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Bond giant Pimco sees positive fourth-quarter inflows, strong start to 2017

By Simon Jessop and Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi

LONDON/ZURICH (Reuters) - Bond-focused investment firm Pimco, part of German insurer Allianz (ALVG.DE), said external clients added 5.9 billion euros (£5 billion) to its funds in the fourth-quarter, and demand had remained strong in the opening weeks of the new year.

The gains marked the second consecutive quarter of net inflows for Pimco and a positive end to the year for Chief Executive Manny Roman, who took over from Pimco founder Bill Gross in November.

Demand was particularly strong for Pimco's Income and Investment Grade Credit strategies, it said, referring to high quality corporate bonds.

Along with positive market and currency moves, the inflows later in 2016 helped to contain a 1.4 percent drop in full-year third-party assets to 1.03 trillion euros.

"The PIMCO turnaround is on track as the fourth quarter was the second consecutive reporting period with positive third-party net inflows," Allianz Chief Financial Officer Dieter Wemmer said in the statement.

"Cost cuts, especially in variable compensation, helped to make up for revenue declines and lift operating profit slightly in the quarter," he added.

Demand from external clients had picked up pace in the opening weeks of 2017, with January's net inflows of around 5 billion euros, almost matching that for the whole of the fourth-quarter, Wemmer said on a media call on Friday.

Chief Investment Officer Dan Ivascyn said recently the group had been buying more high-quality bonds, including Treasuries, which would continue to remain in demand by investors given geopolitical risks around the world.

Ivascyn oversees Pimco's flagship Total Return Fund, which itself took in $1.6 billion from investors in January, to take total assets under management to $75 billion.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch said demand for high-grade credit funds was currently close to historic highs, while Thomson Reuters data showed bond issuance volumes hit a new high in January.

Pimco's performance update came as part of parent Allianz's full-year results, in which it announced a 3 billion euro share buyback and dividend hike, sending its shares higher up 3 percent on Friday.

(Editing by Keith Weir)