UPDATE 1-St James's Place posts record funds, warns of challenges due to new virus curbs

(Adds details from statement, CEO comment)

Jan 28 (Reuters) - St. James’s Place on Thursday became the latest British wealth manager to report record funds under management for the fourth quarter, as a recovery in markets holds steady thanks to government stimulus and positive news on COVID-19 vaccines.

The blue-chip company’s total funds under management (FUM) reached 129.34 billion pounds ($176.55 billion) as of Dec. 31, compared with 116.99 billion pounds a year earlier.

The growth in FUM has been strong since the company’s first quarter ended March, when a coronavirus-led selloff in financial markets hit fund management assets.

Smaller rival Brewin Dolphin also reported record funds earlier this week and said that market sentiment was improving further following the Brexit trade deal and the rollout of vaccines.

But St. James’s Place, which has been targeted by activist investor PrimeStone Capital over its cost structure, said its net inflows dipped to 2.29 billion pounds from 2.44 billion pounds.

“Whilst the current lockdown restrictions remain in place, the operating environment will continue to be challenging,” Chief Executive Officer Andrew Croft said in a statement. ($1 = 0.7326 pounds) (Reporting by Muvija M in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel and Uttaresh.V)