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By Tommy Wilkes
LONDON (Reuters) - Emerging markets investment specialist Ashmore Group <ASHM.L> said clients added $7.3 billion of net new money to its range of funds in the first three months of the year, smashing analyst forecasts and sending its shares up by as much as 12.5 percent.
The net inflows take its assets under management to $77.7 billion, the firm said in a trading statement on Thursday, and are far more than the London-based group has attracted in recent quarters.
Analysts at Numis had forecast net inflows of $1.3 billion.
Headed by billionaire Mark Coombs, who led Ashmore's buyout from Australia and New Zealand Banking Group in 1999, the firm has capitalised on the explosion in investor interest in emerging markets in recent years.
Assets under management have more than doubled since mid-2010, although it now faces stiffer competition from rivals like Aberdeen Asset Management <ADN.L> who also offer emerging market investment funds.
Shares in Ashmore were up 11.5 percent by 0810 GMT, its largest one day move since early 2009 and sending it to the top of the list of FTSE 250 biggest risers.
The share price rise adds about 288 million pounds ($441 million) to Ashmore's market capitalisation.
British fund managers have benefited from a strong start to the year as investors regain their appetite for investment funds as markets rally.
Ashmore said strong net inflows continued into its local currency, corporate and blended debt products, while equities and external debt suffered modest net outflows.
European and U.S. institutional investors bought into its funds during the quarter alongside government-related clients such as sovereign wealth funds in emerging markets.
Negative investment performance took $600 million off its assets under management during the quarter, Ashmore also said, but the net inflows still far exceeded previous periods.
In its first quarter of 2012 the group reported $1.2 billion of net inflows, while in the final three months of last year it added $1 billion.
Elsewhere on Thursday, Polar Capital <POLR.L> also reported strong inflows. The firm posted $690 billion of net inflows in the first three months of the year, lifting its assets under management to $7.2 billion.
($1=0.6525 British pounds)
(Reporting by Tommy Wilkes; Editing by Greg Mahlich)