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BlackRock says it has more than $800 million for new impact fund

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By Ross Kerber

May 11 (Reuters) - Top asset manager BlackRock Inc said on Wednesday it has more than $800 million in commitments for a new impact fund, part of a growing investor focus on diversity and equity themes.

The New York-based firm said its BlackRock Impact Opportunities Fund is meant to back businesses or projects run by or serving Black, Latino and Native Americans communities. It is among a number of steps BlackRock outlined in June 2020 to advance racial equity after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Pam Chan, global head of BlackRock's alternative solutions group, said the fund aims to deliver market rates of return while promoting economic growth.

"We're thinking about the trillions of gross domestic product that could be unlocked by closing the racial equity wealth gap. A lot of those opportunities have been overlooked," she said.

So far about $80 million of the fund has been deployed to investments like the development of fitness franchises in poorer communities, and to back a Black-owned real estate firm's 292-unit rental community to be built in Farmingville, New York, BlackRock said.

Initial investors include the investment arms or foundations of companies such as Costco Wholesale Corp and PayPal Holdings Inc, BlackRock said.

U.S. impact funds held $234 billion at the end of 2021, according to research firm Morningstar Inc, up from $127 billion a year earlier and $88 billion at the end of 2019. Assets fell to $222 billion at the end of March, driven by market declines despite positive inflows.

The tallies cover funds whose prospectuses spell out goals such as on social or environmental matters.

(Reporting by Ross Kerber Editing by Marguerita Choy)