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BlackRock cuts fees on bond funds, following other money managers

The BlackRock logo is seen outside of its offices in New York January 18, 2012. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

By Jessica Toonkel

(Reuters) - BlackRock (BLK.N) on Monday became the latest asset manager to lower fees on some of its bond funds in recent weeks.

BlackRock's fee cut, which follows similar changes by Lord Abbett and OppenheimerFunds, comes after the high-profile departure of Bill Gross from Pacific Investment Management Co in late September and could help the firm capture some of the outflows that are pouring out of Pimco, analysts said.

New York-based BlackRock, the world's biggest asset manager, is lowering the fees on three of its bond funds, including its $4 billion Total Return Fund (MAHQX.O), according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday. “BlackRock regularly evaluates fund fees and expenses to ensure that they remain competitive as the marketplace evolves," a spokeswoman said in a statement.

The drops in fees by Lord Abbett and OppenheimerFunds earlier this month were also disclosed in regulatory filings.

Gross resigned from Pimco on Sept. 26 to join rival Janus Capital Group (JNS.N), and investors pulled $25.5 billion from Pimco's U.S. open end funds in September, according to Morningstar data.

Given how low bond yields are today, even small fee cuts can catch the attention of potential clients, said Dan Culloton, an analyst at Morningstar.

The fees on institutional shares of the BlackRock Total Return Fund will drop to 45 basis points, from 52 basis points, putting it in line with Pimco's Total Return fund, which charges 46 basis points for institutional shares. Fees for A-shares of the BlackRock Total Return Fund will drop to 79 basis points from 83 basis points.

BlackRock also is lowering fees on institutional shares for the BlackRock Core Bond Fund (BCBAX.O) to 45 basis points, down from 56 basis points.

B-shares of the BlackRock Low Duration Bond Fund (BFMSX.O) will now cost 154 basis points down from 162 basis points, according to the filing.

Lord Abbett made a similar fee cut to its Lord Abbett Total Return Fund (LTRAX.O) on Oct. 14. Fees on A-shares of that fund are now 68 basis points, down from 85, while fees on institutional shares dropped to 48 basis points, from 65.

On Oct. 20, OppenheimerFunds cut the fees of its Core Bond Fund, with fees on A-shares now 85 basis points, down from 91.

Spokespeople for each firm said the changes were made as part of an ongoing evaluation of fees.

Institutional shares of the BlackRock Total Return Fund have outperformed peers, including the Pimco Total Return Fund, for the past one, three and five years, ranking among the top decile of its category, according to Morningstar.

Given how well the $4 billion BlackRock Total Return Fund has performed, it will likely win over many investors, including advisers, 401(k) plans and pension plans, considering moving away from Pimco, said Jeff Tjornehoj, head of research at Lipper, a Thomson Reuters company.

"This is a shot across the bow at Pimco," Tjornehoj said.

Pimco was not immediately available for comment.

(Reporting by Jessica Toonkel; Editing by W Simon and Leslie Adler)