Pimco's outflow headaches only just beginning

Tue Oct 7, 2014 12:33pm EDT
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By Luciana Lopez

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Outflows from Pimco may be far from over as many investors have yet to decide whether to stick with the Newport Beach, California-based asset manager.

Pimco hasn't said how much money has been withdrawn since fund manager Bill Gross quit on Sept. 26 to join Janus Capital. Pimco said its Total Return fund, which Gross had personally managed for 27 years, saw $23.5 billion in withdrawals in September. Morningstar, which analyzes mutual funds and other investments, estimated net outflow from Total Return at $17.9 billion in September, part of $25.5 billion of net outflows across all of Pimco's U.S. open-ended funds in September.

The withdrawals come as broker-dealers are holding fewer bonds, reducing the options for fund companies seeking to sell holdings to raise the money to meet redemption demands. That may cause the performance of some funds - including Pimco's - to lag, as spreads among less-liquid instruments creep higher and investors find themselves forced to choose between moving quickly or getting a fair price for debt they're selling.

Outflows "will tend to be elevated over the next few months" said Jeff Tjornehoj, head of Americas research at Lipper, a Thomson Reuters company, who said Gross's exit is "the last straw" for some institutional investors. Those "investors are going from the wait-and-see when Bill was there to 'let's accelerate this'" outflow, he said.

Morgan Stanley said that the 6 percent drop on Sept. 26 in the share price of Pimco's parent, Munich-based insurer Allianz SE, implied the loss of about $400 billion in assets under management in the wake of Gross' departure. Morgan Stanley didn't say when those withdrawals would occur, nor why investors would pull their assets. Pimco has almost $2 trillion in assets under management.

Pimco was already on watch at a number of institutional investors after Gross's surprise resignation, including the $46 billion Teachers' Retirement System of the State of Illinois, the $23.4 billion Texas Municipal Retirement System and the $9.4 billion North Dakota Retirement and Investment Office.

Those three pension systems alone have almost $5 billion invested with Pimco, and they're only a small sample of the institutional investors nationwide who've entrusted their money to the company - much of it public funds.

Retail investors, too, could move out. Charles Schwab's target-date funds, for example, booted the Pimco Total Return Fund from its approved list last week.   Continued...

The headquarters of investment firm PIMCO is shown in this photo taken in Newport Beach, California January 26, 2012. REUTERS/Lori Shepler