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CEE roundup: Russia, Lithuania, Latvia

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Russia looks set to extend the 2014 moratorium on contributions to the mandatory pension fund system for a further year.

In October, the bill passed its first reading in the Duma (lower house) by an overwhelming majority, with 242 deputies voting in favour, and only five against.

The Bank of Russia, the central bank, estimated in its October Financial Stability Review that the non-state pension funds (NSPFs) would forgo some RUB243bn (€4.5bn) as a result of the 2014 moratorium, and a further RUB280bn the following year if the bill passes its subsequent readings and is signed off by president Vladimir Putin.

The central bank expressed concerns that the moratoria might hamper long-term investment growth, exacerbate the downturn in economic growth and raise the cost of internal funding.

In the context of ongoing government discussions about making the system voluntary, the Bank of Russia pointed out that membership of the existing voluntary private system had fallen by 400,000 to fewer than 6.4m, citing waning confidence in the system and negative returns.

It said it doubted whether employers, faced with declining economic growth, would be in a hurry to establish corporate pension schemes.

The NSPFs are set to receive the frozen contributions from the second half of 2013 once they convert to joint-stock status, meet minimum capital requirements and join the guarantee system, as stipulated by the law that came into effect this year.

While the funds providing compulsory pension insurance have until the beginning of 2016 to fulfil the new obligations or leave the market, the major ones have not wasted any time.

As of the beginning of October, NSPFs accounting for 91% of total assets had converted their status to companies, while those in the new guarantee system accounted for more than 85%.

In other news, Lithuania’s voluntary second-pillar funds posted further healthy results in the third quarter of 2014.

According to the Bank of Lithuania, the sector regulator, as of the end of September 2014, year-to-date returns averaged 6.04%, some 2.5 times higher than a year earlier.

The five funds with the highest equity exposure generated the best returns, with those investing up to 100% in shares generating 6.88%.

The nine funds with up to 70% equity exposure returned 6.4%, while the four funds with a low exposure of up to 30% produced 6.21%.

In contrast, the eight bond-only conservative funds generated returns of only 3.15%.

Over the nine-month period, assets under management grew by 14.3% to LTL6.2bn (€1.8bn).

In the case of the third pillar, assets grew by 13.9% to LTL148m.

Returns averaged 5.8%, with the balanced funds generating the highest average return, of 6.58%, followed by high equity-weighted funds at 6.51%, while the bond-orientated funds generated 2.57%.

In neighbouring Latvia, year-to-date returns for the mandatory second-pillar funds were somewhat lower, averaging 4.21% for their 1.2m members, according to the Association of Commercial Banks of Latvia.

Balanced and higher-risk funds returned 4.36% and 4.35%, respectively, while the conservative funds generated 3.79%.

Assets grew by 14.5% to €1.9bn.

For the much smaller third-pillar system, with €259.7m of assets and 229,318 members, returns average 4.19%.

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