AUSTRIA - Austria's 19 Pensionskassen have fallen 8.4% in value since the beginning of the year and 9.2% over the last 12 months.

Multi-employer funds did considerably better than the company funds albeit they generated a negative return too of -7.7% compared with -11.3% in the first three quarters of this year, according to the most recent figures released by the Austrian control bank OeKB.

The losses have brought the five-year annualised performance of all funds down from 4.8% at end of August 2007 to 3.7%.

According to the OeKB calculations - based on data Pensionskassen are required to submit every quarter - market movements have caused considerable shifts in the asset allocation since the last quarter.

While the exposure to Austrian equities remained more or less the same at just under 19%, the share of foreign equities in the portfolios dropped from 16.8% to 12.6%.

At the same time, bond exposure increased from 62.8% to 66.3% and real estate grew from 1.76% to 2.05%.

The negative performance of the Pensionskassen has sparked severe criticism from consumer groups as well as all political parties, excluding the conservatives.

In most cases, Austrian Pensionskassen are not obliged to ensure a minimum rate of return but some old contracts demand rates of almost 6%, the so-called "Rechnungszins".

In the current market environment, this means some people closer to retirement are facing cuts in their pension benefits.

Several groups are demanding a rescue fund for Pensionskassen members and the introduction of minimum return guarantees - similar to those in Germany.

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