* BlackRock eligible for S&P 500 since November
* S&P has no schedule for adding companies to index
* Inclusion could give shares a boost - investor
(Adds byline, background, investor comment)
By Aaron Pressman
BOSTON, Jan 25 BlackRock Inc (BLK.N), the
world's largest money manager, said it has stopped buying back
its shares, aiming to preserve its public float as it lays the
groundwork to be included in the Standard & Poor's 500 index.
Acknowledging for the first time that BlackRock was aiming
to be added to the index, Chief Financial Officer Anne Marie
Petach said on Tuesday she believed all criteria had been met.
"We think an important criterion within that is the degree
of public float, and we just think protecting that public float
is an important priority at this point in time," she said on a
conference call after the release of fourth-quarter results.
About $1.1 trillion is invested to track the index,
including through exchange-traded funds and other accounts run
by BlackRock, according to S&P.
Gaining entry to the S&P 500 could give BlackRock shares a
short-term boost and lead to greater stability over the long
run, analysts and investors said.
"They're a highly logical candidate," said Elizabeth
Bramwell, manager of the Sentinel Growth Leaders fund, which
owns Blackrock shares. "It's more a matter of when rather than
Companies are periodically added to and dropped from the
index, which is compiled by McGraw-Hill's MHP.N S&P unit. S&P
has said there is no set schedule for making changes, and it
declined to comment on speculation about possible additions.
BlackRock must maintain a so-called free-float of at least
50 percent of its shares, a key standard for inclusion in the
index, Petach told analysts.
Since it went public in 1999, many of BlackRock's shares
have been tied up with affiliated shareholders.
PNC Financial Services Group (PNC.N) was an early investor
and Bank of America's (BAC.N) Merrill Lynch received shares
when BlackRock bought its fund business in 2006.
More recently, British bank Barclays (BARC.L) got shares as
part of the $15 billion payment from BlackRock for its global
That has meant that despite BlackRock's prominence and
roughly $50 billion market capitalization, it has not been
eligible for inclusion under the 50 percent free-float rule.
In November, however, Bank of America and PNC sold almost
59 million shares to the public in a secondary offering,
pushing BlackRock's free float above 50 percent.
(Reporting by Aaron Pressman, editing by Gerald E. McCormick
and Ted Kerr)