BlackRock’s Birch takes sabbatical

Graham Birch, the manager of the £1.5bn BlackRock Gold & General fund, is to take a sabbatical until the end of the year.

His co-manager, Evy Hambro, will take over the fund as well as the World Mining investment trust for the next nine months.

Tony Stenning, the managing director of BlackRock’s unit trust business, says that Birch’s career spans 25 years and he has asked for extended leave.

Hambro has worked with Birch since 1994. There will be no changes to how the funds are run.

Meanwhile, BlackRock has also announced it is ready to launch its European Absolute Alpha fund. Plans were unveiled in January to add to the absolute return range following the success of Mark Lyttleton’s UK Absolute Alpha fund.

Vincent Devlin, a member of the European team poached from Scottish Widows Investment Partnership last year, will run the fund when it launches at the end of March. He has been paper trading since mid-June 2008 and since then, according to Stenning, is up 8%.

The fund will be seeded with money from BlackRock and clients, and will hold between 50 and 100 long and short positions. There are no constraints on capacity, and the target return is in excess of the three month London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor) in sterling terms.

Minimum investment is £500 for lump sums or £50 monthly. The annual management charge is 1.5% and any performance in excess of the three-month Libor is subject to a high water mark and performance fee of 20%.

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