invest in other T. Rowe Price funds, and automatically adjust asset allocation according to an investor’s age.

Although Retirement Funds represent 4% of the company’s assets under management, they supplied 17% of its asset inflow in the first quarter of 2006.

The stock now trades at 20.0 times its likely 2006 profit of $1.85 a share. However, stocks account for roughly 80% of T. Rowe Price’s assets under management, so its future earnings are vulnerable to the recent stock market volatility. The $0.56 dividend yields 1.5%.

T. Rowe Price is a hold.

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