BlackRock hits record $6T in assets, helped by Trump tax law

NEW YORK, Jan 12 (Reuters) - BlackRock Inc. (NYSE:BLK) charged past a record $6 trillion in assets, its profit beating Wall Street forecasts, as investors flooded into the relatively low-cost funds of the world's largest asset manager.

A new U.S. tax law, which sliced corporate and individual income rates, also helped the company's results in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31. BlackRock said it saw a $1.2 billion tax benefit related to the law and raised its quarterly cash dividend by 15 percent.

"We've been winning more share of wallet," Chief Executive Larry Fink told Reuters.

"Fees are really important and are becoming more important."

Fink said the tax reform was putting more money in his clients' pockets, which they would need to invest, and that the increased cash could allow him to invest more in the company's future. He declined to identify such investments but said they were discussed at the company's board meeting.

The New York-based company's shares were up 2.3 percent in trading on Friday morning. Shares have gained 47 percent over the last year, including dividends.

"Just when we thought, after the third-quarter report, things couldn't get better, it seems that they did," said Edward Woods, portfolio manager at Bahl & Gaynor Inc, which owns BlackRock shares.

Strong economic growth, tame inflation and supportive government policies propped up assets in 2017, with most countries' equity markets recording gains, often at double-digit percentages.

BlackRock has the largest lineup of exchange-traded funds (ETFs), many of which track segments of the market at a relatively low fee. The move to those funds caught many of its once-larger competitors flat-footed.

BlackRock said its iShares ETF business took in $54.8 billion in new money in the quarter, up from $49.3 billion a year earlier. The $367 billion the company took in from investors in 2017 overall was a record, while assets under management expanded to $6.29 trillion.

"Our view is this acceleration - we saw 18 percent growth rate last year - we think something like that is going to continue for the next couple of years," said Jennifer Grancio, a managing director at BlackRock focused on the iShares business.

BlackRock shareholders and analysts are, however, keeping a close eye on how fast expenses are rising and fees are falling given the demand for lower-fee products. General and administration expenses for the quarter rose 26 percent in the quarter to $448 million, compared to the year-ago period.

BlackRock's net income surged to $2.3 billion, or $14.07 per share, from $851 million, or $5.13 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding the benefit from the new tax law, BlackRock earned $6.24 per share. Analysts on an average expected the company to earn $6.02 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Additional reporting by Diptendu Lahiri in Bengaluru; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Andrew Hay)