Bloomberg News

LONDON — Fidelity Investments overtook Schroders PLC last year as the top mutual fund manager in Britain, boosted by above-average returns for its European funds.

Boston-based Fidelity, the biggest money manager in the United States, had $24.6 billion under management in Britain as of Nov. 30, versus $18.9 billion managed by London-based Schroders, according to a survey by the Association of Unit Trusts and Investment Funds, the British trade group.

Schroders, Merrill Lynch & Co. (which owns the former Mercury Asset Management), and Prudential PLC’s M&G Group all had asset declines as some of their most widely held funds reported investment losses. Fidelity’s biggest fund, Fidelity European, rose about 16% in a year in which rival funds reported an average decline of 1%, according to Standard & Poor’s Micropal.

“These bedrock companies can no longer rely on brand recognition to pull in the money,” said Richard Spencer, an investment consultant at Brooks Macdonald Gayer in London. “Their performance has been weak and they felt the impact.”

Schroders lost $2.7 billion, or 13%, of mutual fund assets last year, the trade group reported. M&G Group’s rank slipped to fourth, from third. Merrill Lynch slid to No. 8 from No. 7. Fidelity gained $3.75 billion, an increase of 18%.

Overall, U.K. mutual fund assets rose 7%, to $390 billion, in 2000. Fidelity’s total assets under management were about $955 billion at the end of November.

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