UK – The Barclays UK Pension Fund has put £195m (€281m) into an emerging market debt mandate, according to BlueBay Asset Management.

Specialist fixed income manager BlueBay said it had won the brief but there were few other details available and Barclays pension officials did not respond to requests for more information.

A BlueBay spokeswoman said the consultant involved in the deal declined to be identified.

The allocation comes amid increasing visibility of the asset class among pension funds. Just yesterday the International Monetary Fund noted that pension funds were becoming more important in the emerging market sovereign debt market.

It said the investor base “is shifting from highly active short-term traders toward more strategic and buy-and-hold investors”.

Earlier this month Aberdeen Asset Management said pension funds were likely to increase their investment allocation to global emerging markets despite fears of a growing bubble.

“We are delighted to have won this significant mandate - it further cements BlueBay’s growing reputation as one of the leading managers of emerging market debt and it underscores our commitment to the UK pension fund market,” said BlueBay institutional investment adviser Fahim Imam-Sadeque.

“We look forward to building on this success in 2006 by further developing our business in the UK institutional marketplace.”

The IMF pointed out that 2005 saw an “important expansion” of mature market strategic investors such as pension funds, insurers, corporations, and trusts in emerging market external debt.

“This is very clearly a major development,” said Jerome Booth of Ashmore Investment Management. “And it’s a long way from being over.”

Elsewhere in the UK, unions have suspended a plan strike over changes to the Local Government Pension Scheme. Local Government Association chairman Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, said the move came as a “relief”.