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BlackRock steps up China drive with new licence to raise onshore funds

US fund giant BlackRock Inc has won a special new licence that will allow it to raise funds in China directly for the first time, a senior executive told Reuters, paving the way for the world's largest money manager to expand in the mainland.

Speaking in an interview in Bangkok this week, BlackRock vice chairman Philipp Hildebrand, said his company was granted a so-called Qualified Domestic Limited Partnership (QDLP) license "reasonably recently". He said BlackRock, with about $4.5 trillion in assets, is committed to China and will "do whatever that entails" to provide asset management services there.

At a time when China's stock markets are gingerly recovering from their worst ever sell-off, the new licence allows BlackRock, which already has some operations in the country, greater freedom to raise funds onshore from domestic high net worth Chinese investors through a wholly owned fund management company.

BlackRock now joins a handful of other global funds with QDLP licences including, Man Group Plc and Och-Ziff Capital Management Group. Amid Beijing's extraordinary measures to halt its markets slide, some questioned the second-largest economy in the world's commitment to opening up capital markets.

Although the Chinese authorities do not publish information on QDLP licenses, BlackRock is among the first traditional asset managers to receive such a license, according to people familiar with the matter. Hildebrand declined to discuss targets for BlackRock's business in China.

"We also recognise that it's a long-term proposition and we're ready to stay for the duration," said Hildebrand. "I think we've shown to the authorities and to the market that we're there."

Beijing controls access to its market tightly. Foreign asset managers that wish to distribute investment products generally have to operate on the ground through minority-owned joint ventures with domestic firms, although regulators are gradually loosening the reins.

Hildebrand, who was in the Thai capital to address a Bank of Thailand policy forum, said he was not concerned by short-term volatility, but by whether China remains committed to its reform agenda.

"It will have repercussions, it will mean lower growth rates but I think the Chinese government knows that and accepts that as the natural consequence of this desirable reform effort," he added, referring to China's reform efforts.

BlackRock was awarded two Renminbi Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor (RQFII) licences last year, which allows the company to purchase stocks and bonds in China. It also has a stake in a joint venture with Bank of China Investment Management.

Unveiled in 2012, the QDLP licence is designed to allow foreign alternative asset managers, namely hedge funds, to raise funds onshore to invest offshore. The first round of licences was granted in 2013.

"This is a very significant development for BlackRock from a branding and marketing perspective, as it allows them to raise funds in China in their own name directly for the first time," said Stephen Baron, executive director at Shanghai-based investment consultancy Z-Ben Advisors.

"It also very important for the scheme itself, as it signals that the authorities are broadening out QDLP."

Copyright Reuters, 2015


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