SWEDEN – Occupational pensions provider Alecta cut 90 jobs in the first quarter, part of what it called a “painful” effort to reduce costs.

“The goal is to reduce the costs for our day-to-day business to one billion crowns (1.1 million euros) by year-end 2005,” Alecta said. “At present there is every indication that we will achieve this goal on time.”

“The most painful step involves staff cutbacks. In the first quarter of this year, a further 90 people left Alecta, half of whom were offered early retirement pensions.” It said it has now cut 126 staff in the past year.

Alecta made a 4.2% return on its investments in the first quarter, compared to –0.5% a year ago. Alecta said: “The main reasons for this higher return are falling market interest rates and continued rising stock markets.”

Its investments are now worth 326.1 billion crowns, from 282.8 billion crowns a year ago. It added it has raised its equities exposure by just over three percentage points from the end of last year to 32.2%

Former AP3 chief executive Tomas Nicolin takes over from Lars Otterbeck as president of Alecta on June 16. Otterbeck said: “I would like to take this opportunity to wish Tomas and Alecta’s employees every success in the future, and to express my thanks for the last four years.”