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Tough markets hit BlackRock results; shares slump 4 percent

(Reuters) - BlackRock Inc's BLK.N quarterly revenue fell short of Wall Street's expectations on Tuesday as the world's biggest asset manager reported its lowest sales of equity, bond and other long-term investments since the second quarter of 2016.

FILE PHOTO: A sign for BlackRock Inc hangs above their building in New York U.S., July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo GLOBAL BUSINESS WEEK AHEAD

Investors pulled money from BlackRock’s institutional stock index funds, while putting more into ostensibly lower-risk bond funds and continuing to flock to its booming iShares exchange-traded funds (ETFs) business as a low-cost way to access the market.

“It was a tough quarter for the entire industry,” BlackRock Chief Executive Officer Larry Fink told Reuters. BlackRock shares were down 4 percent in trading on Tuesday morning.

Overall, the company’s closely-watched earnings per share figure continue to grow, helped by lower taxes and beating analyst forecasts. But another measure, earnings before interest and taxes, fell short of forecasts.

Edward D Jones & Co LP analyst Kyle Sanders called the results “disappointing.”

"All these asset managers have just been getting clobbered the last couple of months, and today's results aren't going to alleviate any of those concerns," he said. Shares of global asset managers tracked by Thomson Reuters .TRXFLDGLPUINVM are down 18.3 percent this year.

BlackRock's publicly-traded competitors include State Street Corp STT.N, T. Rowe Price Group Inc TROW.O and Franklin Resources Inc BEN.N. All three were up about 1 percent Tuesday.

Sanders said the withdrawal of institutional money from the stock market is being interpreted as particularly concerning not just for BlackRock but for markets generally. Investors pulled $30.8 billion from BlackRock’s institutional equity index accounts, which BlackRock attributed to investors cutting risk.

“That’s the smart money,” said Sanders. “That’s what everyone looks to, and when people see that head to the sidelines, they’re going to read that as more challenges to come.”

Markets grew anxious during the quarter about escalating U.S.-China trade disputes, U.S. Federal Reserve policy holding back economic growth, and a rout in emerging market currencies from Turkey to Argentina and India.

Revenue of $3.6 billion at BlackRock was nearly 2 percent short of analyst forecasts, and earnings before interest and taxes of $1.4 billion fell about 5 percent short.

BlackRock’s total net flows were down $3.1 billion and “long-term” flows, excluding accounts where investors hold cash, were up by $10.6 billion, the lowest figure in nine quarters.

The results reflected increased investor preference for low-cost ETFs that own broad swathes of the market and make it easier to move in and out of the market. That ETF business is one in which BlackRock is, along with a very small group of competitors, dominant. The company makes most of its money by charging a percentage of the value of the assets it manages.

The company’s iShares-brand ETFs took in $33.67 billion in new money, down from $52.31 billion, a year earlier. Meanwhile, revenue from technology services, a growing area of emphasis for the company, grew 18 percent year-over-year.

In an interview, Fink touted recent wins with clients, including increasing the number of ETFs available without trading commissions through Fidelity Investments as well as Lloyds Banking Group LLOY.L, awarding the company a near-$40 billion slice of one of Europe's biggest investment contracts to be invested using various BlackRock index strategies.

Net income attributable to the company rose to $1.22 billion in the third quarter ended Sept. 30 from $944 million a year earlier. On a per share basis and excluding nonrecurring items, charges that do not affect the company’s book value and tax items that do not impact cash flow, BlackRock earned $7.54, compared with $5.76 a year earlier.

Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Additional reporting by Diptendu Lahiri in Bengaluru; Editing by Paul Simao and Nick Zieminski