As Wall Street assesses the damage to balance sheets resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the world’s largest asset manager and a big bond fund are reported to be early losers.
Clients held more than $18.2bn in Russian assets at the end of January, the firm said, but closed markets and sanctions imposed by the E.U. and U.S. and other countries after Russian president Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine have made the majority unsaleable, leading BlackRock to mark them down sharply. The firm suspended all purchases of Russian assets on February 28 and disclosed at that time that its holdings related to the country had fallen to less than 0.01 per cent of assets under management.
The write down reflects both BlackRock’s size, with more than $10 trillion in assets under management, and the damage that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has wreaked on the global financial system. Other large asset managers are also having to write down billions of dollars in exposure.
Pimco , for example, held at least $1.5bn of sovereign debt and about $1.1bn in Russia via the credit-default swap market before the war. Ashmore and Western Assets funds also have exposure to Russian debt, according to Morningstar, as does Janus Henderson at a much lower level.
Larry Fink, BlackRock’s chief executive, said in a LinkedIn post after the markdowns that “this has been a highly complex and fluid situation, and BlackRock will continue actively consulting with regulators, index providers and other market participants to help ensure our clients can exit their positions in Russian securities, whenever and wherever regulatory and market conditions allow”.
If the war in Ukraine ends and sanctions ease, Russian securities could start trading again and recover some value and BlackRock’s funds and clients could benefit.
Meanwhile, the Western Asset Core Plus Bond Fund, run by Franklin Resources Inc.
with $37 billion of U.S. mutual fund assets, fell more than 8% this year and about 3% since the Ukraine conflict began, Bloomberg reported. The losses, resulting from investments in Russian securities, have given the fund the distinction of being one of the worst-performing funds in the category, according to Morningstar Inc.
Heading into this year, the U.S. fund had $484 million in Russia bonds, representing 1.2% of its total assets. Those positions were marked down by more than half to $194 million as of Feb. 28, according to the firm. The positions may have declined further after additional sanctions and restrictions placed on Russia.
A spokeswoman for the California-based Franklin Resources declined to comment.
The fund’s decline shows how the invasion of Ukraine is impacting financial markets, leaving many Russian assets untradeable, with some of the biggest money managers halting trading in exchange-traded funds and index providers excluding Russian securities from benchmarks used by investors worldwide.