Finance: BlackRock launches UK fund for Catholic charities

BlackRock, newly merged with Merrill Lynch Investment Managers, has set up a new common investment fund for Catholic charities.

Charifaith is a multi-asset fund that will exclude stocks that are deemed to be "contrary to Catholic ethos and teaching", such as armaments, pornography and tobacco. The fund will also avoid investing in companies connected to abortion or contraception, because these endanger "the sanctity of life". There will, however, be no limit on the inclusion of alcohol stocks.

The launch of Charifaith comes a week after US-based BlackRock merged with Merrill Lynch. The combined firms now boast a total of £0.6 trillion of assets under management.

Mark Johnson, director of charities at BlackRock, confirmed that Charifaith will be Britain's first Catholic common investment fund. "In the US they have several such funds," he said. "But in the UK the established funds are for Anglican or Methodist churches."

Charifaith will not preclude non-Catholic investors. "All that we ask is that anyone who wants to invest shares the ethos of the fund," Johnson said.

Father Mark Edney, provincial burser for the English Dominicans, sat on the committee that helped to draw up the terms of Charifaith.

"For a Catholic charity to exercise ethical considerations within a segregated portfolio takes organisation and is costly," he said. "Collective action by charities investing in one fund will result in lower fees and a consistent exclusion policy."

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