Of all the U.S. mutual fund and financial services companies that have formed joint ventures in Japan, none have teamed up with a mutual fund firm to date. All have either formed partnerships with insurance companies or banks.

But New York money manager BlackRock, which manages the BlackRock Funds, has paired up with Nomura Asset Management Co. of Tokyo, Japan's largest mutual fund complex.

It is the first model of its kind, according to Laurence Fink, chairman and chief executive officer of BlackRock.

The joint venture will be called Nomura BlackRock Asset Management Co. and will begin by selling fixed income money management and mutual funds for institutional and retail clients.

Nomura Asset Management is part of the Nomura group, a giant financial services firm in Japan. It offers retail mutual fund and institutional money management and has $128 billion (U.S.) in assets under management.

BlackRock is a subsidiary of PNC Bank of Pittsburgh and has $131 billion in assets under management in both mutual funds and separate accounts. The BlackRock Funds, with $14 billion in assets under management, specializes in fixed-income investing.

The two companies have been working together since 1997 and have developed several mutual funds, called investment trusts in Japan, for Japanese investors. They currently have $1.3 billion in assets.

U.S. companies have used different models to sell mutual funds in Japan.

Putnam Investments of Boston has paired up with Nissay Asset Management Co., a subsidiary of Nippon LifeInsurance Co., while Liberty Financial of Boston created its own company, Liberty Financial Japan.

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