EUROPE – Barclays Global Investors, the largest manager of European pension fund assets, says it is seeing a lot of interest in Europe for exchange-traded funds.

“We’re seeing a lot interest in Europe in ETFs,” said Andrew Skirton, co-chief executive of BGI in an interview, citing institutional and retail demand. “We’re really increasing our effort in Europe.”

BGI’s iShares ETF business has 85 billion dollars of assets, with seven billion dollars in Europe, he said. Skirton added the US authorities’ investigation into mutual funds last year had fuelled a lot of interest in ETFs. “There’s a lot of growth still left in that business,” he said.

The comments came as BGI reported first-half pre-tax profits, excluding goodwill, of 157 million pounds, up from 91 million pounds a year ago.

Total assets under management have risen to 634 billion pounds from 543 billion pounds in the prior-year period. The number of institutional clients has risen to 2,600 from 2,400 a year ago.

Indexed assets under management were 429 billion pounds, with 134 billion pounds of active assets under management.

“It’s not a flash in the pan,” Skirton said. He said BGI made a series of investments – such as in the ETF business, active management and technology – which were now paying off.

He added BGI’s liability-matching business “continues to grow” and is now worth 10 billion pounds. “There’s a lot of interest in customising solutions for pension funds,” he said.

BGI’s hedge fund business was now worth around eight billion dollars, up from the six billion dollars reported at the end of 2003.

Parent Barclays reported that pre-tax profit rose 23% to a record 2.41 billion pounds. "Barclays had a record half year with all businesses delivering higher profits,” said group chief executive Matthew Barrett.

“Good progress in our core UK businesses and excellent performances in our global product businesses demonstrate the benefits of our distinctive portfolio."