BlackRock’s lead China equities manager exited the world’s biggest fund house on June 21 after five years overseeing the BGF China Fund.

Sources said they were surprised by Ning Jing’s departure and expect her to resurface very soon, but AsianInvestor was unable to ascertain her next destination by press time.

The BGF China Fund, among the biggest China-dedicated equity mutual funds with $1.27 billion in assets as of end-May, is at least 70% invested in shares of companies domiciled in or with economic activities on the mainland.

It is now being co-managed by Andrew Swan, head of the Asian fundamental equity team, and Emily Dong, co-manager of the BGF Asian Growth Leaders Fund. Since 2010, Dong has also been closely involved in stock recommendations and the management of the BGF China Fund.

“China equities is an area we are developing with a new focus and are currently building capacity in,” says a BlackRock spokesman. “We were awarded our second QFII allocation of $100 million in March and will be announcing how we apply this in due course, as we look to deepen our Chinese investment market offering through all our channels.”

BlackRock had been looking for someone to help Ning run the fund, but were not able to find the right person, say sources, noting that China portfolio managers are in high demand and the US fund house is very selective about its hires. The firm declined to comment on this.

As of the end of May, the BGF China Fund had reported a three-year cumulative return of 6.9%, against the benchmark MSCI China 10/40 return of 8.5%, while for the five months to May 30 the return was –4.0%, slightly above the benchmark return of –4.3%.

Ning followed a value strategy for investing in China. This “means we can concentrate less on the latest story in the papers and more on the underlying fundamentals and hard facts of the investment case for a company. In my view, it means long-term outperformance for our investors,” she noted in her fund manager profile on BlackRock’s website.

Ning joined the firm as director in 2008 to oversee the China equity portfolio and cover Chinese company research within the Asian equity team. She was also responsible for developing the team’s Chinese research capability. In addition to stocks listed on the mainland and in Hong Kong, she invested in Chinese stocks listed in the US and in ‘China-themed’ possibilities such as Australian resources.

Prior to joining BlackRock, Ning was head of Chinese equities at AIG Investments in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Before relocating to Asia in 2004, she was portfolio manager for AIG's US healthcare and US high-income portfolios in New York.

Meanwhile, Mark McCombe, BlackRock’s Asia-Pacific chairman, has “no intention of leaving his role” at this time, says the spokesman. He had been approached by UK bank RBS as part of its search for a replacement for outgoing CEO Stephen Hester.

This came as little surprise to industry sources in Asia, who said they felt he would have been unlikely to take it.