BELGIUM - Belgian pension funds returned an average –11.92% for 2002, slightly lower than predicted earlier this year, according to final figures released by the Belgian pension fund association.

Half of the 123 pensions institutions taking part in the survey produced returns of between –8.6% and –16.8%, with the median return being –14.31%.

Last year was the third year in a row that Belgian pension funds have made negative returns, but on a longer term basis returns are still positive.

Over the last 10 years, returns have averaged 6.72% per annum - 4.81% after inflation is stripped out.

The average asset allocation of equities in 2002 was 42.5%, down from 48.2% in 2001. Equity market falls reduced the value of equities in portfolios but was partially compensated by a rebalancing of portfolios. In 2002 Belgian pension funds were net buyers of equities.

Bonds accounted for 49.1%, while 4.5% was in real estate, 7.9% was in cash and 3.2% was in other asset classes.

The average funding ratio fell to 117.46% from 135.81% in 2001.

The worst is behind us though, the Association Belge des Institutions de Pension says. It expects 2003 returns to be moderate but improved.