GLOBAL - BlackRock, set to announce a new branding following its merger with Merrill Lynch Investment Management, says institutional search activity is picking up again.

And it also revealed it's close to winning "substantial" new business from well-known international names.

It had said in its second quarter earnings announcement that there was an industry-wide slowdown in institutional searches due to low bond yields.

"That trend is still apparent now, but search activity however the is picking up," said chairman and chief executive Laurence Fink.

BlackRock finally takes control of MLIM at the end of this month. "We've met with all the consultants and they're excited about the new BlackRock," Fink said at an investor conference organised by Lehman Brothers.

The merged entity is set to unveil a new identity, which will see the MLIM name disappear in the US, though it will continue in Europe.

"The first week of our new company we are launching the most significant branding launch that we have ever done, very significant on a global basis," Fink said.
There would be a "slow evolutionary migration" from MLIM to full BlackRock in Europe.

Fink said that all the combined firms' fixed income operations would be fully integrated when the deal closes.

And domestic equities and global equities would be integrated by year-end and late 2007 respectively.

Fink said the firm was in negotiations with "very important official institutions" regarding some "very substantial large assignments".

"I believe we can become one of the leading dominant global investment firms to take advantage of the opportunities in investment management on a global basis and take advantage of the tremendous growth in the capital markets," Fink said.