* Some 21 investment fund leaders invited at Elysee dinner
* Macron presents past and future reforms
* Funds say underweight French asset status no longer justified
By Michel Rose
PARIS, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Some of the world’s largest investment funds told President Emmanuel Macron they were impressed with his drive to reform France and could inject billions of dollars into the economy as a result, officials said on Thursday.
Macron, a former investment banker, invited close to two dozen international financiers to dinner at the Elysee palace on Wednesday and reminded them that he had delivered on a promise of pro-business reforms.
“The feedback we had was that investors were rather blown away by the president’s vision,” an adviser to Macron said, asking not to be quoted by name.
“These are international investors who manage hundreds of billions, who travel around the world and are used to be cajoled. But we pulled off a beautiful event and they liked it.”
“We need you” was in essence Macron’s message to the 21 executives from sovereign wealth, asset management and pension funds, the adviser said. The president’s presentation was followed by a lively Q&A session, he added.
A spokeswoman for BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, whose chairman and CEO Larry Fink was at the table of the Elysee’s glass-roofed Winter Garden room, confirmed the positive feeling among investors.
“Yesterday’s session was beneficial to the investors present and reinforced the view that the opportunities in France are the strongest they have been in two decades,” she said.
The presidential adviser said several managers were now convinced the underweight status of French assets in their portfolios, inherited from years of fiscal instability, missed targets and sluggish growth, was no longer justified.
“Investors told us that France was rather underweight historically in their asset portfolios and that, with a UK which is now a risk area with Brexit, they’ll reinvest in France,” the adviser said.
The positive view also contrasted with the cautious welcome Macron had received after his election, as investors were initially doubtful he could defy street protests and pass his reforms in full through a largely untested parliament majority, the adviser said.
A presentation on Station F, the world’s largest startup incubator which opened its doors in Paris earlier this year, was particularly appreciated by those present, he said.
The new investments were likely to benefit small- to mid-sized companies where international investors were less present than in the blue-chip CAC 40 or well-known startups.
“They left with the impression that the French economy is moving, we know that, but also that there are opportunities beyond the big groups and unicorns such as BlaBlaCar,” he said.
Additional reporting by Maya Nikolaeva; editing by Luke Baker and Richard Balmforth