UPDATE 1-UK fund manager Henderson aims to double assets by 2018

Wed Feb 26, 2014 4:51am EST

* Targets 150 billion pounds within 4 years

* CEO says eyeing U.S. acquisitions

* Underlying pre-tax profit 190 mln stg

* Final dividend 5.85 pence

By Chris Vellacott

LONDON, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Fund manager Henderson Group is aiming to double its assets by 2018 to about 150 billion pounds ($250 billion) and its top target is a deal in the United States to fill "a big gap" in the company's business mix.

Chief Executive Andrew Formica told journalists that his strategy was to push Henderson beyond its core UK market and that may also involve small acquisitions in his native Australia and Asia.

"By 2018 we expect to have a truly global footprint, infrastructure and mindset, to have delivered in excess of 5 percent in net new money each year," he said on a conference call.

"With reasonable market appreciation and some bolt-on acquisitions, our ambition is to double our AUM (assets under management) for the group," he said.

Formica was speaking after the group posted a 14-percent increase in the assets it manages for clients during 2013, much of which he attributed to a strategy focusing the business on retail clients, who, he said, were investing more.

Total assets under management were 75.2 billion pounds at the end of 2013, the company said, up from 65.6 billion pounds and buoyed by a 2.5 billion pounds net inflow from retail clients in the final quarter of the year.

Formica said inflows were continuing this current year, with investors becoming more confident as markets and economies recover after the financial crisis.

Most in demand are property and equities, particularly in Europe where markets have recovered convincingly since the euro zone's sovereign debt crisis.

Underlying profit before tax in 2013 was nearly 25 percent higher than a year earlier at 190.1 million pounds, the company said.

Profits were lifted by higher revenues than in 2012, and a near tripling in performance fees - part of the returns made on its clients' money - but held back by higher staffing costs.

Henderson shares were trading close to 1 percent higher by 0800 GMT.

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