New York-listed fund house BlackRock has just laid off several people in the US, and job cuts in Asia and the UK are expected in the coming weeks. The job cuts are part of a global action that is in progress and is expected to be carried out before the end of this year.

ôWe are reengineering our business and this involves general accounting and administrative costs,ö says Bobbie Collins, the New York-based spokeswoman of the fund house. ôThere will be job cuts across the regions. This is a global effort. There are no specific targets in terms of the number of job cuts per region or per group.ö

Collins declined to elaborate on the positions that will potentially be cut in Asia, stressing that the process is ongoing and the firm would want to notify the people likely to be involved in the redundancies prior to any news coming out.

BlackRock has around 5,500 staff worldwide û including more than 750 investment professionals ûwith the number in Asia being ôin the hundredsö. The majority of the staff are in New York, New Jersey and the UK.

It is understood that the job cuts will not lead to the decimation of entire teams in Asia or other regions.

In Asia, Peter Swarbreck is BlackRockÆs Hong Kong-based chief operating officer. He is also responsible for retail distribution in the region. He joined BlackRock in 2006 following the merger with Merrill Lynch Investment Managers, where he was head of fixed-income business management for Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia-Pacific and responsible for the development of new fixed-income products.

Nick Scott is the head of BlackRockÆs Hong Kong-based investment team in Asia, which was set up in 2007 in a bid to expand the fund houseÆs efforts in this region. He joined BlackRock in January 2007 from Prudential Asset Management Hong Kong where he was CEO and CIO.

The BlackRock portfolios managed in Asia include the China Fund, India Fund, Asian Dragon Fund, Japan Value Fund, and Japan Opportunities Fund.

In a memo distributed to BlackRock employees worldwide, the fund house notes that markets and economic conditions are exceptionally challenging.

ôWe are experiencing sweeping changes to the global financial landscape,ö BlackRock says. ôA wide variety of businesses across industries and regions have reported weak third-quarter results and even weaker expectations for fourth quarter 2008 and 2009. BlackRock is not immune.ö

Times like these ôrequire fiscal disciplineö, according to BlackRock.

Last month, BlackRock reported its first decline in quarterly profit in two years as assets fell 12% to $1.26 trillion, mainly due to market losses and partly due to redemptions. The fund houseÆs net profit fell 15% year-on-year to $218 million in the third quarter.

BlackRock has identified ways to streamline its processes, simplify its platform, enhance its operating efficiency and focus on strategic investments for the future. Specifically, the fund house has targeted ways to reduce general and administrative expenses, identified reengineering opportunities and considered resource allocations given its outlook for various businesses. These efforts include tightening expense policies and business practices. Collins declined to give details.

In the US, where the job cuts have already started, four investment managers and six analysts have been laid off, marking the first concentrated cut since BlackRock was set up two decades ago. Included in the layoffs were Thomas Burke, manager of the $2.7 billion BlackRock Fundamental Growth Fund, and six members of his team; as well as Linda Zhang, Jordan Schreiber and Jeff Gary.

Zhang managed the BlackRock Asset Allocation fund, which has been taken over by Phil Green. Schreiber managed the BlackRock Healthcare Fund, which has been taken over by Robert Hodgson. Gary managed the BlackRock High Yield Bond Portfolio and the BlackRock High Income Fund, which have been taken over by other bond fund managers.