BlackRock has promoted Seiichi Fukuyama to vice chairman for Asia region. As a result of the move he will transfer from Tokyo to Hong Kong sometime in the spring.

Previously the Asia chairman for BlackRock was Peter Fisher, a former official at the Federal Reserve who remained based in New York while overseeing the Asia business.

Fisher has switched roles to serve as co-head of fixed income û an important position in a firm in the global top tier of bond specialisation, which it developed before expanding into all asset classes via the acquisition of Merrill Lynch Investment Managers in 2006. Fisher took that role in response to the departure last year of Keith Anderson, who joined Soros Group.

As of December, BlackRock manages a total of $1.3 trillion of assets under management, of which $125 billion is sourced from clients in the Asia-Pacific region. In terms of Asia-derived money, it is the eleventh largest fund management company, and the third-largest independent house with mostly active strategies (after Fidelity and AllianceBernstein).

Fukuyama ran MLIM in the region from Hong Kong and then Tokyo, where he remained following the BlackRock acquisition to oversee the integration. That was achieved in reasonably quick order. Since then his attention has been on growing the Japan business as managing director for Japan and Asia-Pacific.

With Fisher relinquishing his Asia responsibilities, the firm has promoted Fukuyama to the vice chairman role and is moving him back to Hong Kong, which allows him easier access to deal-making and to clients in China, Korea, Taiwan, Southeast Asia and India.

Peter Swarbreck continues in his post as managing director for Asia ex-Japan. He and Fukuyama go back to working together at Mercury Asset Management, the UK-based fund house acquired by MLIM in 1997. ôIÆll handle clients and strategy, while Peter runs the day-to-day business,ö Fukuyama says.

He will retain a title of director for the Japan business as well, but BlackRock is promoting Hiroyuki Arita as president and representative director of its Japan business.

Arita began his career in asset management as a bond portfolio manager at Industrial Bank of Japan in Switzerland and New York. He joined BlackRock in 1999 in New York. In 2001 the firm moved him to Tokyo to run the Japan office and then a joint venture the firm pursued with Nomura Asset Management.

The JV, Nomura BlackRock, perished in the wake of the MLIM deal, because Nomura Securities and Merrill LynchÆs securities arm viewed one another as major rivals. Arita had served as president of the JV since 2004 and he returned to the BlackRock fold.

Fukuyama says the combined presence of he and Arita helped make the BlackRock/MLIM integration go smoothly in Japan, as both of them had relationships with top brass in New York. Now Arita will handle Japan, both at an operational and strategic level, reporting into Fukuyama.

Since the firm acquired fund-of-hedge-funds Quellos, it sources $53.5 billion from Japan. Of that amount, $25 billion to $26 billion comes from pension funds, $19 billion to $20 billion from financial institutions, and $8.5 billion from retail.

Building the wholesale business to tap retail will be the Japan business priority in 2008, Arita says. BlackRock previously relied on either Merrill Yamaichi or NomuraÆs securities arms for distribution. Those relationships continue, but with the Nomura JV over, it needs to extend its reach among large-scale distributors û the banks. It is preparing a number of thematic funds, including gold, resources and India equities.

ôThen weÆll introduce the giant mainstream funds,ö Arita says.