GERMANY - Airbus Deutschland is considering investing between €30m and €40m in pension assets in emerging market shares or bonds to better diversify its portfolio, senior officials at the company say.

The officials, who asked not to be named, added that the firm was still at the deliberation stage and had not made any concrete decisions yet.

But other sources familiar with the company's plans said the aircraft maker has already hired German consultant Alpha Portfolio Advisors to search for emerging markets asset managers.

The sources also said they did not know exactly who Alpha was examining for the mandate, but asset managers possibly being scrutinised were US houses AllianceBernstein and JP Morgan.

Alpha, based in the Frankfurt suburb of Bad Soden, declined to comment to IPE.

Thomas Stötzel, head of investments at Airbus' €600m pension scheme, was also not available for further comment due to a holiday. The scheme provides a pension to the 18,700 employees.

However, Stötzel has previously hinted that the scheme was considering diversifying its portfolio away from traditional asset classes, though he has ruled out asset-backed securities.

"My motto is always: ‘Don't buy what you don't know'. We recognise that there is a possibility for higher returns for say CDO (collateralised debt obligations), but right now we regard them as too complex, kind of like a black box," Stötzel said at IPE's awards ceremony last November in Berlin.
Stötzel added that another hindrance to investment was the fact that the European market for structured products was "still very young".

The other pensions story at Airbus Deutschland is its introduction in 2004 of overtime accounts. The accounts enable an employee to save, on a tax-deferred basis, the monetary equivalent of overtime hours, unused holiday, cash bonuses or a portion of salary to help finance early retirement.

The accounts were set up and managed by US asset manager Invesco. So far, Invesco has generated around €40m in assets from the mandate.