Wednesday, January 11, 2012

BlackRock being investigated over UniCredit stake

The Telegraph reports that BlackRock is being investigated over mis-stating its stake in UniCredit during the days leading up to UniCredit announcing the terms of its rights offering.

What I find interesting about this investigation is that it assumes market participants care about how much exposure BlackRock has to UniCredit.

My question is why should they?

First, BlackRock is a highly regarded asset manager that has moved from a fixed income focus to a sizable presence in exchange traded funds.  This is a long way from having a reputation for its bank stock selection prowess that would move markets.

Second, market participants should be doing their own analysis of the risk and price of UniCredit stock to determine whether they want to participate in the rights offering.

Having said that, without ultra transparency, market participants do not have the information from UniCredit they need to assess the risk.

As a result, there might be a tendency to look at the actions of firms that are perceived to have better access to information.  BlackRock would be one of these firms.

What this investigation highlights is how the capital markets are no longer properly functioning as a result of opacity.  In this particular example, the opacity is the 'black box bank' that is UniCredit.

BlackRock on Wednesday admitted that it had claimed erroneously to have reduced its holding in UniCredit in the days leading up to the Italian bank's closely watched rights issue. 
The giant US asset manager initially said it had cut its UniCredit holding from 3.09pc to 1.71pc in a statement likely to have spooked fellow shareholders. 
However, in a shock reversal, Blackrock corrected that statement, confirming its shareholding remained unchanged at 3.09pc. 
Italian regulator Consob is understood to be reviewing the statements made by BlackRock, with some sources suggesting they will have hit the already embattled capital raising by UniCredit, Italy's largest bank. 
"The announcement made by BlackRock a few days before the start of UniCredit's rights offer may have penalised the stock, contributing to the sell-off," Wolfram Mrowetz, chairman of investment firm Alisei SIM in Milan, reportedly told Bloomberg. 
The capital raising is seen as a crucial test of investors' confidence in the European banking sector and as such Blackrock's error is likely to come under even greater scrutiny by Consob and other interested parties. 
In a statement, BlackRock said: "This change in holding was generated as a result of a corporate action, not through a reduction in holdings in UniCredit by BlackRock... The notification therefore should not have been issued."

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