German insurer Allianz says it has no plans to increase oversight of its California-based investment unit Pimco after the shock departure of co-founder Bill Gross sent shares in the Munich-based parent tumbling at the end of last week.
Allianz stock, which fell over 6 percent on Friday, recovered somewhat on Monday morning, up 1 percent at 1000 GMT. But the departure of Gross, known as the “bond king” for his stellar track record in the fixed income markets over decades, sparked a flurry of broker downgrades of Allianz in anticipation of massive investor outflows from Pimco funds.
Gross’s abrupt departure to rival Janus Capital Group comes just eight months after his presumed successor as head of Pimco, former CEO Mohamed El-Erian, quit the group amid a row with Gross, raising questions about Allianz’s oversight of its Newport Beach subsidiary.
Throughout the turmoil, the German firm has denied the need to exert stronger control over Pimco, and reiterated that message in newspaper interviews on Monday.
“We have the exact same control over Pimco we have had for 10 years,” Jay Ralph, the Allianz board member in charge of asset management, told the Financial Times. “We have no desire to change that. Bill’s departure will have absolutely no impact on the Allianz relationship with Pimco.”
Separately, Ralph told the Handelsblatt newspaper that Allianz stood “100 percent” behind Gross’s successor Dan Ivascyn and saw no need for a change in strategy.
Gross’s departure comes at a delicate time for Allianz, with the contracts of Chief Executive Michael Diekmann and five more of the insurer’s 11 board members due to expire at the end of the year.
Allianz’s supervisory board is due to meet later this week and will likely give Diekmann a new two-year term, disregarding its own age limit of 60 for top executives. Diekmann will turn 60 in December.
Analysts at J.P.Morgan said they believed the Pimco franchise remained strong even without Gross, but expressed concern about the speed of his switch to Janus, where he is due to start work on Monday. As a result of this, they are expecting net outflows from Pimco equivalent to the $225 billion euros in assets at Gross’s flagship Total Return Fund. But a top-10 investor in Allianz, who requested anonymity, said there was a positive side to Gross’s departure, given his recent bout of poor performance and volatile behavior.
“They now need to prove that it’s true what they’ve always said – that Pimco is much more than just Bill Gross. Only results will show,” the investor said.
“But let’s face it: He missed expectations recently and a lot of money is already gone because people were disappointed with his performance, not with Pimco’s performance in general.”
In an interview with Reuters on Sunday, Pimco CEO Doug Hodge said the asset manager had evolved to become much more than Bill Gross and his Total Return Fund.
“Over the last five years, we have expanded into far more parts of the fixed income market and into other asset classes and other geographies, so the Pimco Total Return Fund does not define Pimco,” Hodge said.
“It’s an important flagship product of this firm but it is not our only strategy.” (1 US dollar = 0.7883 euro)
(Writing by Noah Barkin; Editing by Sophie Walker)
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