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UPDATE 1-BlackRock de-registers Shanghai unit, focuses on China mutual fund business

(Tweaks headline and lead, adds background in last 2 paragraphs)

SHANGHAI, March 31 (Reuters) - Global asset manager BlackRock has de-registered a private fund unit in Shanghai as it prepares to launch its mutual fund business in the world’s second-biggest economy.

BlackRock last week voluntarily cancelled the business registration of its wholly foreign-owned enterprise (WFOE) unit in Shanghai, according to the website of the Asset Management Association of China (AMAC).

Last August, BlackRock became the first global asset manager to win Chinese regulatory approval to set up a mutual fund unit in the country, and was given six months to establish the business.

BlackRock said it is still preparing the launch of the mutual fund business.

China fully opened its $3.3 trillion mutual fund industry to foreign managers last April. Global players including BlackRock, Fidelity International, Neuberger Berman and Schroders have applied to set up mutual fund units in China.

But not all are confident of succeeding in a market crowded with 147 players and 8,202 mutual fund products.

Earlier this month, Vanguard Group dropped a plan to obtain a mutual funds licence in China, citing a “crowded” market.

BlackRock registered its Shanghai WFOE in late 2017 as a platform to launch private funds locally. The business was deemed non-essential after China’s full deregulation of its mutual fund market.

BlackRock already owns a mutual fund joint venture in China, and is launching a wealth management JV in the country with Temasek and China Construction Bank. ($1 = 6.5577 Chinese yuan renminbi) (Reporting by Andrew Galbraith and Samuel Shen, editing by Louise Heavens)

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