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Exclusive: Nationwide, Reich & Tang to buy HighMark funds -sources

By Jessica Toonkel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Columbus, Ohio-based Nationwide Financial and New York-based Reich & Tang are buying UnionBanCal Corp's mutual fund business, three sources told Reuters on Tuesday.

San Francisco-based UnionBanCal is expected to announce the sale of its HighMark Funds to the two parties in the next few days, said two of the sources, who wished to remain anonymous because they are not permitted to speak to the media.

UnionBanCal is selling 19 of its 24 HighMark Funds to Nationwide Financial, the two sources said. Nationwide's funds group, based in Philadelphia, is made up of 91 funds that had $45 billion in assets under management as of December 31. Through the sale, Nationwide will be adding another $4 billion in funds to its group, based on Lipper data.

UnionBanCal is selling its five money market funds, which have $4.2 billion in assets, to Reich & Tang, a New York-based subsidiary of Natixis Global Asset Management, S.A., the two sources said.

It could not be determined how much Nationwide and Reich & Tang are paying for the funds.

A UnionBanCal official was not immediately available to comment, a spokeswoman said. Nationwide and Reich & Tang declined to comment.

UnionBanCal, which had $97 billion in assets at December 31, 2012, is a subsidiary of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc <8306.T>.

The firm joins a number of U.S. financial institutions that are shedding their asset management arms to focus on core banking businesses.

Atlanta-based SunTrust Banks Inc is in talks to sell its RidgeWorth Asset Management and is also expected to announce a deal shortly.

Given how difficult it is for firms to make money offering money market funds in the current low interest rate environment, along with the potential for regulatory reform of money market funds, it makes sense that Highmark is getting out of the business, said Jeff Tjornehoj, an analyst at Lipper.

"The money market industry is skating on thin ice as far as profits go, so I can understand why they would sell it," Tjornehoj said. "It's a business that relies on scale and with $4 billion, that is simply not enough."

(Reporting by Jessica Toonkel; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer, Nick Zieminski and Andre Grenon)

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